Supporting Universal Design

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting at the NADP International Conference in Manchester about the Calibre Leadership and Development Programme‎. The conference theme was Universal Design (UD) and its benefits to all. It’s not simply a question of addressing impairments, but more about reducing barriers. By designing amazing buildings, that incidentally win architecture awards too.

What’s changed in relation to Supporting Universal Design?

We all know that in the last 30 years things may have improved slightly in the UK. On paper at least, for women, LGBQIA+ communities, BAME and disabled people. However, why isn’t this translated into holistic practice? It seems to me that often high-pressure environments ‎view “difference” as a challenge at best and a weakness at worse.

How can organisations embrace and champion Universal Design, Universal Inclusion and Universal Learning? After hearing from global experts on the subject I have out together my suggestions. With the idea to help you to integrate the principles in your daily work.

Top Tips in Supporting Universal Design

1. Never assume and always ask! A one size fits all approach, doesn’t work. However finding common ground is possible by using an approach that means people will learn from each other.

2. Challenge normative processes‎. Policies are often written from a particular perspective. Ask colleagues, staff, customers and students to input to get an improved outcome.

3. Demonstrate, where possible how Universal Design can improve business and increase recognition of the organisation. It may be that quantitative statistics will take time, but the positive staff and customer experience can always be captured.

4. Change may be very slow and incremental, but that’s ok. Capture success and keep building a community of people who want to contribute to improvement.

I am honoured to be the lead in the HE sector for launching a disabled leadership and development programme, entitled Calibre. I was asked challenging questions at the NADP conference about this, and rightly so. The programme is not about fixing people. It’s about enabling people to see their potential and be actors in their own journey. Giving people the space and freedom to learn from their peers, find their voice and use their voice. Indeed to talk about how they want their barriers to be removed.

I know I may be preaching to the converted here, but I feel we all have a responsibility to promote Universal Design. This is imperative if we are to see a real shift in removing barriers in the workplace and beyond. Supporting Universal Design is essential.

To find out more about the work of Diverse Minds have a look here.

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