Universal Design: An Intercultural Perspective

Handouts Media

Presented at 9:15am in Cotton Creek II on Friday, November 17, 2017.



  • Foad Hamidi, Dr. , University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Intermediate
  • Type of session: General Conference


We describe how we are using Universal Design in a transnational project in which an open-source prototyping platform for non-verbal individuals and their caregivers is used to create DIY assistive technologies in Western Kenya.


Universal Design (UD) is an effective approach for creating inclusive and accessible systems and services for individuals with diverse abilities. In this presentation, we describe how we used UD in an intercultural context. We co-designed an open-source Do-It-Yourself (DIY) prototyping platform, TalkBox, to develop customizable communication devices for non-verbal individuals. We then conducted a series of workshops in Western Kenya, where we trained university students from computer science and social work programs, as well as special education teachers from urban and rural schools in how to use TalkBox to design customized systems. These participants then formed teams and worked together to develop new assistive technology solutions for non-verbal children in local schools. This talk will be of interest to researchers, educators and practitioners who work with individuals in different cultural contexts and are interested in questions of intersectionality and intercultural collaboration. We describe how the task of designing customized assistive technology can be used as a tool to connect university students with real-world scenarios in their communities. We also share lessons learned about the potential of using DIY assistive technology in developing contexts and in transnational projects.


  1. Universal Design applies can be used to address multiple types of diversity.
  2. Users with disabilities are situated in their cultural setting that needs to be taken into account in design.
  3. DIY assistive technologies have potential for appropriation and application in different cultural settings.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Other

Topic Areas

Assistive Technology, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Foad Hamidi

Foad Hamidi is Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Information Systems Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He specializes in the participatory design and evaluation of tangible and embedded systems, including digital living media systems, for children and adults with cognitive and/or physical disabilities. He is also interested in using digital media to facilitate creative and learning processes in intercultural settings for children and adults. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, Toronto, Canada.