About the Conference
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This is an extraordinary moment. We are more diverse now in ability and age than ever before. It is time for design to catch up. There is an urgent need to exchange ideas about the design of places, things, information, policies and programs that demonstrate the power of design to shape a 21st century world that works for all of us.
Whatever you call it - universal design, inclusive design, design-for-all, lifespan design - the worldwide movement for human centered design with everyone in mind is gaining momentum. The Designing for the 21st Century III Conference is fueled by that momentum and will offer a platform for the next stage of development. Even in a world with many options for virtual communication, meeting face to face opens new doors and creates a catalyst to ideas and collaboration. This event will provide opportunities for the growing number of practitioners and promoters of universal design to engage with each other as multi-disciplinary colleagues. Designers, educators, leaders from disability, aging and sustainability organizations, business, media and government can invent fresh solutions by crossing familiar boundaries.
The Conference uses the term 'universal design' broadly. It includes the design of places, things and communication but also policies, programs and services. It works from the World Health Organization's recent International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to provide a conceptual framework for considering variation in human ability. The ICF puts the notions of 'health' and 'disability' in a new light. It acknowledges that every human being can experience a loss in health and thereby experiences some disability. This is not something that happens to a minority of humanity but to most. ICF 'mainstreams' the experience of disability and recognizes it as a universal human experience. By shifting the focus from cause to impact, it places all health conditions on an equal footing allowing them to be compared using a common metric - the measure of health and disability.1
This international conference builds upon the successes of Designing for the 21st Century I in 1998 and Designing for the 21st Century II in 2000 as well as the International Conference for Universal Design of Fall 2002 held in Yokohama, Japan. Adaptive Environments, a 25 year old USA-based NGO, continues in its role as primary Host for the Conference. Centro de Vida Independente do Rio de Janeiro (CVI-Rio), the first independent living center in Latin America, is Host Partner.
Co-Sponsors are the NEC Foundation of America, the United Nations Global Programme on Disability and the Universal Design Consortium (Japan). Metropolis magazine is Media Sponsor. Negotiations are underway with additional co-sponsors and corporate partners.
A significant priority of Designing for the 21st Century III is to be a catalyst for building understanding and collaboration between the developed and developing nations, it must be in a place that exemplifies economic disparity and yet attracts the people who can shape the agenda. Brazil is the largest nation in Latin America with 182,032,604 people. 50% of the population accounts for just 10% of the national income - the internal economic disparities parallel the world's. The demographics are complex - from the fact that 47% of Brazilians are of African descent to the fact that Brazil has the largest community of Japanese outside of Japan. More than 80% of Brazilians live in urban areas. And there is exciting potential for Brazil to model the national integration of universal design. Innovative Brazilian leaders are shaping public policy and finding ways to excite ordinary citizens about design-for-all. A new initiative on accessible technology has been created out of President Lula's own office. The city of Curitiba has created an international model of integration of sustainable and universal design in transportation and urban design.
The choice of Rio de Janeiro is partly strategic and partly practical. The conference must attract the diverse mix of designers, businesspeople, academics, students, government officials, leaders from the international NGOs serving people with disabilities and older people. Rio is a stunningly beautiful, internationally renowned city of 5.5M recently named the "world's friendliest city" (BBC News 6.23.03). It's a compelling place to go. From a practical standpoint, Rio de Janeiro has substantial experience with universal design and with hosting accessible conferences. There is capacity in the hotels, conference facilities, in transportation and in technology to host a diverse audience.
The core conference will take place at the Sofitel Rio Palace which anchors one end of Copacabana Beach and has more than adequate space for a conference of 800. There are 388 rooms and excellent accessibility. Many choices of low to mid-price hotels are within blocks of the Sofitel Rio Palace.
Local Host Partner
Centro de Vida Independente do Rio de Janeiro (CVI-Rio) was the first independent living center in Brazil and has helped to coordinate a variety of international conferences. It enjoys a very positive reputation within the city and throughout Brazil. Veronica Camisao, conference liaison from CVI/RJ, is an architect specializing in universal design who has worked with cities throughout Latin America. She is Chair of the Brazilian Host Committee.
C & M Congresses and Meetings is a Rio-based conference company that has extensive experience providing a comprehensive menu of services for diverse audiences. C & M will coordinate local arrangements.
International Planning Committee
Professor Jim Sandhu, of Inclusive Design Research Associates, Ltd. in the UK will co-chair the Conference and share duties with Adaptive Environments' Executive Director, Valerie Fletcher.
Other members of the International Planning Committee include Francesc Aragall, President of the Design for All Foundation; Professor Singanapillai Balaram at the National Institute of Design, India; Sylvia Clark, Executive Director, NEC Foundation; Roger Coleman, Director, Helen Hamlyn Research Center at the Royal College of Art, London; Marcelo Guimares, architect and activist in the Brazil and Ph.D candidate at the NCSU at Raleigh; Yoshihiko Kawauchi, architect and disability activist, Tokyo; Keiji Kawahara, International Association for Universal Design, Tokyo; Ruth Morrow, Professor of Architecture, University of Ulster; Ricardo Gomes, Chair, Design & Industry Department, San Francisco State University; Laurie Ringaert, Executive Director, Center for Universal Design; C. J. Walsh Architect, Chief Technical Consultant, Sustainable Design International Ltd., Ireland; Eugene Williams, international housing and disability activist, liaison from Adaptive Environment's Board of Directors.
Elaine Ostroff, international universal design leader and Senior Editor of The Universal Design Handbook, and Marcelo Guimares, architect and activist in the Brazil and Ph.D candidate at the NCSU at Raleigh, will co-chair the International Educators Forum.
Strategy for Outreach and Dissemination
Previous methods of outreach and dissemination are being expanded. There are four critical categories of outreach:
International collaborators - we anticipate approximately 65 collaborating organizations from a diverse range of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), academic institutions, governmental organizations and others. Collaborating organizations share mailing lists, commit to promote the conference in their newsletters and distribute conference information at their events. Initial agreements number almost 40 organizations.
International design schools - A database of over 500 design schools worldwide is being notified of the student design competition. Letters will be followed by competition posters. Registration will provide access to the program/brief details for the three site options. Each site has a primary email contact to provide contextual information. The competition will be managed on the web with finalists asked to submit 2D boards.
International media - Metropolis, the leading English language cross-disciplinary design and culture magazine, is Media Sponsor and its editor-in-chief, Susan Szenasy, will be a keynote speaker. Specialty magazine partners are committed in the EU and Japan. Additional media partners will be pursued in Europe, Japan and the US but also in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe.
For the first time, Designing for the 21st Century III plans to use the media to communicate with a larger audience through web-casting parts of the conference. In addition, we hope to produce a video from the event based primarily on recording the dynamic charrette process and taking advantage of the countless opportunities to interview world leaders in universal design during the event.
International meetings and conferences - A comprehensive international calendar has been created that notes every pertinent meeting or conference from September of 2003 to September of 2004 to which information can be disseminated about the conference.
Evaluation Plan and Criteria
Each presenter, attendee and exhibitor will be given evaluation forms to rate their perceptions of both the content and services. Given the priority themes of dialogue between the developed and majority nations, the link between universal and sustainable design and interactive or participatory learning, evaluations will seek comment on the success of those efforts.
Beyond the Conference
Each of the previous conferences has had substantial, positive repercussions. This is an exciting stage in the developmental process in the universal design movement. An appetite has been built for the ideas and a hunger for knowing specifics about real projects. Conferences are invaluable for affirming and sustaining the momentum and for stimulating collaborations. But there is no way to respond to the pervasive need for inspirational and practical information except by taking advantage of the Web to provide voluminous information and opportunities for continuing exchange. A digital compendium of Conference Proceedings will be on line before the event.
We are finding through our discussions with organizations in the developing world that they have internet access but are not yet able to put up their own websites. They want access to sites where they can get what they need but also build visibility and participate in international conversations. An expanded virtual community is planned on the Adaptive Environments' website for continuing information exchange and dialogue. We will offer resource materials for free downloading (with multi-lingual options as feasible), a list-serve, a digital case study collection, and capacity for telling stories and sharing solutions across the globe.
1. Towards a Common Language for Functioning, Disability and Health
ICF, WHO/EIP/GPE/CAS/01.3, 2002. [ Back to Text ]