International Conference on Inclusive Design edition:4 location:London date:1-4 April 2007
The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven) serves as a laboratory for testing mechanisms to foster universal design. Architecture students and building professionals team up with personnel and students with disabilities to assess and improve the ‘universality’ of the campus. Available norms and guidelines were inventoried and synthesized into a ‘K.U.Leuven Code’, at some points more stringent than the legal norm and henceforth applicable to all new build and rebuild projects on campus. Architecture students are checking this code against the reality of current university buildings, and against the experiences of building users with various disabilities. In the short run, the initiative provides disabled students and personnel with a mechanism to communicate their views and insights with current and future professionals. In the long run, it should produce a guide that supports professionals who (re)build on campus in translating the code architecturally. Judging from the experiences so far, sensitisation goes surprisingly smoothly when policy makers explicitly encourage universal design. It facilitates the development of an inclusive policy by creating a broad basis of enthusiasts—both professionals and users—who take ownership of the initiative.