Showing posts with label Universal Design. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Universal Design. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Design invention to meet needs of Teen with Cerebral Palsy at Nike to help many

Design changes by Nike to make persons with Cerebral Palsy wear their shoes independently on request of Mr. Matthew is just another example how companies can use universal design to meet the needs of people. So this request from a user helps Nike do some invention & bring in a shoe they call the Flyese that is designed especially for people who have trouble with their hands and the company is bringing it to market in the Fall. Surely, it will many people & not just those with Disabilities of upper limbs!

Read more at :

Teen With Cerebral Palsy Asked Nike For A Pair Of Sneakers And Got An Amazing Response

Teenager Matthew Walzer has Cerebral Palsy, and just like any of us, he wanted the freedom to take care of himself. He decided to send a letter to Nike asking them for help. Because of his condition, he has trouble with shoelaces. In his letter, Matt explained that he is soon going to college and wants a shoe he can put on himself. He also quoted an early mantra of Nike’s, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

What the company did in response? Simply wonderful! Not only did they do something amazing for Matthew, they took it a step further and now have a shoe they call the Flyese that is designed especially for people who have trouble with their hands and the company is bringing it to market in the Fall. It’s awesome how this young boy’s request sparked off an invention that’s sure to help many people!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Design & Disability - How India is catching up

Design and disability

August 22, 2014  


Accessible cabs for the disabled, talking ATMs, Braille and audio signage, camera mouse... a lot seems to be happening in the field of Universal Design in India lately.

It was a family trip to America in the late ’90s that changed the outlook — and therefore the business — of G. Gopala Krishna. Bangalore-based GGK, a materials engineer, had been making signage for use in institutes, hotels, hospitals, airports and public places till then. “Ladies restroom here, lift this way….the kind you usually come across in such places.”

After he returned home, he thought about what he had seen in public places across America. “Alongside the usual signage, there are audio and Braille signages. That set me thinking, why don’t we have any? How do our differently abled people navigate without them? What does our law say,” relates GGK. Realising that we do have a law that talks about barrier-free environment and access to people with disabilities, also the reality that there is hardly any maker of such signage in India, GGK thought of crafting some. After a lot of research, also some more travel to the U.S., he came up with a material and a technique to craft Braille signage. And today, GGK’s company, Braille Signs India-USA, not only produces Braille signage for the Indian market but for countries across the world.

“I realised, a lot of science is involved in making such signage, unlike the usual ones I have been making. The material used in the U.S. has been patented by a company there, so I couldn’t have used it. I thought a lot and zeroed in on a kind of hard plastic. It is long lasting because it is much more rugged and has more resistance to vibration, also vandalism. The best part is, it is less expensive than what is available in America. So I have got an advantage,” says a smiling GGK, a winner of this year’s NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Award, given away in New Delhi every August 14.

If the winners of this pioneering annual award given to individuals and companies since 2010 by Delhi-based NCPEDP alone are taken cognisance of, there are now quite a few instances of home-grown accessible design. Accessible cabs for the disabled, talking ATMs, barrier-free educational institutes, and assistive technology such as hand-gesture controlled remote, audio modules for mobile phones, etc. are all initiatives people and companies have been recognised for. Seems like a lot is happening in the field of Universal Design in the country lately. Particularly heartening when one recalls a conversation with NCPEDP founder and disability rights activist Javed Abidi in 2010 about how difficult was the job for his organisation to fill names of nominees for the three categories of the award.

Going back to Abidi to understand the shift provides a reality check of the situation. “The scenario hasn’t changed much. As heartbreaking as it is, there is not much happening in the area of accessibility or barrier-free design in India. That is not to say that nothing is happening, but not enough. The Universal Design Awards that we give every year, in that sense, is a good wake up call. I sincerely hope that things change and soon,” he says.

More often than not, the trend in India has been that individuals with disability or those with people in their family and friends circle with such needs think up innovative, barrier-free ideas.

“That is partly true, but not always. We have individuals like Shilpi Kapoor, G. Gopalakrishna, Rama Chari, Sakshi Broota and many others who do not have anything to do with disability, except their commitment and passion for the cause. Organisations and corporates too deserve their share of credit. Whatever Wipro or Mphasis or Capgemini or Cisco are doing, is noteworthy and laudable. When Vidhya Ramasubban launched Kickstart Cabs to ensure accessible transport in Bangalore, or when CHILDLINE India Foundation decides that all their awareness material should be in accessible formats so that the blind and the deaf can benefit, that needs to be celebrated,” points out Abidi.

Shilpi Kapoor, through her company BarrierBreak, has been organising Techshare India since 2008 on the lines of what the Royal National Institute for the Blind does in the U.K. For the first time, Techshare India has brought under one roof government officials, corporates, NGOs, people with disabilities and education providers with product companies.

Prashant Madhukar Naik of Maharashtra, a successful campaigner for talking ATMs in India, too feels “things are certainly changing” but hopes the Indian design industry becomes more aware and starts working closely with NGOs to understand the needs better. “Architects particularly need to do so to make the living space accessible for all,” he says. Talking about innovative ideas, he mentions “coming across a person who has designed a camera mouse for the computer.” IIT and IIM students have concentrated on products based on Universal Design, such as the recent Smart Cane, he notes, but the problem is how to market these products. The expansion of Techshare into this sector will hopefully help formalise the market.

About his own work, this Union Bank of India employee, also one of this year’s Universal Design Awards winners, adds with a tinge of pride, “A lot of hard work went into designing and making talking ATMs possible in India. Today, we have about 7000 such ATMs across the country.” Naik, suffering from low vision and albinism, also runs a first-of-its-kind website, a locator for talking ATMs in India.

To Naik also goes the credit of designing assistive devices for Maharashtra Government employees with low vision. “I was a part of a committee set up by the Mumbai High Court to provide assistive devices to blind employees and those with low vision working with the Government of Maharashtra. Today, such employees can ask for devices like magnifiers, etc. within the budget limit of Rs.50,000.”

Yet another name in the field of accessible design in India, Arun C.Rao, says he hopes to see a more proactive design industry to seriously bring about the concept of Universal Design in India. Rao is credited with designing a series of Indian sign language dictionaries and the country’s first website that teaches sign language.

GGK feels India’s huge construction industry today needs to be more open to the idea of Universal Design, a concept that has caught on pretty steadily in the West. “They are just not serious about making their projects barrier-free, nor is our government. This is despite having a law. The majority of them don’t follow these guidelines. Therefore, though so many high tech buildings and apartments are being made in India, the demand for my signage is little. I export more,” he says. However, between 2013 and 14, he has sold 5000 accessible signs in India alone. All enthusiastic about exploring further in his field, GGK has begun designing audio signage too. “Also those which glow in the dark, for low vision users. Then, I have embossed Braille instructions on door knobs, etc.” Interestingly, he has also designed a multi-metre to install in old lifts for audio signage.

“According to law, you can’t have lifts without audio signage in India anymore. So the new lifts come with audio instructions, but cities like Mumbai and Delhi have many old lifts in offices and apartment buildings. My multi-metre is for such lifts without needing to change them,” he says. He has recently installed his multi-metre in a Bangalore bank complex and has put up one in an old apartment building in his city on a trial basis. He, however, ends the conversation with yet another frustrating point, “I have approached quite a few old apartments but most are not open to the idea. They can’t seem to see the point. I don’t know why we are like that.”

Good question, why are we like that, why are we so majoritarian in our approach?

Talking ATMs

India today has nearly 7000 talking ATMs placed across the country. “From States like Tripura to Meghalaya to Pondicherry to U.P. to Goa to our big metros, you will find talking ATMs everywhere today,” says Prashant Madhukar Naik, a campaigner for this facility since 2009. Naik explains how the machine works without compromising on safety and security of the customer. “You have to wear a headphone which provides audible instructions to a user. It ensures that all the information you say, like your PIN number, etc. remains confidential.”

Naik was a part of the first ever talking ATM project taken up by an Indian bank — his employer, the Union Bank of India, in 2012. It began with Vastrapur in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Users could easily download instruction manuals in Braille and DAISY formats from the bank website. This set a benchmark for the Indian banking sector, and the State Bank of India, just four months later, too launched its first talking ATM in New Delhi.

Source: The Hindu

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Inclusive parks/playgrounds of Kilikili get UNESCO pat

Dear colleagues, 

The efforts of Bangalore based Kilikili - an organisation initiated by Ms. Kavita Krishnamoorthy, a special educator and architect, have found pat from none other than UNESCO. Here is the news report from DNA.

Published: Friday, Mar 2, 2012, 11:54 IST 
By Subir Ghosh | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

When a group of parents with differently abled children came together in 2005 to lobby for parks and playgrounds in the city be made accessible to such children, they faced an uphill task.

They were not sure if the move would work. But some six years later, the initiative is being lauded by UNESCO as a success story, that can be emulated the world over.

The initiative in question is Kilikili, a Bangalore-based trust that was set up to create inclusive neighbourhood play spaces for all children, regardless of their abilities, and to involve children in the design process. The Kilikili case study finds place in UNESCO’s ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012’ report that was published on Wednesday. This year’s annual report focuses on making cities fit for children.

Former Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioner K Jairaj bought the idea that came in the form of a visually attractive proposal from Kavita Krishnamoorthy, the managing trustee of Kilikili. The pitch was drafted by a core group comprising Krishnamoorthy, an architect and a special educator, that was formed after an initial round of consultations with parents, schools, and of course the children.

The first project, that sought to make parks and playgrounds disabled-friendly, was set up in Coles Park. The success of the project prompted the BMPP and Kilikili to replicate the idea at 
MN Krishna Rao Park in Basavangudi and Gayatri Devi Park in Rajajinagar.

Krishamoorthy remains unassuming about the Unesco mention, and talks of the tasks ahead. Her organisation, which runs with only two part-time employees, has pitched ideas for similar projects in Jayanagar, Jeevan Bima Nagar and Whitefield. “We are pursuing the BBMP to implement the projects, but these things eventually take up a lot of time to bear fruit.”

The BBMP bears all the costs to make the parks friendly for children with special needs. Kilikili, for its part, networks with parents, schools and volunteers, and works towards developing a community around a project area.

Once the BBMP’s part is done, it is this community that takes over. “Parents of children with special needs usually don’t want to come alone,” says Krishnamoorthy. But the support that the Kilikili initiative elicited, particularly from the residents of these areas, has possibly kept her going. Kilikili is hardly an organisation — it is a network.

What bothered Krishnamoorthy initially was about the invisibility of children with disabilities from the mainstream. Her project, therefore, works on inclusion. Besides the weekly trips to parks that are organised by the schools, Kilikili holds events in these parks every three months, where all children participate. ‘Normal’ children get the chance to interact and play with those with special needs.

During initial consultations that the core group held in 2005, one of the refrains that had cropped up frequently was “other children don’t talk to us since they don’t understand us.” These events seek to sink the differences.

All, however, is not hunky dory. Lack of maintenance work by the BBMP at Coles Park has forced parents and schools to stop bringing the children here. It has been almost a year now, and Krishnamoorthy rues that the “work indeed progresses very slowly.” For instance, the ramp at one of the gates still exists, but the railing has fallen off.Repeated complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The ball is definitely in the court of BBMP. Its role in the project too has been lauded in the Unesco report.

The two other projects, however, have been very successful. Last year, close to 2,000 children had visited the two parks.

Krishnamoorthy understands the need of children. She was herself the mother of athree-year-old boy with special needs when a casual remark by her husband about lack of adequate facilities at a park had set her thinking.

Six years later, she and her colleagues are working on a technical manual that would help the BBMP design parks and playgrounds that address crucial needs of children with special needs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Design Within Reach - Magazine - The Atlantic

Dear friends

I am amazed at the technology that can keep persons with disabilities on the technical rolls such as Architects ! And this makes more sense as Architects will learn to design not only for eyes but also for other senses - a design that benefits all and not only be visually appealing. The technology has made it possible for the Blind Architects to draw and appreciate the floor plans and elevations!

Have a look at this Article:

Design Within Reach

A blind architect relearns his craft.
ONE MORNING LAST FALL, Chris Downey, an architect, ran his long white cane across a pair of floor-tile samples spread out at his feet in the San Francisco office of an architecture firm, SmithGroup. Gathered around him, a handful of architects watched. They wanted to know which tile he preferred for a new rehabilitation center for the blind at the Veterans Administration hospital in Palo Alto. Downey looked up at Eric Meub, a vice president at the firm—not at him, exactly, just over his shoulder. “The one on the right is distinctive in either direction,” Downey said. “The other one has a preferred direction.” For a blind patient still learning to use a cane, that first tile would give more-predictable feedback.There was an awkward silence. The other architects looked at one another. Downey chuckled. “So you’re saying the one on the right is the one that doesn’t look so good,” he said, grinning.

...........detailed article at   Design Within Reach - Magazine - The Atlantic

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Consultant -Diversity & Inclusive Environments

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Finally Railways plan to address access issues at select 1500 railway stations!

Indian Railways have been sitting over the access improvement plans over 10 years now. Several Writ petitions followed, but nothing more than assurances and promises came out. The Indian Railways have now decided to address access issues at some odd 1500 stations now which is nothing but a miniscule in such a vast country.

My Fears

  • And mind you, they say that they are doing it not because it is mandated under a binding Central Law called The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 but because of the continuous requests which are being received from the physically challenged people from all over India. What a cruel joke on the 14 year old Legislative Enactment of Indian Parliament!

  • If Railways execute the access solutions at the standards at which they are currently doing at many of the stations, I fear whether we will ever have accessibility at Indian Railway Stations and trains !

  • As long as you call alternate access ramps, reserved parking slots, low height water taps and accessible toilets to be special facilities, I doubt it would be sustainable! Answer lies in Universal Design! Why can't the stations be designed to be accessible to all based on universal design rather than special access to some.

  • Today, in the name of low height water taps, inaccessible taps have been built. Look at the socalled "accessible toilets" at stations. They remain either locked or are inaccessible. Ramps are slippery, there is no platform to platform connectivity. Wheelchairs are not available easilty at stations. Staff is often missing from "May I help you" counters. There is no awarness in the implementing contractors and engineers. What they consider accessible is actually not accessible.

Perceptions about Accessibility Differ from Actual Accessibility

The simple question- do you involve competent consultants and users to ensure that the end product is fault free? Perceptions of accessibility differ from person to person and this subjectivity kills the design and the usage of end product for the end user in absence of uniform universal design standards being adopted.


Subhash C. Vashishth

To read the news in detail click on links:

Times of India
Travel Biz Monitor