Research Tools to Study Vulnerable Populations; A Case of Designing Inclusive Spaces for Autism

Authors

Rachna Khare and Abir Mullick

Session

B4. Labs, research tools and frameworks

Date and Time

2014-06-16, 17:40 - 18:00

Room

MA 6
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Abstract

‘Reality to an autistic person is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights. There seems to be no clear boundaries, order or meaning to anything. A large part of their life is spent just trying to work out the pattern behind everything’[1]. Educational environments have failed to consider the needs for users with autism, and are unpredictable, fearful and unsafe for children affecting their performance. Regardless of its immense occurrence, it remains unnoticed by the architects and designers in building design guidelines and codes. Most environmental research projects have excluded autistic participants as their involvement is restricted by the code of research ethics involving humans (like Institutional Review Board (IRB) in the United States). Consequently, users with autism and their needs are not considered in the design of built environment. There is an urgent need to develop investigative tools that identify the needs children with autism and conduct environmental research that does not involve them to comply with the research ethics statute. The current study reports the use of newly developed research tools to develop design guidelines for universal access to educational spaces. No children, with autism or able bodied, were involved in the study; only teachers were involved and the environment was examined. First, ‘environmental design issues’ were identified. Then newly developed evaluating tools were implemented to examine behavioral issues in existing educational settings, and they were tested in inclusive and specialized institutions. The newly developed research tools address the impossibility of involving autistic children in environmental research. The tools have been successfully tested and the results offer important information that have the potential to influence building design, revise building codes, offer new design guidelines and develop inclusive built environments for children with autism and able bodied children.