Radford Institute hears how to "design for the margins"

By Radford Institute Director and Head of Secondary School Phil O?Regan

?Everyone, at some point in their lives, will have a disability, the question is how we design for that.?

With this opening remark, special education and technology consultant and trainer Greg Alchin took Monday night?s Radford Institute audience on a journey, to where Inclusion Inspires Innovation.

Greg played a scene from Monty Python?s The Life of Brian, where Brian is yelling to a crowd.

?You?ve got to think for yourselves, you?re all individuals!?

?YES, WE?RE ALL INDIVIDUALS!? the crowd replies as one.

?You?re all different,? says Brian.

?YES, WE?RE ALL DIFFERENT!? says the crowd in unison.

Through Python?s marvellous satire, Greg was able to show that while large groups of people appear to think and act as one, they are made up of individuals with a huge variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning.

He cited the field of neuroscience, which reveals that these differences are as varied and unique as our DNA or fingerprints.

Greg sees evidence of this variability every day in how we personalise what we listen to, view, read, and eat. Having mastered fast food to a mass market, even McDonalds is now offering patrons the ability to ?create their own taste? with customised burgers.

His key message is to design for the margins, illustrating his point with numerous samples of how flexible, innovative and considerate design promotes inclusion and connection.

Following the same design principle of inclusion, Greg drew a parallel between fixed and innovative thinking, exploring the development of adjustable seating and steering columns as standard features in cars because there is no such thing as the average driver.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of Greg?s talk was a video edited by a wheelchair-bound young man with cerebral palsy, who does not have use of his arms. Through simple design changes to how a video editing platform is accessed, this young man now has his own video editing business.

For educators in the audience, Greg urged them to employ the same principles of inclusion when designing learning techniques and spaces.

His advice was to use the enormous opportunities provided by technology to promote inclusion and access to learning.

The walk away message was clear. Through inclusion we inspire connection, innovation and engagement.

Details of the next Radford Institute seminar will be available soon.

666 ABC Canberra Drive host Adam Shirley interviewed Greg shortly before his Radford Institute appearance. You can listen to it online at around the 27:15 minute mark of the show.

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