Mar 06, 2021
[Column] Rethinking society with UD

Monthly column in Asahi Newspaper Hokkaido version

March 6, 2021.   Noyuri Mima


 Ten years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. There are many people who were affected by the disaster and are still suffering from its effects. We have a responsibility to think of them, to listen to them, to share what we have learned from this experience, and to pass it on to future generations.

 In recent years, in addition to earthquakes and tsunamis, major disasters such as torrential rains, floods, and heavy snowfall have become more frequent. From the experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the problems that occur in evacuation centers and temporary housing during disasters and how to deal with them are gradually being improved.

 It is important to reflect on our response to the infectious diseases also, including what did not go well, and summarize it at the individual, regional, and national levels so that many people can refer to it.

 My colleague, a cognitive psychologist who is totally blind, who has been mentioned in this column before, in his recently published book, reflects on the process of becoming blind. His realization that he was adapting to his environment led to his current research, which offers us a new world.

 The sounds of a Japanese traditional tea ceremony, the sound information blind people use when walking down the street, and even the change in the sound of oil when cooking fried food Tempra, are all taken up in his unique and curious way of capturing everyday scenes.

 Universal Design (UD) refers to the design of products and services so that they can be used by as many people as possible, regardless of age, language, or culture, as well as those with or without disabilities. When designing products and systems that we use in our daily lives, research and development is focused on people with specific needs.

 If we create sidewalks and stations with no steps for people in wheelchairs, it will be more convenient for stroller users and for carrying in and out luggage. Designing for people who need a certain kind of support can make things better for people who did not expect it.

 Systems such as shortening working hours and encouraging employees to go home on time for childcare and nursing care were created from the voices of women, but if they are institutionalized so that everyone can use them, it can lead to a better life for men who have taken long hours and overtime work for granted.

 If you feel inconvenienced or have any doubts, speak up. There may be others around you who feel the same way. On the other hand, by listening to the voices of a few, you may be able to see things in a new light.

 If we apply the concept of UD not only to products and services, but also to systems and the state of society, we can see many more things that need to be changed.