Monday 22nd January, 2018
A further step is to be taken to make childcare centres accessible to all children with the development of New Universal Design Guidance, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.
The Guidance will be used for refurbishment, renovation and the building of centres.
Officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) at the National Disability Authority will oversee this development. CEUD is the only statutory centre for Universal Design in the world.
The work, which is being undertaken by Early Childhood Ireland and TrinityHaus (Trinity College Dublin), will involve:
• Reviewing national and international best practice, research and guidance in design of early years settings from a Universal Design approach;
• Consulting with a diverse range of stakeholders, including early years practitioners, parents and children; and
• Developing Universal Design Guidance for Early Years Settings, including a self-audit tool, which aims to support the early year’s sector in creating universally designed spaces for all stakeholders in both new and retrofit settings. This Guidance will also be useful for built environment design professionals in private and public sectors working on the design of new build and retro-fitting of early years settings.
The Universal Design Guidance for Early Years Settings will be published in Autumn 2018.
Welcoming the news, the Minister Zappone said:
“I am delighted to announce this very important development, which is being funded under the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM).
Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability
The potential of this work is far reaching.
Not only will the Universal Design Guidance identify opportunities to make early years settings more accessible and inclusive for all children.
It will also identify opportunities to create better work environments for staff and to address particular needs of visitors to these settings, including parents”.
Teresa Heeney, CEO Early Childhood Ireland, also welcomed the news.
‘On behalf of everyone at Early Childhood Ireland and the team at TrinityHaus, we are delighted to have been chosen to take part in this very important work. As the largest organisation in the early years sector in Ireland, we are in a unique position to represent the perspectives and best practice gathered from our 3,800 members across Ireland and from external stakeholders.
The expertise of these practitioners, specialists, and researchers will enable us to develop Universal Design guidance that is inclusive and meaningful to all.
In turn, this will contribute to enhanced environments for all children attending early years settings, as well as their parents and the staff who support them.’
About the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM)
AIM was launched in June 2016 to enable the full inclusion and meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. The goal of AIM is to support pre-school settings to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience, ensuring that every eligible child can fully participate in the ECCE programme and reap the benefits of quality early years care and education. AIM is a child-centred model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the strengths and needs of the child and the pre-school setting. Supports provided under AIM include: the development of an inclusive culture; enhanced continuing professional development for pre-school practitioners; the provision of equipment, appliances and grants for minor alterations; access to therapeutic intervention and increased capitation for pre-school providers in the case of children with very complex needs.
About the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) and Universal Design
The CEUD was established by the National Disability Authority (NDA) in January 2007 under the Disability Act 2005. The Centre is dedicated to the principle of universal access, enabling people in Ireland to participate in a society that takes account of human difference and to interact with their environment to the best of their ability.
The Disability Act 2005 defines Universal Design as:
1. The design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used:
i. To the greatest possible extent
ii. In the most independent and natural manner possible
iii. In the widest possible range of situations
iv. Without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialised solutions, by any persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability, and
2. Means, in relation to electronic systems, any electronics-based process of creating products, services or systems so that they may be used by any person.
An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples’ needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.
About Early Childhood Ireland
Early Childhood Ireland is a membership organisation which represents 3,800 early years settings, who support over 100,000 children and their families through pre-school, afterschool and full daycare provision nationwide. ECI’s work includes quality enhancement, publications, advocacy, training, business support and information for a sector that employs 25,000 people.
About Trinity Haus
TrinityHaus is located in Trinity College Dublin. It was formed in 2008 to provide innovative solutions for buildings, neighbourhoods and cities. Over the last seven years the main research effort has focussed on two principal themes. These are energy efficient buildings and eco-districts and secondly people centred design on homes and neighbourhoods for all ages, sizes and abilities.