Interior design professor awarded Universal Design Grant

Alex Poorman, associate professor of interior design in the Department of Applied Design at Appalachian State University, has been awarded the International Furnishing and Design Association (IFDA) Education Foundation’s 2017 Irma Dobkin Universal Design Grant. Poorman will use the grant funds to conduct workshops on campus that educate students for a continued need to design both assistive technologies and environments that support accessibility by all users. 

According to NC State University’s Center for Universal Design, universal design is “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”  Examples of universally designed objects or environments include flat building entrances, wider doorways, and door handles that do not require gripping or twisting.

Poorman will offer the workshops as part of the existing curriculum for students enrolled in Design Matters, a course open to all majors on campus, and Interior Design Studio Two, a course for second year interior design majors.  

“For the general student body as consumers of design, and specifically those students enrolled in Design Matters, the workshops will provide an awareness of universal design and the need to solve a wide range of sensory and mobility issues facing each user of buildings or products. For design students, it may mean incorporating the finer points of universal design into their building and product projects,” he said.   

According to Poorman, students will have the opportunity to experience first-hand what a change, even if temporary, means to their abilities to navigate in the built world. He plans to utilize various devices in the workshops to demonstrate how assistive technologies can aid the individual using the device and what the environment needs to have in place for those devices to be fully utilized.

Poorman hopes to facilitate discussions and reflections with students about their experiences using these various devices around campus, to increase student understanding of universal design and to expand their ability to incorporate appropriate design solutions into future projects. He plans to present outcomes from the workshops at upcoming regional and national design conferences.

About the Department of Applied Design

One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department Applied Design at Appalachian State University fosters excellence in design education, design research and professional placement. The department balances theoretical and pragmatic approaches while exploring an awareness of impact through design decisions on the global community. Faculty focus on a holistic approach to creative problem-solving by integrating sustainability and ethical responsibility in teaching and practice. The department offers bachelor’s degrees in apparel design and merchandising, industrial design and interior design.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

Associate Professor Alex Poorman, who was recently awarded the IFDA Education Foundation's Irma Dobkin Universal Design Grant, works with second year student Alanna Wilson. Photo by Meghan McCandless
Published: Aug 11, 2017 10:22am