Sonic Accessibility: Towards a Creative Understanding of Sound and Social Inclusion

Will Renel at the Design Engineering Management Conference, Cambridge University, March 2016

Cambridge-Tongji Research Conference


In March 2016, Cambridge University hosted Design Engineering Management – a conference delivered by the Inclusive Design Research Centre at Tongji University, China and Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.


The conference featured LDoc funded PhD student Will Renel (Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art) who presented ‘Sonic Accessibility: Towards a Creative Understanding of Sound and Social Inclusion’. This presentation considered the initial findings of Will’s research into those with lived experience of the relationship between sound and social inclusion/exclusion. It examined the usefulness of technology as an inclusive tool for challenging sonic accessibility, and presented Sonic Interaction Design as an emerging field within which a practical exploration of ‘aural diversity’ might aid the development of a more creative understanding of sound and social inclusion.


Audience members were particularly interested in Will’s promotion of creative practice as a method for challenging socio-cultural issues. This approach was discussed in relation to the expanding contexts in which technology is demanding inclusive design be applied. Throughout the day speakers examined a range of topics from the effect of footway environments on the walking behavior of older adults to virtual reality as technique for relieving pain. The range of subjects presented generated a number of thought-provoking discussions that considered the cultural similarities and differences between design research in the UK and China.


Speakers from Tongji University, University of Cambridge, Brunel University London, Royal College of Art and Imperial College London contributed to a conference in which an accessible dialogue between researchers at differing stages in their careers took place. The conference highlighted the importance of cross-institutional, multi-cultural thinking towards a more inclusive and interdisciplinary approach to designing objects, environments and services.


Will Renel, 2016