“Universal design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of the age size, ability or disability.”
— Disability Act, 2005
With support from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Weapons Removal and Abatement the Polus Center sponsored a Universal Design workshop for coffee producers from the Eastern Lake Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The workshop was led by Korydon Smith, Ph.D., professor and chair of architecture and co-director of the University of Buffalo's Community for Global Health Equity (CGHE). Trainees visited coffee washing stations and cupping labs to assess how design changes to their working environment can create greater economic opportunities for landmine survivors, victims of conflict and people with disabilities throughout the specialty coffee value chain. “We believe that with improved design we can increase productivity, efficiency, and quality, while contributing to peace and stability in the community.” says Polus Center Executive Director, Michael Lundquist.
The team studied current practices and processes in use on their visits, collecting data and observing coffee production methods from an inclusive design perspective. Using this research, Korydon Smith and the Universal Design department at Buffalo University created schematic designs for a cupping lab and washing station built according to Universal Design principles and social inclusion.
The Polus Center was invited to present a panel discussion at the Specialty Coffee Expo to raise awareness about the issue of coffee in conflict and get feedback on the initial washing station and cupping lab designs. The next phase of the project is to build a coffee-cupping lab that serves as a leadership hub and offers a prototype that can be emulated throughout the coffee industry.
The unique design of the cupping lab will allow people with disabilities (including coffee farmers who have had to give up farming due to injuries caused by landmines/explosive remnants of war) in the coffee industry to undergo advanced vocational training in coffee production, a highly valued social role. The lab is currently near completion.