Universal design, universal appeal
Sean Crump knows what a difference Universal Design (sometimes also called inclusive design or barrier-free design) can make, and he’s on a mission to see it included in every building across Alberta.
As the co-founder of Calgary-based Included by Design, Sean Crump has already worked with clients like the Glenbow Museum, the University of Calgary, the Canada Lands Company, and Calgary Pride to help them build accessible and inclusive spaces.
His passion for inclusive design can be traced back to 2004, when at age 19, a diving accident left him a quadriplegic. The sudden change was devastating for many reasons, not the least of which was the shift in the way people treated him after the injury.
“I noticed a massive discrepancy in what my life was and then what it became. Not just physical challenges and barriers — there were a lot of systemic challenges beyond just not getting somewhere,” he says.
“It was even the expectation that somebody has in terms of a disabled person’s ability to contribute to something or what their capability was. It was like I was being congratulated for getting out of bed that day, even though I’d been doing that for 19 years before that.”
Nearly two decades later, Crump has become an active voice in the disability sector, working to bring awareness to issues of inclusion and accessibility. He now sits on several boards and committees, including the federal government’s technical committee for accessibility, and the boards of Barrier-Free Canada, Cerebral Palsy Alberta, and Voices of Albertans with Disabilities. His goal is to change the conversation around how people with disabilities are included and supported in society — and that starts with some foundational work.
Today Crump’s firm, Included by Design, promotes the concepts of Universal Design — things like automatic doors, entry ramps and adaptive lighting — which make spaces more inclusive, usable and accessible. He explains that the Accessible Canada Act — which governs Canada’s building code for barrier-free buildings is still in its infancy. He says it has a long way to go, which means there’s a lot of opportunity for growth.
“It’s credible that Canada’s trying to do it the right way, to make sure we’re putting something in place that has some ability to create impact right away,” he says. “But there’s a lot of ground to be made up, a lot of inequity that’s been experienced for much, much longer than I’ve been dealing with it.”
Outside of his own personal experiences, Crump also sees Included by Design’s work as crucial to future consumers. The World Health Organization estimates approximately 15 per cent of the global population lives with a disability today. In Canada, statistics suggest an even higher number – with 22 per cent of the population is living with a disability. But as demographic trends and medical advancements mean people with chronic conditions are living longer, the percentage of the population with a disability is expected to continue to rise.
“It’s a good niche to be in because I’m very connected to it and I feel like it’s something that needs a lot of correcting and there’s a lot of population impact,” he says.
Krooshal – An Accessibility App
Crump has also spearheaded the development of Krooshal, an app featuring certified accessible and inclusive businesses across Calgary. The locations have all been vetted by Included By Design, and are plotted on a virtual map for users. The beta version of the app launched in 2021, and within a few months, included profiles of dozens of businesses, ranging from restaurants and coffee shops to conference centres.
Working with Thin Air Labs, Included by Design has grown the app to include restaurants across Calgary. The platform can be used for any industry and virtually any user interest, from going out socially to finding employment, traveling or otherwise. In the future, Crump hopes to expand even further — both geographically, and for different user bases.
“The great thing is, we’ve got data with the app. So we’re trying to understand how it impacts and how it provides value to this community to ensure that this is something that is meaningful but also useful,” he says. “We want to really get ahead of ourselves on some elements and be truly reliable, to make sure needs are met from the user’s perspective.”