24 Hour Universal Design Challenge 2009


The Design Challenge

6/7 November 2009

The video


The brief

Five teams worked with an expert user called a 'design partner' to come up with a product or serivce that addressed a challenge commonly faced by the design partner in making their way around the streets of Dublin. The teams were made up of architects, landscape architects, engineers, product designers, interaction designers and students.

The Winners

Judges Award: What a Load of Bollards by Team M

Peoples Choice Award: MYWAY by Team A

What a Load of Bollards


Team M worked with their 'design partner, Bob Kelly who has a vision impairment to address 3 issues:

  • increase contrast of materials and colour on the street scape, to increase awareness of potential hazards and aid safe passage
  • Street furniture obstructions causing injury
  • The feeling of panic and angst when lost or disorientated

They were interested in finding out what it is that makes you feel uncomfortable when lost and what might be done about it, so we came up with the idea of ‘Dublin, the city it’s ok to get lost in‘

Their design solution is an intuitive navigation system that could be added to the top of any kerbside bollard in a city. The bollard head is replaced by an information dial with a tactile high contrast coloured direction arrow and speech output. It comprises of the following features:

  • Standard bollards are fitted with a photo-luminescent /reflective high contrast stripe that is colour coded to guide you to an information node at key intersections. The stripe reduces possible injuries to both pedestrians
    and vehicles.
  • The bollard head is replaced by an information dial with a tactile high contrast coloured direction arrow. Twisting the dial directs the arrow towards important city landmarks. Dial can be gripped and easily twisted by people
    with poor hand dexterity.
  • A central push button operates an audio message for the blind user.
  • An integrated magnifying glass enlarges the text /image
    for visually impaired people. Approx 18pt – 32pt
  • Cast aluminium housing encased in tactile rubber cover with quartz glass magnifying window. Internal illumination by long life LED’s


MY WAY was inspired by Team A's design partner Genny who is blind. On observing their given route through Dublin, it became obvious that some parts of streetscape and routes were more accessible than others. This opened the discussion for a map of alternative routes for specific needs.

MY WAY allows users to navigate the built environment by the chosen route appropriate to their needs. It incorporates a service and portable device that is accessible to multiple users, ranging from the disabled to the able-bodied, the young to the old, the pedestrian to the cyclist, the local to the tourist and many more. It incorporates an online web service where users can input their parameters and special needs.

This service and product incorporates the following claims:

  1. My Way is portable
  2. My Way has an associated on line web service
  3. My Way intelligently stores and compares paths previously travelled
  4. My Way employs an optional rating system as you go
  5. My Way is a friendly interface for all users
  6. My Way allows for documentation and review of user routes
  7. My Way incorporates existing GPS technology with new user defined software

Runners Up

In no particular here are the design solutions from the other teams

PLUS ONE – Urban Mobility Solution for Dublin Bikes

by Team G

The Issue

Team G's design partner was Nick. Nick is an 85 year old citizen and is in excellent health. He windsurfs every week and until recently was a competitive steeplechaser. Apart from minor hearing loss Nick has very few disabilities. By his own admission, his only problem is that he does not know how to grow old.

Nick’s biggest issue is that his wife, Pheny, suffers from oesteoperosis and cannot share in his active life. Pheny finds walking any distance difficult which has prevented her from visting the city with Nick for many years now, despite easy access to public transport.

As a independent senior citizen, Pheny does not want to use a wheelchair, but rather relies on a walking stick, limiting the distance she can travel.

The Solution


Plus One is an urban mobility solution that gives Pheny and Nick the flexiblility to get around town together. Building on the success of the DublinBikes initiative, Plus One is a simple accessory that can be used as part of the bike rental scheme.

Constructed from similar materials to the bikes themselves, the pod is light weight, durable and compact. Power assisted by standard electric bike components, it requires minimal additional pedaling effort from the rider and facilitates regenerative breaking.

It allows a mobility challenged passenger to be carried in comfort, but also makes the scheme accessible to a wider range of the population. This could include cyclists with young children and people on shopping trips. Plus One enhances the dublin bike scheme for users of all ages and abilities.
The design integrates with the existing infrastructure, maximising return on investment. As part of the design rollout we would recommend enhancing the terminal interfaces with standard compliant accessibility features. To prioritise users with disabilities, a free pass scheme can be put in place in line with existing inclusive public transport policy.

The product aesthetics are designed to reflect the other components of the dublin bikes system making it attractive to all. The battery is charged through the docking station using an induction system. When Plus One is docked, the innovative clam shell locks in place, protecting the seating from the elements. The use of a chains-stay coupling system ensures it is easy for all users to get in and out of the pod – access is only from the kerb side to improve safety.

One Plus is a equitable solution that appeals to a wide range of users and offers great flexibility of use. It is simple and intuitive and requires minimal additional physical effort to use.

green leaf

by Team W

The Issue

Planning a journey in the built environment takes more than maps and timetables for people with varying abilities. Noel and James (and his carer) have to plan in advance and they want to know where they can get in and out of a car, which kerbs are accessible, which toilets are available and usable – and whether anything has changed recently.

The Solution


This system connects people, regardless of their ability level, to each other. It lets them share information like accessible routes and entrances, toilet type and locations, internal layout, room locations and conditions, specialised equipment such as hoists, level access showers, that lets them live their lives in the community around them. The user may even choose to allow their profile alert organisations to their needs as they arrive. The aggregate of this information helps people from all types of backgrounds to improve their quality of life.

Importantly, it also feeds into commercial pressure. Businesses can access information on changing needs. Those who choose to adopt and practice the principles involved can achieve recognition of their efforts – and impact their bottom line through improving their position in the online ranking system.

Engineers and Architects can check their designs against standards for ability, as well as custom and practice in the field. They could gain certification and approval for their designs before going to site.

Town planners can access real-time information on obstructions and abnormal conditions. Addressing these conditions early may avoid insurance claims, as well as improving the quality of the Built Environment for all inhabitants.

Design courses in colleges can use the system to teach students – and learn from their application of the principles of Universal Design to the Built Environment.

The strength of this system is that it extensively uses existing technologies and systems, such as Google Maps and rating systems, as well as existing user interfaces on devices such as phones. Ratings will be added as additional components to existing rating systems like Trip Advisor. The primary new component is the GreenLeaf information database and website.

Ground Control; The Illuminated Floor Button

by Team H


A pressure activated floor switch for pedestrian crossings and control applications

The unit replaces standard post and button assemblies; the glowing pebble simply invites you to step on it.

The product consists of a stainless steel ring, with a lit rubber centre encasing a recharging battery which can illuminate pedestrians at night. The unit charges each time it is depressed.

To activate the user depresses the rubber centre for a specified period. The unit then communicates via radio frequency to the traffic signal and other Ground Control units in the array.

Feedback to the user is via; a change in light colour, push-back and audio; by encasing the soft rubber centre, the user is able to sense the sweet spot, even with reduced visibility.

By using in pairs, we can define the crossing width and discriminate between footpath and road. It also defines the target exit at crossings.

The unit can be programmed to change cycle times

It removes physical obstacles from the footpath.

It can easily be retrofitted in existing paving slabs as it is the same depth and the cylinder easily fits a drilled core. Ground Control reduces material and installation costs as it can be installed by non-specialised machinery/operatives. It has a low cost of operation and long life.

It is easy to use and is robustly designed.

Ground control is extendable to other environments and activities; handsfree access to gates, lifts, ramps and escalators.

Ground Control reduces the opportunity for disease transmission.

No height or reaching issues for those with low mobility/dexterity issues, including people carrying bags, buggies, dogs and wheelchair operators/assistance.

Correct orientation for wheelchair users; not sideways to the road and facing away from the traffic flow.