Current Special Initiatives

Inclusive Sports Initiative

The Inclusive Sports Initiative is a project of the Institute for Human Centered Design and focuses on Disability in Sport, bringing people with disabilities from the margins to become integral members of the sporting community. Ongoing research, education and advocacy addresses the inclusion of people with disabilities in sport.

The Inclusive Sports Initiative provides educational awareness training on inclusion in sport, and serves as a resource to support sport organizations regarding the inclusion process. The Inclusive Sports Initiative serves as a facilitator to organize individuals and groups to work together to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities.

MCC UP Initiative

IHCD is partnering with the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) to promote and educate cultural organizations across the Commonwealth about inclusive design, through the UP initiative.
The goal of UP is to support nonprofit cultural organizations that incorporate inclusive design to expand audiences and enhance experiences for all. UP celebrates organizations that embrace inclusivity as core to their mission, creating transformational experiences for the public that will not only build their own capacity, but inform the cultural sector’s accessibility efforts. UP recognizes that accessibility is and should be a work in progress. UP is a direction, not a destination. UP is about process, not perfection.
Organizations can participate in UP in one of two ways—by obtaining an UP designation or by participating in the UP Innovation and Learning Network. 11 organizations have received UP designations. They include:
  • American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge)
  • Barrington Stage Company (Pittsfield)
  • Berkshire Museum (Pittsfield)
  • Boston Conservatory at Berklee (Boston)
  • Cape Cod Theatre Project (Falmouth)
  • Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (Wellesley)
  • Community Access to the Arts (Great Barrington)
  • Danforth Museum (Framingham)
  • deCordova Scupture Park and Museum (Lincoln)
  • Discovery Museums (Acton)
  • Edith Wharton Restoration Inc (Lenox)
  • Historic Deerfield (Deerfield)
  • Huntington Theatre Company (Boston)
  • Liars and Believers (Cambridge)
  • Massachusetts Audubon Society (Lincoln)
  • Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)
  • Museum of Science (Boston)
  • New Arts Center (Newton)
  • Old South Association (Boston)
  • Old Sturbridge Village (Sturbridge)
  • Open Door Theater (Acton)
  • Outside the Box Festival (Boston)
  • Partners for Youth with Disabilities (Boston)
  • Paul Revere Memorial Association (Boston)
  • South Shore Conservatory (Hingham)
  • VSA Massachusetts (Boston)
  • Wheelock Family Theatre (Boston)
  • Williamstown Theatre Festival (Williamstown)
  • Worcester Art Museum (Worcester)
  • Worcester County Horticultural Society (Boylston)
10 organizations will participate in the yearlong Innovation and Learning Network:
  • Boston by Foot (Boston)
  • Emerson College, ArtsEmerson (Boston)
  • Grub Street (Boston)
  • Hancock Shaker Village (Pittsfield)
  • Historic Highfield Hall (Falmouth)
  • Jewish Film Festival REELAbilities (Newton)
  • Lyric Stage (Boston)
  • Mass MOCA (North Adams)
  • Pioneer Valley Ballet (Easthampton)
  • Zeiterion Theatre (New Bedford)
Designated UP Organizations are organizations that have made a commitment to learn, take action, and embrace inclusivity as a core organizational value. Each designated organization is entitled to post the UP logo on its website, in its collateral materials, and in its facility; is promoted by MCC as an UP organization through the agency’s website and newsletters; and becomes part of a network of likeminded organizations with which to connect and share. UP Organizations:
  • Provide training for all about inclusive culture. The best inclusive design solutions will never succeed without the commitment and engagement of board, staff, volunteers, designers and others taking part in the work of the organization.
  • Engage user/experts to inform and inspire.  A user expert can be anyone with a functional limitation or disability who has developed natural expertise in dealing with the challenges of our physical, information and/or communication environments. Establishing a routine commitment to engaging a variety of user experts who can offer insights into what fails and what works is a reliable means of continuous improvement.
  • Coordinate and integrate a vision of inclusion throughout the entire organization.  A shared sense of purpose infects the entire organization and shapes priorities and inclusion is woven into everything the organization does – marketing, planning, budgeting, fundraising and branding.
  • Innovate. Creating great places and experiences that work for everyone is inspired, creative, collegial, satisfying, and fun. Fresh ideas come from fresh insights and a willingness to engage in trial and error.
The Innovation and Learning Network (ILN) provides organizations the opportunity for experiential, collaborative learning and program development.  Based on a model of community practice, the ILN will bring together organizations with shared interests and similar challenges to learn from each other over the course of a year. 
Over the course of the ILN participants will:
  • Develop an initiative to increase participation focused on inclusion, accessibility, or universal design.
  • Define objectives of the initiative and identify measurable ways of tracking progress and defining success.
  • At the conclusion of the ILN, participants will be ready to implement their initiative.
To apply for designation or to be a part of the ILN please visit MCC at

NEA User/Experts in Schools of Design

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) “Art Works” program awarded a grant to the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD) for a new initiative: Designing for People, User/Experts in Schools of Design.   The project builds on IHCD’s experience in which IHCD creates opportunities to give designers and design students the opportunity to work directly with people with lived experience of functional limitations – “user/experts” - as a window to the power of design to make a difference.  IHCD intends to collaborate with design schools around the Greater Boston area to bring user/experts into the design classroom, ideally into studio.  A user/expert can be anyone who has developed natural expertise in dealing with the challenges of the physical, information, communication, policy, or attitudinal environments due to a physical, sensory or brain-based functional limitation.
IHCD has seen the impact on students who have an opportunity to collaborate with actual users and its potential to infuse insight, energy and excitement into learning.  It is also a likely outcome that the satisfaction and creativity students experience will shape their identity as designers. IHCD is also confident that there is a compelling case that the 21st century human diversity of ability and age demands designers who have the skills to respond and to use design to create opportunities for inclusion and social equity. The World Health Organization leads an international charge to designers, as creators of the human context, to minimize our limitations, celebrate our strengths and enrich everyone’s experience in the process. That cannot happen without design students and practitioners engaging directly with one another in a generative process that builds confidence and skill.
These projects objectives are:
1. Build knowledge and expertise among students and faculty involved in a spectrum of design disciplines about Inclusive/Universal Design and the opportunity for insight and inspiration in the direct engagement of diverse users.
2. Conduct a half-day Designing for People, User/Experts in Schools of Design Professional Development event for faculty interested in participating.  Introduce them to user/experts and the framework of Inclusive/Universal Design.  Share global precedents for teaching and practice and the practical details of incorporating the opportunity into their curriculum.
3.  Coordinate the direct engagement of user/experts with students and faculty up to four times in the semester. The suggested points of contact are to:
a. Identify needs to consider in choosing a problem to solve.
b. Review concepts for projects using the insights garnered from user/experts.
c. Review prototypes & models mid-way in the semester with students and faculty.
d. Participate in critique at the end of the semester.
4. Offer students and faculty a mix of resources to support the studio.  These will include orchestrating in-situ opportunities for students to observe user/experts interacting with the pertinent place types students are studying, or using products or technologies in their typical environment.   In addition, IHCD will share global resources including literature and precedents and provide contact with pertinent experts.

Access to Design Professions

With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEC Foundation and the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Education, this international project is working to increase the number of people with disabilities in the design professions through a multi-faceted outreach, support, internship and mentoring program. A book of profiles of 21 designers with disabilities from around the world was published in 2002. Building a World Fit for People: Designers with Disabilities at Work This link will open a new browser window. is available for downloading. Print copes are available for sale.