OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) and Inclusive Design Institute (IDI) position OCADU and Toronto among global leaders in the fields of accessibility and inclusive design of information and communication systems and practices.
The IDRC conducts multi-disciplinary, multi-sector research and development on the inclusive design of emerging information and communication systems and practices — or designing for diversity. IDRC research addresses the full lifecycle of information and communication systems and practices — from design to implementation to evaluation and policy.
So why is Toronto the right environment for innovative inclusive design research? One of the best catalysts for innovation is a diversity of perspectives. Toronto offers a treasure trove of diverse perspectives and an environment where these can flourish. Inclusive design is grounded on flexibility, agility and responsiveness to a diversity of needs and challenges. The Toronto area is home to many indie developers and small enterprises that can respond quickly, participate in technical efforts at the leading edge, and are not adverse to contributing to a collaborative effort. Further enriching the innovation atmosphere in Toronto are the eight post-secondary institutions which contribute a large and talented pool of artists, designers and creative problem solvers to the workforce.
The IDI, led by international inclusive design expert Jutta Treviranus, is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and includes 8 GTA postsecondary institutions: OCADU, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Sheridan, George Brown College and Seneca College. The IDRC and IDI value collaboration, broad participation, transparency and openness.
Both organizations are poised to respond to a “perfect storm” of opportunities and demands, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), an aging demographic, the UN Enable: Rights of Persons with Disabilities convention, worldwide demand for inclusive products and services, and the increasingly understood link between innovation and inclusive design.
“Accessibility and inclusion are not only rights to be protected, but catalysts for new ideas,” explains IDRC and IDI Director Jutta Treviranus. “Inclusive design involves principles that lead to better design, business strategies that make good business sense, and economic drivers with ubiquitous social benefits.”
“OCADU has the agility, imagination and creativity we need to realize the promise of inclusive design,” says Treviranus. In addition to the IDRC and the IDI, OCADU offers students the opportunities to enhance their studies through cross-disciplinary minors in such subjects as Wearable Technology, Digital and Media Studies, Furniture Design and Communication Design, to name only a few. OCADU’s interdisciplinary approach to education produces graduates with the depth and breadth of creative knowledge to respond to questions of inclusive design like no other institution in Canada.
What is ‘inclusive design’?
Inclusive design enables and supports the participation of individuals and groups representing the full range of human diversity. Inclusive design is important because:
The IDRC and the IDI advocate for a new notion of disability:
- An aging demographic with associated dramatic rise in incidence of disabilities makes accessibility an increasing concern
- Access to online services can no longer be considered optional — it is an essential part of daily life
- Exclusion and inequality have broad and devastating social and economic impacts for society as a whole, not only the excluded.
- Disability is a mismatch between the needs of the individual and the services, tools or environment
- It is not a personal trait or personal deficit
- It is relative to context and goals.
Accessible design is:
Determined by the match or fit between the user and the tools, service or environment; A relative characteristic; Addressed by a large diverse pool of potential resources, not a uniform design; Well aligned with the Creative Economy.
The endless opportunity of Inclusive Design:
- There is growing demand for inclusively designed products and services — globally and with all of Ontario’s trading partners
- There is growing demand for skills and knowledge in inclusive design
- Inclusive Design must be integrated, embedded and infused in mainstream products and services.
The IDRC and the IDI offers supports for inclusive design and development, implementation and information practices, with subgroups focused in inclusive education, health, civic engagement and culture and the arts. Business case, policy, standards and legislation development are a major focus, along with mobile and pervasive computing.
- Distributed collaboration network
- Networked usability and accessibility labs
- Cross-platform testing facility
- Mobile and pervasive computing research platform
- Accessible gaming platform
- Sensory Mode Translation and Media Access Facility Portable
- Accessible Performance Kit Accessible
- Research Applications
- Experimental Inclusive Meeting Facility
The IDRC and IDI represent the tip of the iceberg. With partners and even staff all over the world, the group collaborates with researchers in every continent and time zone. There are between 18 and 23 projects at any given time, primarily focused on applied research.
Current projects include:
FLOE (Flexible Learning for Open Education), funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is creating a global infrastructure to address the learning needs of learners, including learners with disabilities, by matching each learner's individual accessibility needs and preferences with a learning resource that meets those needs. FLOE has many partners around the world and will also address accessible mobile learning delivery in Africa, Latin America and India.
The Fluid Project creates web application building blocks that infuse accessibility and inclusive user experience design into the software ecosystem. Fluid components are part of the software toolkits broadly used to create interactive Web programs, thereby ensuring they are accessible to users with disabilities.
The Accessible Digital Office Document project, supported by UNESCO and the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, is developing international guidelines for creating accessible office documents including spreadsheets and presentations.