Designing for a better world
Laurie Ringaert is currently the Director of the Universal Design Institute, a research and education centre located in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba. In this role she is in charge of several universal design research projects. One of these is a study of power wheelchair and scooter users to determine required dimensions for building codes and standards. This is one of the first studies to use real persons with disabilities who are users of power devices. Another study was as a post-occupancy evaluation of a long-term care facility to determine the user’s perceptions of the usability and accessibility of a recently built facility. The data for this study was collected and analysed using the Seven Principles of Universal Design. This is one of the first studies to use this method.
Information from her research is used directly by various codes and standards committees as Laurie serves on these committees and acts as chairperson on some. These include the National Building Code Part 3 Committee and various Canadian Standards Committees including the Barrier-free Standard, Design for Aging and the Automated Banking Machine Standard Committees.
Laurie also teaches one of the few universal design courses to students of architecture, landscape architecture, city planning and interior design and serves as a thesis advisor. Occupational therapy students also benefit from her teaching as well as advanced fieldwork placements at the Institute.
In addition to the Institute, Laurie runs her own private consulting firm: Universal Design International Consulting. Here she consults designers, architects, facility managers and any others who need advice on matters pertaining to universal design. At times, Laurie uses a team of consultants on a variety of topics depending upon the need; for example, together they conduct facility audits for buildings, campuses and parks. She also provides workshops on universal design to occupational therapists, designers, architects, municipalities and parks people. Over the past year she was an instructor for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation where she developed modules to train health professionals on housing for seniors. She is also a certified trainer for the Universal Trails Assessment Process, which was developed by Beneficial Designs in the USA.
Laurie Ringaert, B.Sc. BMR-O.T. M.Sc. can be reached at either the Universal Design Institute or Universal Design International Consulting; Tel. (204) 775-1222 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
This article first appeared in the September/ October 2002 issue of Occupational Therapy Now magazine published by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.
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