Critical design – a new paradigm for teaching and learning universal design
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The critical design method, which was originally developed as a tool for designers, architects, engineers, etc. to open the (design) brief when designing “extreme environments” of the future [1a] – in so doing throwing light upon the design process from a critical perspective and highlighting considerations that might otherwise be overlooked – is now gradually being adapted to and applied in the field of universal design. Bringing this way of thinking about design into higher education could encourage teachers and students to broaden their knowledge in this field, better equipping students to create in an inclusive manner and ensuring that future products, buildings, and exterior spaces are accessible to all to the greatest extent possible . In order to test and further develop this way of thinking about universal design for educational contexts, two series of workshops have been conducted: One at a research institute for rehabilitation engineering and design, and one within a Master’s programme in occupational therapy. The purpose of this paper is to describe the process of adapting the critical design method as it is used in institutional environments, such as hospitals and prisons, to various universal design contexts, and to discuss the preliminary results. The paper also examines the question of whether critical design is an optimal method of challenging and ultimately improving the field of universal design – and, if so, how to proceed in order to achieve the best teaching and learning outcomes. Keywords: Critical design, universal design, design methods, educational practises, workshops.