Main Article Content
Universal design thinkers are needed now more than ever. The world is facing one humanitarian crisis after the other, forcing people to flee their homes and resettle elsewhere without knowing anything about the local language, traditions, and way of life. Moreover, an ageing population is in need of (housing) design that facilitates long-term accessibility and hence homeowners ‘ageing in place’ safely without losing their independence. Moreover, nations such as Japan, Spain, and Norway have made diversity and inclusion part of their national political agendas to ensure that future products, buildings, exterior spaces, etc. are inherently accessible to all people. Taking all of this together, it is imperative that the next generation of designers is informed about and skilled at dealing with future challenges and demands, however complex they might be.
Originally developed as a powerful tool for designers, architects, and others to explore ‘extreme environments’, such as hospitals and prisons, and the ways in which objects impinge on existential wellbeing, the critical design method is now gradually being adapted and applied to the field of universal design. Two series of workshops have been conducted to test and further develop this way of thinking about design for educational contexts. The purpose of this paper is to describe the process of applying the critical design method to various universal design contexts, and to discuss the results thus far. Furthermore, the paper examines to what extent critical design is an appropriate method for questioning and improving the field of universal design.