The Inclusive Design Research Centre of Ireland @ UCD
Established in December 2013, and building upon the move of the SMARTlab team to Dublin with Professor Lizbeth Goodman in September 2010, the new IDRC provides the national and international framework for interdisciplinary expertise to deliver on major research programmes in Research, Policy and Practice for Inclusive Design, including Assistive Technologies for People with Intellectual and other abilities and disabilities. Running in parallel with an EC CoFund award of 8.9 million euros awarded to the Doctrid Research Centre’s ASSISTID Project, for which Professor Lizbeth Goodman of UCD is Academic Chair, the Inclusive Design Research Centre of Ireland at UCD has been constituted as a research centre to facilitate and promote action research and scholarship in the interdisciplinary domain of Inclusive Design to support the educational and life needs of people with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, or other assistive technology requirements. The Centre will be a national resource as well as a main hub of expertise for Europe, to act as a central research support unit to host funded Post-Doc fellows, PhD and MA students, Springboard participants seeking re-skilling for engagement in a more inclusive IT sector and society. The Centre will host a major showcase space where researchers, industry collaborators, clinicians and clients including people with disabilities can work and play together, to achieve new insights into the needs of people of all levels of functionality (intellectual and physical). The Centre will link to the SMARTlab’s Assistive Technology and Multimodal Interfaces equipment and programmes (including the country’s most sophisticated eye control interface systems) and the SMARTlab’s Virtual World and Games for Learning services already as established at UCD, and to the partner labs and centres in London, Toronto and Seattle.
Constituted as a national centre, it will be a locus of research and education, providing postgraduate research training and supervision, and hosting national and international scholars undertaking practice-based clinical and scholarly research in the cognate disciplines of Inclusive Design.
The Centre will lead research activity in Ireland in a significant and growing and still largely untapped area of scholarship, and once fully established, will provide a national resource of human expertise and material resources capable of meeting the needs of scholars and clinicians studying a range of subjects from Assistive Technologies to Disability Support, Educational Pyschology and Special Educational Needs, Higher Education and the History of Health and Special Needs Education, Robotics and Haptics for Inclusive Communications, Sensory Design, Design for more inclusive built environments, Virtual Worlds and Games for Learning, and Social Media tools for empowering SMARThealth systems.
This centre aims to support and include all people as equal researchers engaged in the co-design of more inclusive social and health/education spaces and curricula: not only people with disabilities but also a wider range of people constrained by personal or professional circumstances, or economic or social disadvantage are of particular concern to the extended reach of the Centre, which will not adhere to a simple ‘medical model’ of disability (which tended in the past to see disability as a problem of the person not fitting into the world) but will rather endorse and support a social model of inclusivity (which sees disability, injury, economic or political or personal marginalisation all as symptoms of an unhealthy society, wherein it is society and its systems and structures that require ‘repair’, not people).
A resource for scholars and practitioners in the Health Sciences and Human Sciences as well as in IT and Technology Development and the industries that support these domains, the Centre will generate much needed additional research capacity for a range of disciplines, and will act as a centre of excellence for the collection and preservation of digital archives of best practice interventions in this important field.
Just as importantly, the Centre will provide a physical space where people with Intellectual and Physical Disabilities can interact, learn and play with others using the most innovative communication tools.
The Centre will host the Inclusive Design web portal and will host and mentor a suite of funded Post-Docs exploring the potential of Assistive Technologies for universal social need, with the aim of promoting inquiry of the highest international quality. It will also provide a locus for inter-disciplinary collaboration in research, digital invention and archiving, and education, and will serve as both a national and an international resource for visiting scholars, students, industry partners, and members of the public.