Book about Universal Design: a huge gap between life and learning!

I could write a long series entitled "A huge gap between life and learning". This is a new example, and who knows - it may not be the last I choose to publish!

Story by: Morten Tollefsen - 20.05.2009

In December I wrote: Ministerial Conference in Vienna: a huge gap between life and learning!". The article I am writing now is about a new book.

Inclusive Buildings, Products & Services - Challenges in Universal Design

On the IT Funk Web site I recently read the article "New book about the challenges of Universal Design and ICT". The article states that:

The publisher Tapir Academic Press, Trondheim is now giving out the book "Inclusive Buildings, Products & Services - Challenges in Universal Design". This book highlights the challenges, experiences, ideas and knowledge that are related to Universal Design in the areas of architecture (including buildings), product design and ICT. The book presents strategies for Universal Design and how these should be understood and implemented.
The Editor of the book is 1.amanuensis Tom Vavik of the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, a former member of the IT Funk User Forum. The articles are written by researchers, teachers, architects and designers who work professionally with Universal Design and ICT.
Several of the contributors have participated in projects supported by IT Funk.
The publication is supported by the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Children and Equality, Ministry of Health, IT Funk and the National Office of Building Technology and Administration.

Interesting book!

This must be a good book, I thought. And with such experienced authors, and sponsors who have such a high profile in Universal Design, then surely the content will be accessible for everyone. Sure, it says on IT Funk's pages that it is a book, but a book on Universal Design may be electronic. In fact, I assumed that getting an electronic version would be easy.

I am now Project Manager of the Resource Network for Universal ICT supported by the Norwegian Research Council.  The Research Council has also supported the development of a certified course: Universal ICT. The hope was that we could use this book in the course.

Earlier experiences

I have a Masters degree in Informatics. Also when I studied I could not read printed books (I'm blind). I sent e mails to the authors / publishers and asked for electronic versions. I have never, not once, received no in answer to these requests.

After college, I continued to ask for electronic versions. It is quite OK to pay for these books of course. I have never asked to get books for free. Gradually, it became more common for books to be published on the Web. Springer is an example: everything is available online (even if the user interface could be better).

The exception that confirms the rule

I have now, however, for the first time experienced that I cannot get a book after contacting the editor. The book on Universal Design is only available in paper format!

Tom Vavik contacted the publisher and received this answer:
Lasse Postmyr at the publishers suggested that the Centre for Assistive aids should adapt the book for the visually impaired and blind. When I pointed out that this agency do not carry out this type of work, they responded by suggesting  that NLB (Norwegian Audio and Braille Library) would do this. If I wanted the book, NLB could contact the publisher. NLB (who are usually positive) may well have produced this book after a while. However, I have not thought of contacting them, because for me this whole affair is very provoking and a little disappointing.

Do what I say, not what I do

So this is the degree to which Universal Design is practiced. When the government supports a project related to experiences of Universal Design, there is no requirement that the publication should be Universally Designed.

People with dyslexia, visual impairments and others who cannot read are not the average person. The state will eventually create a special version for these niche groups: e.g.. an audio book. No, an audio book cannot be used by people with combined vision and hearing impairments. Then get NLB to both scan in the book, proof-read it and ...

I hope that the people behind this book project are proud of it and that they still want to talk enthusiastically about Universal Design!

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