Universal design as polite design?

Streetscape in Japan showing markings on the footpath indicating paths of travel for cyclists and pedestrians with directional tactile markers along the pedestrian pathway.Using the cultural politeness of the Japanese, Claire Smith, Professor of Archeology at Flinders University, has inadvertently provided us with another way of explaining universal design. In her article The archeology of a polite society, published in The Conversation, she cites the dictionary definition of politeness “having or showing behaviour that is respectful or considerate of other people”. Those who find the current built environment designs to be “impolite” would agree that there is a lot of thoughtlessness in designs. Even where mandatory access has been provided, it is often an afterthought, signalling that the diversity of the population has not been considered by designers. Hence, an impolite design. 

Claire Smith provides examples of those little things that count to create convenience for everyone, such as a hook to hang your handbag at a restaurant table. Claire adds that a polite society is a safe society; a caring society; and a clean society – all aspects that are encompassed by universal design.

This article is about the built environment from an archeological perspective. However, there are several reader comments about Japanese politeness not being applied uniformly. But it’s not just in Japan….

Editor’s note: I have added “polite design” to the list of Diverse explanations of Universal Design.