29. May 2021

Uni­ver­sal Design as design dis­ci­pline and eco­nom­ic factor

Changing demographics has resulted in nursing care becoming the greatest challenge facing universal design. Partnerships, strategic alliances, and formats powered by the creativity of designers and architects have evolved in the care sector and related fields.

Dr. Silke Claus (1965-2020), managing director of bayern design, and Thomas Bade, CEO of the Institute for Universal Design (IUD), played central roles in enhancing the visibility of universal design at the special Aveneo show held during Altenpflege, the leading trade fair regarding geriatric care.

Dr. Claus and Bade also contributed to incorporating universal design in the concept of Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW): The annual exhibitions, conferences, lectures, and shops are helping to extend the view on design by including ways to deal with the enormous challenges facing care. This is reason enough for us to delve into the topic considering the background of the digital transformation of the healthcare sector.

Below you will find a definition of universal design and an explanation of its value to the economy. You also will be introduced to the main participants in academia, universal design networks, the economy and architecture, with examples of specific cases.

Definition

As a concept in product development and architecture, the term universal design was first used at the North Carolina State University College of Design in the United States by professor Ron Mace.

In cooperation with his team of researchers, architects, and designers, Ron Mace also formulated the seven fundamental principles of universal design. Even though these principles may be viewed in a more differentiated manner today, they still are a solid foundation:

  • Equitable Use
  • Flexibility in Use
  • Simple and Intuitive Use
  • Perceptible Information
  • Tolerance for Error
  • Low Physical Effort
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use

In addition, Mace and his team established a universal-design standard that remains valid to date: Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. (Ron Mace, Principles of Universal Design)

Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified in 2008 reads: For the purposes of the present Convention, universal design means the design of products, environments, programs and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Universal design shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed. (Article 2, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)

So where does universal design stand in reference to Bavaria?

Universal design’s connection to Bavaria was established in 2008 through a Robert Bosch Stiftung funded scientific thesis authored by Dr. Sandra Hirsch. Hirsch focused her scientific work at Munich Technical University’s Department of Industrial Design (Prof. Fritz Frenkler) on the meaning of universal design in Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

Since then, the thematic areas of universal design have been explored intensively at the department in numerous ways. It is thanks to Frenkler and his ties with Japan (he maintains design offices in Kyoto to this date) that “Bavarian universal design” is closely connected to the International Association for Universal Design (IAUD) of Japan and its partners around the world.

This multilateral partnership also has engendered intense collaboration with bayern design which has expanded over the course of ten years, always with a focus on universal design as a business factor.

Business factor

The consistent and long-standing promotion of universal design by bayern design and the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy has contributed to a large extent to several companies in Bavaria today basing their product, service, and concept development activities successfully on universal-design principles. Thus, universal design has evolved into a distinguishing feature of Bavaria and the companies that call it home. Design agencies and freelance designers with close ties to universities and the Design Academy in Munich have assisted in laying the groundwork as well. Selected participants who have explored universal design in unique ways are introduced below.

As part of the annual design show Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW), for ten years now bayern design has researched and advocated universal design as a business factor. By consistently promoting universal design in Germany, bayern design and the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy intend to make visible its strong potential for growth in the corporate sector, the crafts and trade sectors, and the social economy in Bavaria and also to establish and anchor universal-design strategies in companies. To a great extent, demographic change facilitates this approach.

The consistent and long-standing promotion of universal design has contributed to a large extent to several companies in Bavaria today basing their product, service, and concept development activities successfully on universal-design principles. Thus, it has evolved into a distinguishing feature of Bavaria and the companies that call it home.

Design agencies and freelance designers with close ties to universities and the Design Academy in Munich have assisted in laying the groundwork as well. Selected participants who have explored universal design in unique ways are introduced below.

The Oskar von Miller Forum in Munich provides universal design with a platform and has developed into a showcase for the topic during MCBW. The Forum is an independent educational institution supported by the parties to the collective agreement of the Bavarian construction industry and sponsored by Stiftung Bayerisches Baugewerbe. Establishing contextual links among the corporate sector, architecture, and design would not have been possible had it not been for the hospitality of the Forum staff and, in particular, of Prof. Dr. Werner Lang, its committed host.

All successful, economic and socially responsible universal design is transdisciplinary and network- and stakeholder-oriented. This has been confirmed by the winners of the annual UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD Award who, over the past three years, were selected by experts and consumers in a public process during MCBW. Given Bavaria’s tradition in universal design, it is no surprise that three companies based in the state have made their mark among their international competitors and taken home the award.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD 2018: moio wearable

In 2018, UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD was awarded to moio, a digital-analog wearable patch that gives older people the power to live self-determined lives and also reduces the workload of caregivers.

The technologically groundbreaking patch was developed by Jürgen Besser, managing director of moio GmbH, and his Fürth-based team. N+P design firm of Munich devised the “outstanding user-oriented approach” (quote by juror Helena Yoon, professor at Yonsei University in Seoul). The patch was created in cooperation with Wilhelm Löhe University of Applied Sciences at Diakonie Neuendettelsau (Diakoneo) and eesy innovation GmbH; the N+ P team headed by managing director Christiane Bausback was responsible for the overall design.

The intelligent telecare system supports caregivers in their daily tasks. The patient wears a pouch containing the patch directly on the skin. A sensor collects and analyzes information automatically and notifies caregivers via an app of the need for specific action. In this way, support can be administered precisely when needed. moio simplifies control and routine tasks – a win-win for caregivers and patients.

YouTube

Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD 2019: PEGA shower cabin

KERMI of Pankhofen in Lower Bavaria was presented with the coveted UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD Award in 2019 for its PEGA shower cabin. The company had explored universal design in increasing detail over the previous ten years and had driven a number of research projects, for example, The Room – The Bathroom at the Department of Industrial Design at Munich Technical University.

Prof. Wolfgang Sattler, chair of the jury, explained the decision: “Due to its functions for users of all ages and its extremely straightforward installation and operation, PEGA is peerless.”

The product description submitted for the award reads: The new PEGA swing and sliding door system appeals to all generations with its smoothly rounded design, exclusive technology and look, and exceptional price-performance ratio. The PEGA handle lies gently in the user’s hand. When opened, the leaves of all the doors, even the sliding doors, are lifted above any unevenness in the floor. In addition to being easy to clean and accessible to persons with disabilities, the PEGA shower cabin offers good protection against water spray and features a convenient transparent glass hook for towels, premium chrome-plated fittings, consistent height between the glass and the profile, and a two-meter serial height. Its pre-assembled parts and simple, proven technology facilitate the installation process and reduce costs.

YouTube

Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD 2020: sippa drinking aid

Changing demographics and their effects on the development of care and medical products continued throughout 2020. The five-expert jury again decided quickly and clearly and awarded UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD to the sippa drinking aid. sippa was created by Munich’s multi-disciplinary start-up iuvas medical which received substantial support from the center of innovation and start-ups UnternehmerTUM and from Design Enterprise at the Department of Industrial Design at Munich Technical University. Following a lengthy innovation stage, the clever drinking aid for persons experiencing challenging life situations, for example, stroke or Parkinson’s patients, was launched in 2019. The fact that in many cases sippa can be prescribed by physicians was another special achievement.

A patient experiencing difficulties taking in liquids can benefit from sippa because the chin does not have to be tilted back to drink. The highly elastic membrane in the cup compensates for the level of the liquid so the user’s chin can be kept down. Because sippa’s shape and color are reminiscent of regular drinking containers, the stigmatizing look of a sippy cup is avoided. The sippa system is entirely modular and thus can be adapted to any user’s physical capabilities. A lid, handle, valve, and the patented sippa mechanism can be combined optionally with the sippa standard cup.

University programs

One of the 12 postulations of the Weimar Declaration on Universal Design reads universal design must be anchored in education continuously and at an early stage. The declaration was developed in November 2009 on the occasion of the 90th anniversary celebrations of Bauhaus with Prof. Wolfgang Sattler of Weimar as scientific director. The conference that led to it paved the way for the academic network of universal design. Selected universities that have explored universal design in unique ways are introduced below.

Participants in the conference were selected purposefully to ensure the group was as diverse as possible. Even though unplanned, many connections with Bavaria and Munich existed: Bavaria-based experts who were invited to participate included Dr. Sandra Hirsch and Prof. Fritz Frenkler (both of Munich Technical University), journalist Dr. Oliver Herwig, designer and strategy consultant Stefan Brodbeck, designer Michael Lanz, and Prof. Gerhard Kampe of Coburg University of Applied Sciences.

Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Driven by industrial designer Prof. Wolfgang Sattler, Bauhaus-Universität Weimär and Bauhaus-TransferzentrumDESIGN have evolved into a universal-design think tank. Founded in 2016, the association Universal Design Forum e.V. succeeded universal design e.V. in establishing priorities and strategies for the future of universal design in Germany.

The tradition of holding conferences for experts in universal design has continued in annual workshops. Over the course of these workshops, universal design for geriatric care and healthcare evolved as focal points. For research purposes, students regularly attend the special AVENEO show organized by Institute for Universal Design (IUD) during the Altenpflege trade fair and submit their work to universal design contests.

Sattler has chaired the jury for the Universal Design competition and for the IUD-organized START-UP CHALLENGEfor many years. Currently, IUD also is represented on the advisory board of Weimar-based research project RethiCare – Re-thinking Care Robots about the use of intelligent robotic aids in the care sector.

Munich Technical University

Universal design is an integral program of study at the Department of Industrial design at Munich Technical University (TUM). Because of their substantial commitment, department head Prof. Fritz Frenkler jointly with scientific assistant Dr. Sandra Hirsch and the entire team have created a continuous inventory of universal-design tasks and projects for the department.

A number of scientific findings, masters’ theses, and semester-long projects have contributed to the passing on to students of universal design as a mindset and to the integration of industrial and corporate sectors into universal design related strategies. In addition, numerous students have participated successfully in universal design contests and today, as alumni, they enhance the universal-design network in Germany.

The department will close in 2020 and will leave a genuine skills gap in its wake which is reason enough to present some of the research projects here:

  • The room - The bathroom

This research initiative was spearheaded by Feddersen Architekten of Berlin, the universal-design workgroup at iF e.V., and the Department of Industrial Design at TUM, all of which jointly founded the The Room – The Bathroom research group. Cooperating with partners including iF UNIVERSAL DESIGN & SERVICE, Villeroy & Boch, Kermi, Jung, Küffner, Pressalit Care, Hansa, The Care Takers, and selected user groups, the research group developed solutions for existing bathrooms.

The shared goal was to implement demand-based solutions that allow even small bathrooms to be accessible to handicapped persons to the greatest possible extent in a cost-efficient manner. Four 1:1 scale models - InfoDoorHygri, M-Frame, and an earthquake-safe door – were assembled and validated at TUM’s technical center. Introduced to trade visitors at the BAU, ISH, and Altenpflege trade fairs, the solution was presented with a UNIVERSAL DESIGN ward.

YouTube

Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

Universal Design for the workplace

The Universal Design at the Workplace project was conceived in close collaboration with Linde Material Handling GmbH, was sponsored by bayern design and the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, and was coordinated by universal design GmbH. The goal was to optimize a forklift in a way that ensures it meets the ergonomic requirements of older employees and at the same time makes logistical processes safer. The result, at a scale of 1:1, was presented live at the Oskar von Miller Forum during MCBW 2013.

Universal Design for doors

The The Door project was supported by HEWI Heinrich Wilke GmbH and Küffner Aluzargen GmbH & Co. OHG and was coordinated by the Institute for Universal Design (IUD). Assistance for the master program students involved was provided by scientific assistant Moritz Segers.

Four models – InfoDoorHygri, M-Frame, and an earthquake-safe door – were developed at a scale of 1:1 in close cooperation with these industry partners and were presented live at MCBW 2017.

Universal Design for outpatient care

As far back as 2013, students were exploring issues related to the extraordinary physical strain suffered by nurses. Jointly with the Bavaria-based regional chapter of Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe e.V., the students came up with a number of solutions to counter some of these problems. Coordinated by the universal design GmbH team, the project was sponsored by bayern design, the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, and Hans Sauer Stiftung.

The master program students accompanied nurses as they performed their daily outpatient care activities. Based on their findings, the students developed a functional vest, a hold-all box, a documentation system, and an access-control system. The four products were presented to the public at an MCBW trade conference and at the Altenpflege trade fair.

The KISI access-control system co-developed by Bernhard Mehl has been used successfully in co-working spaces in New York.

YouTube

Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

More examples of outstanding universal design in direct or indirect context of TUM’s Department for Industrial Design can be found here:

Universities

The history of Universal Design is, as so often, the history of acting persons and the institutions they work at. This applies not only to universities, but also to design training at colleges and academies, some of which are presented below as examples.

Coburg University of Applied Sciences – Integrated Product Design study program

Just as with so many other things, the story of universal design is that of persons and their actions. In the case of Coburg University of Applied Sciences, ever since the experts convened in Weimar in 2009, Prof. Gerhard Kampe has advocated incorporating universal design into the study program.

Kampe approached universal design in seemingly unusual ways and encouraged students to embrace complex topics, for example, mourning rituals. The students designed symbols, products, and scenarios to support or provide solace to people in diverse mourning situations. The project attracted a lot of attention and was presented at the Altenpflege trade fair in Hannover.

Sponsored and supported by bayern design, the two-year pan-European Innovation by Experiment project initiated by Coburg University of Applied Sciences had a slightly different focus: In a combined effort, students at Coburg University of Applied Sciences (directed by Kampe, with Pelin Celik, today a professor at HTW Berlin), Joanneum Graz, and the School of Architecture in Aarhus in Denmark devised scenarios and stimuli to give more visibility to the impact of demographic change on the economy and to modify this impact using creative techniques.

The findings and results were compiled, published in German and in English, and presented to the public during MCBW and in a dedicated side exhibition. The team of authors included Dr. Silke Claus of bayern design, Nuremberg, Prof. Seppo Gründler and Erika Thümmler, both of Joanneum Graz, Prof. Birgitta Jessen and Prof. Jörgen Rasmussen, both of School of Architecture in Aarhus, and Thomas Bade of the Institute for Universal Design (IUD), Munich

Hannover University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Department III – Media, Information and Design

Prof. Gunnar Spellmeyer, Prof. Patrick Frey, and former guest lecturer Tim Oelker are among the advocates of integrating universal-design thinking into the study programs at Hannover University. They have managed to successfully incorporate special development topics including homes, a Living Care Lab, and products for specific user groups into their teaching or into projects.

The department’s team developed formats for the care sector aimed at integrating user-stakeholder groups intensely and connecting them over the long term. These activities have helped students form a positive mindset regarding universal design and, consequently, have won numerous Universal Design Awards.

Münster University of Applied Sciences – Münster School of Design

Over the past few years, with an outstanding level of dedication Prof. Steffen Schulz of Münster University of Applied Sciences has developed the institution’s focus on universal design. This has empowered the Münster School of Design to become a point of orientation, perhaps even a new beacon of universal design. This is a positive development because many universal-design advocates at other institutions are likely to retire in the foreseeable future including Prof. Fritz Frenkler of Munich Technical University in 2020, Prof. Gerhard Kampe in 2021, and Prof. Wolfgang Sattler in 2022.

The quality of universal-design teaching also is reflected in the works and projects developed by students over the past few years. Many of these works and projects received high acclaim and some were submitted for the Universal Design Award in Japan for the first time in 2020.

Design Academy of the Chamber of Trade for Munich and Upper Bavaria

No other academy or institution dedicated to education in crafts is more deeply committed to teaching universal design than the Design Academy in Munich. The drivers of this dedication are director Barbara Schmidt and designer and lecturer Nicole Sanner.

For almost a decade, the Design Academy has introduced craftspeople – including optometrists, carpenters, shoemakers, and others – to the fundamentals of universal design. At the end of each course, the best final works are submitted to the Universal Design Awards, and many have received awards. Traditionally, certificates are presented to the winners on the show stage at the International Crafts Fair (concurrent with MCBW) every spring. Examples are shown at Informationsseite Barrierefrei and other sites.

Networks

There are many facets to universal design in Germany and many experts are involved in the intercultural focal definition points, platforms, and projects that have been created and reshaped over the past decade and a half:

Deutscher Designtag, Berlin, Germany

The objective of Deutscher Designtag in bringing together associations from diverse design disciplines is to represent matters of design jointly. As a member of the board of management, Universal Design Forum e.V., coordinator of the German Council for Sustainable Development, represents the perspective of universal design. bayern design also is a constituting member.

International Association for Universal Design, Yokohama, Japan

For more than ten years the International Association for Universal Design (IAUD) has partnered with Thomas Bade, CEO of the Institute for Universal Design (IUD). Operating under the auspices of the imperial family (Princess Yoko), IAUD likely is the most well-established universal-design organization in the world. Bade is a permanent member of IAUD’s universal-design jury and of the international line-up of its advisory board.

Universal Design Forum e.V., Weimar, Germany

Headquartered in Weimar, Universal Design Forum e.V. (formerly, universal design e.V.) oversees key matters of universal design and hosts strategy seminars and exhibitions, for example, it currently is hosting the Posters for Peace – Hiroshima Appeals exhibition series developed in cooperation with designaustria of Vienna. bayern design forum e.V. is a long-standing member of Universal Design Forum e.V., which will relocate to Deutscher Designtag in Berlin in 2021.

Institute for Universal Design, Munich, Germany

The Institute for Universal Design (IUD) in Munich was founded in 2016 by Thomas Bade, managing director of Universal Design Forum e.V. IUD stages exhibitions at the special Aveneo show and hosts the international UNIVERSAL DESIGN competition at MCBW. The competition always has been a pillar of MCBW.

bayern design forum e.V., Nuremberg, Germany

As a contact for companies and designers, bayern design coordinates and supports all state design activities in the Free State. Many members of the association bayern design forum e.V. are united by the subject areas of universal design. This is where joint impulses for business, science and the social economy are created. The association Universal Design Forum e.V. is a long-standing member.

design for all, Vienna, Austria

Since 2015, a valuable, close and trusting partnership has developed from the close thematic cooperation between the Universal Design stakeholders in Bavaria and design for all in Austria. design for all is a permanent member of the expert jury of the Universal Design competition.

International Institute for Information Design (IIID), Vienna, Austria

Information design, a heretofore misconceived dimension of universal design, was unlocked through the partnership of IUD and the International Institute for Information Design (IIID). Connecting with information design has allowed both IUD and IIID to uncover new perspectives and has resulted in a few initial projects and further connections. A trade conference in Riga led to strong collaboration with the city’s Academy of Arts. Over the past three years, the academy’s students have enriched the UNIVERSAL DESIGN competition with their contributions.

Living Care Lab Schaumburg, Stadthagen, Germany

Universal design played a large role in shaping the development of the Living Care Lab Schaumburg in Stadthagen. The concept was devised by the Institute for Universal Design (IUD), the Entrepreneurship Center Nexster of Hannover, and Wirtschaftsförderung der Stadt Stadthagen and is sponsored by the state of Lower Saxony. The Living Care Lab introduces digital and analog aids to nurses, self-help groups, and patients and their relatives, and assesses the effects. The Institute for Universal Design provided consulting services during the entire project.

Care for innovation e.V., Berlin, Germany

All members of Care for innovation e.V. focus on the digitization and transformation of care. Universal design helps make applications more user-friendly and thus increases their acceptance.

Architecture

Architecture must go hand in hand with universal design when the goal is to ensure architecture is forward-thinking, sustainable, perhaps even hybrid, and to enable it to meet users’ universal-design requirements going forward for decades, if possible. Universal-design thinking has found its place in many architectural firms. Some of the outstanding participants are presented here:

Achim Nagel, Primus Developments GmbH, Hamburg, Germany

Architect and property developer Achim Nagel of Primus Developments GmbH is one of the originators of the universal-design approach in Germany. He opened the door to sponsors (e.g., Robert Bosch Stiftung), studies (Universal Design in an Era of Global Demographic Change), and events (the symposium on the Weimar Declaration on Universal Design). Nagel was a member of the universal-design jury and initiated a number of workshops on developing urban projects during the construction at Hamburg’s Hafen City. The development of Woodie, a wooden structure that houses more than 300 apartments in the area, can be traced back to these workshops. Woodie was developed by Nagel, planned by the architectural firm Sauerbruch & Hutton, and is an example of numerous other outstanding universal-design projects including one implemented by Grundbau & Siedler at the International Construction Exhibition in Hamburg. In 2020, Nagel was made an honorary member of Universal Design Forum e.V.

YouTube

Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

Eckhard Feddersen, Feddersens Architects

Eckard Feddersen is Germany’s foremost authority on universal design in architecture. He is passionately committed to increasing the convenience of homes for the elderly and his architectural projects throughout Germany have set benchmarks for living with as much self-reliance as possible at almost all stages of life. Eckhard Feddersen was among the first signatories to the Weimar Declaration; he initiated research projects including The Room – The Bathroom, and he has authored numerous architecture-related publications, some of which, for example, Entwurfsatlas Wohnen im Alter, have gained international acclaim. In 2016, Feddersen was awarded the Otto-Mühlschlegel-Preis of Robert Bosch Stiftung by then Family Minister Manuela Schwesig for his lifetime achievements.

Hubert Froyen, UDWoonlabo

Architect Hubert Froyen of Hasselt in Belgium is another pioneer in the field of universal design in architecture. For decades he has been shaping the Department of Universal Design at Hasselt University and he remains active in the WoonLab he developed. His numerous scientific publications, lectures, travels, and extraordinary intuition regarding housing requirements have made him a world renowned personality in the discipline of universal design. Among other accolades, Froyen received the Ron Mace Memorial Award and a UNIVERSAL DESIGN expert Award for WoonLab.

First Mover

The companies, design firms, and social-economy institutions presented here are exemplary of all those who have driven and promoted universal design in Germany.

f/p design gmbh, Munich/Berlin, Germany; Kyoto, Japan

Fritz Frenkler’s f/p design studios have contributed significantly to conceiving and anchoring universal design in Germany. f/p design’s ties with Japan have generated a close connection among design organizations in Germany and Japan. Frenkler was one of the founders of Universal Design Forum e.V. and an early signatory to the Weimar Declaration on Universal Design. Numerous products created by f/p design have been presented with Universal Design Awards.

N+P Industrial Design GmbH, Munich, Germany

Despite the rapidly changing challenges facing design, N+P Industrial Design never has lost its focus on the various aspects of universal design. Developments in the realm of universal design range from public transportation to medical products and include a digital wearable device. Managing Director Christiane Bausback also has dedicated herself to promoting another perspective of design in the context of care, in words and fonts. The company has contributed greatly to shaping the universal design competition. In 2018, the moio wearable co-developed by the team won the UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD Award, presented for the first time that year. Bausback co-authored Thomas Bade’s trade publication Digitale Transformation in der Pflege, published as an e-book by Vincentz Verlag, and is a driving force behind the first tuesday series for promoting links between care and design.

Tim Oelker Industrialdesign, Hamburg, Germany

For more than five years, industrial designer Tim Oelker has been responsible for designing the exhibition of the entries in the UNIVERSAL DESIGN competition and for designing the AVENEO special show during the Altenpflege trade fair. His championing of more transparency and clarity is reflected as well in other universal-design projects. In addition to the first tuesday sessions, Oelker moderates formats on universal-design thinking for the social economy and participatory urban planning (e.g., Minden, eine Stadt für Alle).

HEWI Heinrich Wilke GmbH, Bad Arolsen, Germany

HEWI Heinrich Wilke GmbH is a European beacon regarding the consistent implementation of universal design in bathroom and handle systems and many other products, as confirmed by the numerous national and international design awards the company has received. HEWI has supported and promoted universal- design projects and semester-long projects, for example, those of students of the Department of Industrial Design at Munich Technical University and those entered into the START-UP CHALLENGE presented at the Altenpflege trade fair. To honor their extraordinary contribution to universal design, Torsten Stute and his team at HEWI were presented with the UNIVERSAL DESIGN – SPECIAL MENTION 2020 Award on October 2, 2020.

KERMI GmbH, Pankofen, Germany

KERMI GmbH is committed to implementing universal design in all its endeavors. Every detail of its PEGA shower cabin system – including the product’s distinctive towel hook, its packaging, and its easy installation – was developed with universal design in mind. Hence, it comes as no surprise that PEGA received the UNIVERSAL DESIGN GOLD Award at ISH 2019 in Frankfurt. For many years, KERMI has driven the advancement and development of shower systems, has devoted its expertise to research projects (e.g., The Room – The Bathroom), and has showcased the results at leading trade fairs for sanitary installations and the care sector. KERMI lives universal design!

Aeris GmbH, Haar, Germany

The Aeris GmbH company profile reads: consistent universal design. Be it for Swoopster, Muvman, Numo, or the anti-fatigue Muvmat, designers including Tobias Caratiola and Martin Ballendat use universal design consistently to foster healthy sitting and healthy workstyles. Their achievements are reflected in the numerous awards they have won, including the UNIVERSAL DESIGN Award and the UNIVERSAL DESIGN expert Award.

Vauth-Sagel Systemtechnik Gmbh&Co.KG, Brakel-Erkeln, Germany

Companies implementing universal design need perseverance to stay ahead of their competitors. Vauth-Sagel Systemtechnik GmbH & Co. KG has reached this goal through stamina, tenacity, and creativity. The company makes system solutions that are both technologically and aesthetically convincing and offer their users enhanced convenience. Vauth-Sagel was among the first to sign the Weimar Declaration on Universal Design. It has invested in research projects, has held workshops with trade journalists around the globe, and has developed an in-house lab. For its engagement the company has received UNIVERSAL DESIGN Awards multiple times and has proven that universal design goes beyond the surface.

burgbad GmbH, Schmallenberg, Germany

burgbad GmbH still is a newcomer compared to other universal-design companies, but it is a newcomer that has changed the game. Motivated by a master thesis that was honored with a UNIVERSAL DESIGN Award and by the challenge of creating products in the context of demographic change, burgbad increasingly explores the parameters of universal design. Thanks to the workshops it has conducted for elder users and for students at the Department of Industrial Design and to its presentation of semester-long projects conducted at Hannover University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Prof. Patrick Frey), the company has made a name for itself among industry peers and has received numerous design awards including the UNIVERSAL DESIGN expert Award in 2019 and again in 2020.

Küffner Aluzargen, Rheinstetten, Germany

Küffner Aluzargen GmbH & Co. OHG, is a medium-sized company committed to implementing universal design. With vision and a high level of dedication, the company engages in dialog with users to create products that meet the highest standards regarding quality, value, safety, and function. A multiple UNIVERSAL DESIGN competition winner, Küffner Aluzargen has contributed to research projects conducted at TUM’s Department of Industrial Design (The Room – The Bathroom), has provided contextual and financial support for semester-long projects, and is a member of Universal Design Forum e.V.

Herzogsägmühle, Peiting, Germany

The unusual social institution Herzogsägmühle of Peiting in Upper Bavaria brings services, care, education, employment, and homes together for people who are in need of assistance for diverse reasons so they can exercise their rights to participate in society. For more than ten years, Rainer Langer and Marc Sieling have advocated the implementation of universal-design criteria in product development. As a co-developer of MCBW’s oursuperstore shop, every year Herzogsägmühle delegates make up a large portion of the consumer jury of the UNIVERSAL DESIGN competition. The institution also is a member of Universal Design Forum e.V.

Following a participatory workshop on universal-design thinking attended by apprentices, teachers, administrative staff and social workers, Herzogsägmühle developed its new mechanical studio based almost entirely on the participants’ suggestions. The goal of the studio is to provide a unique working environment to young people with special needs regarding their professional qualifications – universal design at its best!