Adding Universal Design Techniques to Keep Austin Beautiful

Darren Bates, LLC
Mar 7, 2017 · 4 min read
Picture: 4 trash bins are shown in different colors: blue for plastic, green for glass, red for metal and yellow for paper.

Céline Thibault — I was delighted to read about your recycling research project. Compliments to you and your team on all of your innovative achievements to date.

Research Stories

I loved the stories that came out of your recycling research project and was rather impressed to discover that your team visited 43 homes, spoke to 52 residents across Austin neighborhoods, and included a diverse mix of socioeconomic backgrounds and communities. Bravo!

Tools and Games

The Conversation Tool and Interactive Recycling Game are just brilliant! So many people — not to mention our city and our planet — will benefit from your innovative human-centered research and soon to be produced consumer products and services designed around the benefits of recycling.

I know many individuals in the Austin disability community, including people with cognitive disabilities, visual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and people on the autistic spectrum — to name only a few — that could benefit from this project and interactive tools. For example, by using the Interactive Game, people with disabilities not only could gain valuable knowledge about recycling, but could use the game to learn and enhance their independent living skills (Life-Skills).

Regarding your Team, Opportunity Areas, and Next Steps, I have a few questions. Thank you in advance for replying — I am a big fan of your project!

A jubilant female researcher at work, sitting in her wheelchair, smiling, and raising her hands and arms into the air as if she’s saying, “ I did it!”

Does your team represent the diversity of the Austin Community?

Including people with disabilities on your research team, stakeholder committee, or advisory group adds an equity lens — which can increase research scope, capacity, and diversity of knowledge. As well, team members with disabilities help ensure that the disability community is not accidentally excluded from your project, research, and equitable deployment of services and products, i.e., community outreach, roadmaps, interactive products and accessories, and polling tools.

  1. How diverse is your team?
  2. Are persons with disabilities part of your multi-disciplinary team of design researchers, planners and managers?
Picture: UNIVERSAL DESIGN INFOGRAPHIC with icons and images of people with cross disabilities. Text: “UNIVERSAL DESIGN: Making design accessible to everyone in society”

Opportunity Areas and Next Steps

Many museums now use Universal Design techniques including multisensory and multimodal practices that allow all visitors with widely ranging ages, abilities, levels of interest and sophistication, learning styles and cultural identities to access the museum’s exhibits and have fun doing so.

Universal Design is about purposeful inclusion. “Multisensory and multimodal” implies choice, something for everyone. With that in mind:

  1. Do current or future project plans and prototypes include best practices for accessibility and inclusion, such as incorporating Universal Design practices into your research models, product design, and delivery?
  2. Given the educational component of your work, have you considered adding Universal Design techniques to future research strategies and data collection approaches, e.g., Conversation Tools? Adding purposefully inclusive practices to your research strategies could increase the scope and systemic capacity of your project by including details and relevant data about the recycling habits and attitudes of the disability community.
  3. Have you considered Digital Accessibility? Are there plans in place to make sure that people with disabilities can access and use digital versions of future interactive products, e.g. the new Digital Interactive Recycling/Sorting Game?
  4. Have you considered creating a more accessible and inclusive model for future Interactive Recycling Board Games by adding Universal Design practices and Multisensory and Multimodal techniques? You may want to consider adding braille to game board pieces and incorporating interactive audio to future board games — the audio could even be in multiple languages! Adding audio could provide access and participation by people who can’t read the text label s— perhaps a young student, older learner, or someone who is blind or dyslexic.

Thank you again for indulging my questions. I look forward to more great things to come from you and Austin Resource Recovery and partners!

I will be following your achievements. Please let me know if I can help.

Building a Global Culture of Access and Inclusion™

Darren Bates is a lifelong champion of equality, inclusion, and social justice for people with disabilities and other diverse, underrepresented, and historically marginalized populations. Darren is internationally recognized as one of the most innovative and knowledgeable Thought Leaders in the field of Global Inclusion.

Darren offers accessibility and inclusion training, strategic consulting, and professional speaking services through Darren Bates, LLC.

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Darren Bates, LLC

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Internationally recognized as a visionary thought leader in Global Diversity and Inclusion, Smart City Innovation and Human-Centered Urban Design.

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