Hospital corridors where everyone can find their way. Websites that are understandable to all users. Means of transport that anyone can use. Kerbstones that never pose an obstacle. Jam jars that anyone can open. Voice-driven forms that anyone can use. In a universally designed society, everyone can participate on different premises, regardless of their starting point. This is good economics.
Later this year, the Innovation Award for Universal Design will be presented for the third time. The award aims to highlight and promote the most innovative and user-friendly products, services and environments in Norway. Programme Manager Onny Eikhaug from Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA) hopes to receive as many nominations as possible.
“Absolutely anyone - from experts to everyday citizens - can submit a nomination. We know that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of good, inclusive solutions out there in every imaginable area. By putting the spotlight on the best and most innovative of these solutions, we hope to inspire even more people to pursue universal design,” says Eikhaug.
Universal hotel forced to expand
The first time the Innovation Award for Universal Design was presented was in 2011 and the winner was the newly built Scandic Oslo Airport.
“Winning the Innovation Award in 2011 really put the Scandic Oslo Airport on the conference market map and resulted in tremendous publicity for the hotel the year after it opened. It was also fantastic acknowledgement that our decision to pursue a universal design was the right one,” says Ulf Johansen, acting manager of the Scandic Oslo Airport.
The hotel, which aimed to offer a positive experience to absolutely all guests, has become so popular that it has already had to expand its capacity.
“It is precisely the fact that we have a universal design that has resulted in many consumers choosing us again and again. To meet this demand, we have had to expand our conference facilities and, of course, add more rooms,” says Johansen.
He explains that the hotel is so well designed and planned that it offers an invaluable advantage when it comes to organising courses. All universally designed rooms are located on the ground floor.
Delivering inclusive boats to China
In 2011, the Brødrene Aa shipyard, Norled shipping company, formerly Tide Sjø, and the Kolombus transport company, called Rogaland Kollektivtrafikk at the time, won the Innovation Award for Universal Design in the Transport category for their inclusively designed high-speed boats.
“The award has helped us conquer a strong position in the market as a supplier with the expertise needed to meet all the requirements of universal design. What we have learned is that it does not cost any more to take such requirements into consideration, as long as you start at the drawing table,” says Tor Øyvin Aa, Administrative Director at Brødrene Aa.
In the wake of the award, the shipyard in Gloppen has also signed contracts outside of Norway. These have included universally designed passenger boats that are now used between the airport in Hong Kong and the mainland.
Proof of quality
General Manager Tomas Nesheim at Kolombus says that the company has derived considerable satisfaction and advantage from the attention resulting from winning the award and recommends that anyone with an inclusive solution apply for the Innovation Award for Universal Design.
“Nowadays, universal design is proof of quality, rather than something developed for specific groups of people. Winning this award can also boost team spirit internally within an organisation. This is because employees become extra proud of the solution following such recognition and mention it when talking about their job with others. It becomes part of the distinctive character of the organisation,” he says.
Solutions that benefit all
According to jury leader John Arne Bjerknes (on the right in the main picture), a partner of the Nordic architectural firm, universally designed solutions can be distinguished from traditional solutions in that they function better for everyone, not only those with functional impairments. As an example, he mentions the once hated and feared income tax returns.
“The new tax returns are designed so that anyone can fill them out. The innovative aspects are accessibility and user-friendliness, not to mention the fact that you do not need to spend days on complicated calculations. The result benefits everyone,” says the jury leader. The Norwegian Tax Administration won the Innovation Award for Universal Design in the Interaction and Information Design category in 2014.
The Innovation Award for Universal Design has been presented by DOGA since 2011 on behalf of the Ministry of Children and Equality (BLD), which coordinates government universal design efforts. It is presented in eight categories and honours commissioning parties, architects and designers who have developed innovative and inclusive solutions that focus on human diversity.
Innovation Award for Universal Design facts
- Presented by Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA) on behalf of the Ministry of Children and Equality (BLD).
- Honours commissioning parties, architects and designers who have developed innovative and inclusive solutions that focus on human diversity.
- The award is presented in eight categories: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Transport, Product, Graphic Design, Furniture & Interior Design, Service Design & Interaction Design and Digital Solutions. The category winners compete for the main award.
- Scandic Gardermoen won the main award in 2011. In 2014, the winner was St. Olavs Hospital.
- Past category winners include Bergen Light Rail, the Norwegian Tax Administration, yr.no and Hardanger Bestikk.