I recently discovered the Institute for Human Centered Design at Adaptive Environments, a “28 year old international non-profit organization, based in Boston, committed to advancing the role of design in expanding opportunity and enhancing experience for people of all ages and abilities. AE’s work balances expertise in legally required accessibility with promotion of best practices in human-centered or universal design.” With a staff of humanists, educators and designers, AE has been a global leader in the fight for universal design.
Having written a thesis on the human rights of persons with disabilities at Hampshire College, I was drawn to their mission, displayed prominently in their gallery front windows. A great deal of what I learned in the year I studied disability rights dealt with accessibility, which is inherently linked to design, especially in the built environment.Their work includes:
- funded projects with target audiences, specific services and products and grant periods;
- consultation to public and private entities on accessible and universal or human-centered design;
- generating initiatives in response to unmet needs that we research and most often evolve into proposals for funding;
- promotion and education through web and print publications; lectures, workshops and conferences; formal and tailored courses; and public policy advocacy.
The Institute for Human Centered Design lives on Portland Street in downtown Boston. It is comprised of a library, showcase, meeting space, and retail store where cutting edge manufacturers exhibit products and demonstrate products via DVD. They highlight design competitions from around the globe, and house a library that is the largest collection of publications and multi¬media materials on accessibility and universal design within the United States.
Needless to say, I was awed and inspired. Read more about them at their website.