View all Blog posts

Themes: Inclusive Design

UCL’s Inclusive Design & Environments Module – Shaping Future Mindsets

A white man in a blue shirt smiling into the camera

Iain McKinnon

Co-founder and Director of Inclusive Design

As we look towards the summer break, there’s time for reflection but also a need to plan. Since launching the Global Disability Innovation Hub’s Inclusive Design and Environments module at UCL as part of our Disability, Design and Innovation MSc programme back in 2019, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly each term passes and we’re back with a new cohort to inspire.

Each year is unique and has its own ‘flavour’. Much of this comes from the wide variety of backgrounds, expertise and interests that our students come to us with. It’s this unique dynamic that makes it so exciting and keeps it fresh. This coming academic year (2023/24) will be no different. We’re now teaching on the new UCL East campus, which is on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where I was the Inclusive Design lead for 8 years – developing the legacy of the 2012 Paralympic games, as the newly established park transitioned from an event venue to a thriving London community.

The amazing thing about having the Park outside the teaching space window is that I can literally point to examples (good and the not so good), as we learn together about the power of engagement, collaboration, co-design and inclusion to create places where we all feel welcome, where we can all participate and thrive individually and collectively. Teaching on this ‘living lab’ of inclusive design is incredibly powerful and, I hope, inspiring for our students.

Coloured photograph of queen elizabeth olympic park on a sunny day. The river is photographed centrally, with buildings running along the left bank and a tall orbit sculpute on the right
UCL East on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

The Inclusive Design and Environments module requires students to produce their own inclusive design ‘interventions’ with a unique design brief set each year. Last year the brief we set our students tackled inclusive childhood education and asked:

How might we raise the attendance of young children with disabilities in early childhood education in developing countries?

Much like how fast each new term comes around, the other thing that never ceases to amaze me is the ingenuity that each student delivers based on one common question. It’s incredible, every time. Last year as an example, we had inclusive design solutions as diverse as an inclusive and sustainable playground design that used local materials to a managed system where Assistive Technology (AT) could be borrowed by those not currently in a position to buy it in order to access education. It’s this range of thought, with inclusive design at its core, that really strikes me and that I look forward to most.

So, as I review, refine and plan the content for this coming academic year, I can’t wait to see what the next cohort of students come up with. They are the future. They will go on to shape their own industries and spheres of influence, with inclusive design at the heart, and that’s exactly the impact we hope to have.

Find out more

Students’ ‘Hero Image’ of their AT sharing service solution
Students’ ‘Hero Image’ of their AT sharing service solution
Students’ ‘Hero Image’ of their inclusive, adaptable and sustainable playground design
Students’ ‘Hero Image’ of their inclusive, adaptable and sustainable playground design