Bernardi, Núbia and Kowaltowski, Doris C.C.K. "When Role Playing is Not Enough: Improved Universal Design Education," in ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 4, issues 2/3 (2010).
In this paper the principles of Universal Design (UD) are discussed in the context of design education. The application of the concepts of UD to building and urban design has ensured a better quality of life for users with disabilities, however, to create an accessible environment the design profession needs to adopt new attitudes and the design process and its teaching strategies must change. Design education is discussed in relation to role-playing and participatory design activities. A teaching experience is presented, with the goal to develop student awareness of users with special needs. New design communication instruments were developed, such as tactile maps, to enable user participation of the visually impaired. Design is primarily based on visual communication and visually impaired users were included in the teaching experience in view of their inability to evaluate typical design documentation, such as drawings and models. Role-playing, as a means of bringing students closer to the issues of users with disabilities, was shown to be insufficient and the creation of a collaborative design process was important to increase student’s sensitivity. The active participation of users with disabilities ensured that future professionals gained a deeper understanding of user needs and were able to create appropriate and quality environment. The inclusion of visually impaired users in the design process is seen as original in design pedagogies. The use of tactile maps for design documentation was shown to be an important contribution to research in the area of design methods. Some research questions arose from the teaching experience, relating to technical details of tactile map production, as well as pedagogical and ethical issues involved in participatory design.