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Universal Design workshop: Creating a Universal Design community in Thailand

Project name: Universal Design Network workshop 1

Funder/Sponsor: The Institute of Health Promotion for People with Disability + School of Change Makers for the journal

Collaborator: The Institute of Health Promotion for People with Disability

Year: 2013

Project type: Knowledge Management  


After our first years working in design, and particularly through our experience using participatory processes in design with communities on the ground, we met many practitioners working on Universal Design. While they did not use this term, they were working to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities and elderly people. Some were working in construction, some were health volunteers who collected data collection for the people who needed home improvements and sending it to local authorities. Ohers yet were working in hospitals of academia. We saw the need to create a platform, or a space, for these people to come together, to empower one another. We know from experience that working in this field can be disheartening as people are scattered and lack support. We aimed to bring people together to meet and share the knowledge they have gained through their work.

The process of meeting in person and exchanging experiences and working processes is also empowering in and of itself, creating a like-minded community. This is especially important in this field, where practitioners often feel disconnected and lack the energy to go on.

We organised the first workshop in 2013, the second in 2015, and the third one will be organised in the future. The workshops are to be increasingly open: the first brought together practitioners who we already knew, the second was open to the public with a series of talks, and the third one aims to reach an even larger audience. 

Universal Design Network workshop 1

The first Universal Design Network workshop lasted two days in November 2013. We started with a knowledge management exercise, inviting people to talk about their experiences in their specific field. The participants came from a variety of backgrounds: doctors, nurses, health volunteers, one person from CODI, university lecturers, people who teach at nursing school, architects, etc. They shared stories but also their dreams for the future. We then did an envisioning exercise where people were asked to imagine what Universal Design dream city would look like. Everyone made drawings from their perspective of what that city would look like.

We used this workshop as the basis for the first UD journal entitled “UDD: Universal Design Development Journal”, which in Thai loosely translates into “live well”. The journal shared ideas and knowledge from the experience of practitioners across Thailand. It was distributed to participants of the second workshop and is available online.