BUFFALO, NY – June 15, 2005 – Ever wonder where th…

BUFFALO, NY – June 15, 2005 – Ever wonder where the wheelchair symbol that you see on parking spaces and public bathroom doors came from? That symbol is called the International Symbol of Accessibility and is being studied by two professors at the University at Buffalo. The Project, called the Universal Design Identity Project (or UDid for short) is housed at the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA), a major international research center at the University at Buffalo.

The project is headed by Alex Bitterman, an Assistant Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) in Rochester, NY, formerly the Director for Information Design and Dissemination for the IDEA Center, and by Beth Tauke, an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. The project is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts through December 2005.

The UDid project focuses on creating an identity program for universal design. Universal design is the careful design of places, spaces, products, and systems that everyone can use, regardless of physical, perceptual, cognitive, economic, or situational ability. Sometimes referred to as “design for all”, or “inclusive design”, and in the United States exceeds the legally mandated requirements for accessibility (ADA Accessibility Guidelines).

An identity program usually consists of a logo and accompanying typeface, as well as a slogan, soundmark or jingle, and rules for the use of those elements. However, creating an identity program that is usable by everyone is a challenge, traditional identity programs are not usable by everyone (for example, a hearing impaired person often cannot hear a jingle). This requires Bitterman and Tauke to consider a variety of new design techniques.

Part of the project involves interviewing a broad group of people from around the world. Project Investigator Bitterman says “It’s important for our research to reflect real-world opinions of a very large section of the population. While it’s not possible to interview each and every person around the world, we are trying hard to reach as many as we can.” To date, Bitterman and Tauke have surveyed over 1500 people which represent 115 countries, speak 73 languages, and range in age from 7 to 101. They hope to take that number past 2500 by the end of the summer. Tauke notes: “This project is about creating an identity system that everyone can identify, and everyone can use .”

The identity program is currently being tested in a limited capacity at The State University of New York, The University at Buffalo. When complete, the identity program will be used to mark places, spaces, products, and systems that are usable by everyone. More information is available at the website: http://www.ap.buffalo.edu/idea/UDid/index.asp