Memorandum submitted by the Design Council
To what extent has the Design Council been involved
in the EQUAL initiative?
The Design Council is collaborating with the
Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge, DesignAge
at the Royal College of Art and Design for Ability at Central
Saint Martins on a three year research project concerning "Inclusive
Design". The aim of the project is to provide designers,
and those commissioning design, with the user data they need to
develop products for elderly and disabled people.
We felt that it was important to be involved
in this initiative in order to raise awareness about the way in
which effective design can help businesses and the wider community
respond to key social trends such as ageing.
Has the initiative identified and supported the
most appropriate research areas for confronting the challenges
of an ageing population?
The initiative has successfully identified and
developed a number of important research areas and has made an
important contribution to the knowledge base in this area.
However, in order to build on this base, we
feel that it is now crucial for there to be a greater focus on
how the research findings should be disseminated in order to raise
awareness and change behaviour.
In practice, this would involve ensuring that
there is additional government funding available to publicise
the research findings amongst relevant audiences and to develop
appropriate campaigns with external partners.
Funding should also be made available to ensure
that the findings are available in an easily accessible database
for use by the academic community.
Is research in this area receiving sufficient
EQUAL is a forward looking research programme
with a clear focus on a significant social issue. The Design Council
is supportive of the fact that this issue has been prioritised
by the Research Councils and we are confident that the Government
has provided an appropriate level of financial assistance.
In order to ensure that the money is used effectively,
we would however underline the importance of supporting the programme
with a series of explicit measurable objectives (eg) to increase
the average age at which people move into residential care homes.
To what extent has EQUAL stimulated research in
The structure of the EQUAL programme has helped
to stimulate research in a number of new areas and also to stimulate
research best practice. In particular:
By stipulating that user-collaboration
is mandatory to all proposals, the programme has encouraged a
greater appreciation and consideration of the needs of the end-user.
By drawing together disparate research
activities and disciplines, the initiative has encouraged a holistic
approach to problem solving. In our experience, the use of a multidisciplinary
team for the Inclusive Design project helped to encourage lateral
thinking and the development and sharing of knowledge to a broad
based research community.
What are, or should be, the priority areas of
research for the EQUAL programme?
The EQUAL initiative has already begun to fill
many important research gaps. However, we would like to expand
the scope of the initiative to explore attitudes to new media,
design and technology amongst elderly people. In particular, we
believe that there would be value in exploring:
the potential of the media generally
to shape both attitudes towards the elderly and the attitudes
of the elderly;
the impact of the Internet upon the
elderly and the ways in which information technology might be
exploited to extend the quality of life of the elderly (eg) by
allowing them to shop or access key services from home or by combating
isolation through facilities such as E mail; and
how smart products could help the
elderlycreating effective interfaces to smart products;
do old people see technology as a problem or as a solution? What
are the barriers to technology? What are the incentives for using
Are there any highlights from the initiative so
From our own perspective EQUAL has enabled us
to share knowledge and establish partnerships with a diverse range
of organisations from business, education and government.
We have also utilised emerging knowledge from
the EQUAL programme to inform DesignHorizonsthe Design
Council's knowledge resource on future trends, design challenges
12 January 2000