Universal design as a mechanism for sustainable development

22 Mar 2018 11:00h - 13:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]

The session moderator, Mr G. Anthony Giannoumis, associate professor of universal design at Oslo Metropolitan University, explained that the session would discuss universal design (UD) in respect to sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Giannoumis explained that the UN did not make it evident whether design refers to the technology itself or the process by which that technology is created when defining UD. According to Giannoumis, UD should be both. He also pointed out that technology has to be usable and able to fulfill its particular purpose. Lastly, he noted that while UD is universal, it should not be based on the one size fits all solution. ‘We need to focus on solutions that work for individuals and not just on a generic plain’, he said. Technology should acknowledge the whole spectrum of differences, and even though developers think that UD stifles design and adoption, this is not necessarily true.

Mr Jorge Manhique, programme officer at the Disability Rights Fund, presented the UD policy perspective in the African context in respect to SDG 10 on reducing inequalities. Policy analysis shows that ICTs in Africa are largely unregulated, and legal standardisation and regulation should be a priority in enabling UD. Research also highlights a lack of infrastructure and a lack of market competition. Manhique also noted positive trends and recommendations. Positive initiatives include an anti-discrimination approach to law, used for he procurement of social goals, and setting up the Universal Access Fund. As recommendations, he noted higher participation in policy making by people with disabilities, and the need for new legal mechanisms and guidelines.

Ms Anne Igletjorn, chief technology officer at Cozin, presented their product, which was created with UD and SDG 3 on good health and well-being in mind. ‘According to the [World Health Organization] WHO data, using solid fuels in cooking is a reality for around three billion people in developing countries’, noted Igletjorn. This raises numerous health and environmental hazards to people depending on solid fuels. Cozin is envisioned as a universal detection system which employs the Internet of Things, through a sensor network (which monitors levels of C02 and C0 indoors) and human interaction. It is in the form a smoke detector, but also as a wearable and a toy for kids. She stressed that their focus was on the principles of UD: usability, flexibility, and simplicity.

Ms Dasha Krivonos, chief executive officer and Ms Dendembo Diallo, chief operations officer from Saga, explained how they use digital storytelling to achieve SDG 5 on gender equality. According to them, storytelling has an intrinsic societal value, but also a historical issue of gender stereotyping. Saga aims to reinvent storytelling by bridging the gap between folklore and fact. The platform promotes equal values in an interactive way. It was also designed with focus on affordability, deployment ability and accessibility.

Mr Emilio Mosse, dean of the Faculty of Science, University of Eduardo Mondlane, brought forth the perspective of universities to the discussion. Mosse stressed that the role of universities could be to contribute by raising awareness. He spoke within the framework of UD and SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure. Mosse presented the Norwegian Partnership Programme for Global Academic Cooperation (NORPART)between his university and OsloMet Norway. Activities for raising awareness can be academic workshops, hackathons, and collaboration with organisations working with people with disabilities, and advocacy for a better legal framework.

Ms Sheila Andre and Mr Frank Salvador students of the University of Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique, shared their experiences from the Mozambique-Norway Accessibility Partnership, a project by the two universities. They referred to SDG 4 on quality education and noted that teaching by doing is useful for students to better understand UD. Andre and Salvador remarked that the activities they engaged in during the summer school in Norway made them better understand different socio-cultural experiences and how that impacts UD. They took part in classes such as UD, big data analytics and action research, as well as in an innovation camp where they looked for practical solutions to SDGs through technology.


By Jana Mišić