Ageing and the Australian dream

An older man stands by a post with his arms folded looking a little puzzled.. He is wearing a shirt and has his pullover tied around his waistLooking at housing through a typology lens, Matthew Hutchinson discusses the issue of suitable housing for an ageing population. He claims that segregated and congregated living is unlikely to serve the upcoming older cohorts. Instead he poses the idea of “salt and peppering” suitable housing for older people in developments. There is a mention of accessible features in the research, but ideas such as having stairs to stay fit are questionable. A useful text giving an Australian context, but lacking is the concept that all new homes can be designed for ageing in place, at any age, and also provide a safe workplace for care staff and family carers. However, there is much more useful discussion in this chapter.

Hutchinson’s book chapter is titled, The Australian dream or a roof over my head. An ecological view of housing for an ageing Australian population. 

The chapter is a result of a PhD research project and can be found in, Designing for Health & Wellbeing, Home, City, Society.  You might be able to freely access some of the text via Google Books

Editor’s note: Ideas such as salt and peppering in communities takes us back to the proportion argument. Without a register of accessible homes that means they will disappear into the general milieu of the marketplace. Having stairs to stay fit sounds good, but we can’t put off ageing for ever. Besides, accidents and chronic illness can happen at any age to render a person immobile either temporarily or permanently. That’s not the optimum time to think about moving. 


Access Standard for Other Standards

The front cover of the CEN-CENELEC Guide.Did you know that all Australian Standards should include accessibility issues when they are being written? If you are on a standards committee or working party then it’s important to know. There are two documents relevant to this topic.

The ISO Guide 71 is a global standard and applies to Australia as well as other countries. CEN is the European standards agency. Their document is an adoption of ISO Guide 71. So, basically the same information. 

Both standards are relevant to implementing the UNCRPD* and related national policies across the world. It is also useful for manufacturers and educators. Discussion on standards might seem a bit dry, but when you think of all the official Standards that are developed, it is good to know there is a guide for addressing accessibility issues within the content of those Standards. Key points are:

“ISO/IEC Guide 71:2014 provides guidance to standards developers on addressing accessibility requirements and recommendations in standards that focus, whether directly or indirectly, on systems (i.e. products, services and built environments) used by people. To assist standards developers to define accessibility requirements and recommendations, it presents a summary of current terminology relating to accessibility, issues to consider in support of accessibility in the standards development process, a set of accessibility goals (used to identify user accessibility needs), descriptions of (and design considerations for) human abilities and characteristics, and strategies for addressing user accessibility needs and design considerations in standards.”

The CEN Guide “… is an important goal for the whole of society that all people, regardless of their age, size or ability, have access to the broadest range of systems. Issues of accessibility to and usability of systems have become more critical as the number of people (such as older persons, children, persons with reduced abilities and persons with disabilities) with diverse user accessibility needs has increased.”

*The UNCRPD is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Playspaces: Adventurous and Inclusive

A small boy crawls over a branch laying on the ground. He is in a woodland setting and wearing winter clothes. Concepts of play can be designed into many different places – not just the standard urban park. Making play areas inclusive is becoming the norm now – not singling out specific play equipment for children with disability. And not calling them “all abilities” play spaces either. If they are inclusive they don’t need a special name. We need to add adults into the design as well. Younger children only get to go if an adult takes them. And that adult might have a disability. That means moving away from the modular play equipment found in catalogues as the total solution.

Sanctuary magazine has a great article on nature play in parks and home gardens. Play for All Australia, based in the northern beaches of Sydney, is mentioned in the article titled, Playspaces: Child’s play gets serious. Touched by Olivia has achieved many of its aims and is now part of Variety which is continuing advocacy for inclusive play spaces. The NSW Department of Planning has followed up on this movement with the development of the Everyone Can Play guideline and a second year of funding for local government authorities in NSW. 

Note that there will be two presentations on inclusive play spaces at UD2020 universal design conference.

For academics, the article is also available from Informit.  

Government perspective on accessible housing

Brightly coloured graphic of little houses clustered togetherWhat do government representatives think is the best way to supply homes suitable for people with disability? A research study by an occupational therapist and an architect found out. Mandating accessible features in all new mainstream housing is the way to go. That means both owners and renters would benefit. Plus it would suit ageing in place and not be detrimental to the rest of the population. One participant suggested that the Livable Housing Design Guidelines should be turned into an Australian Standard. That would also help guide home renovations. The research also looked at technology and support issues. 

Although this research was specific to Australia’s National Disability Strategy, the findings on housing share similar responses found in other research: there is no real benefit in segregated “disability housing”, but much to be gained from housing that also suits people with disability. The title of the article is, Government perspectives on housing, technology and support design within Australia’s National Disability Strategy. It is also available on ResearchGate or the Wiley online library.  

In the Results section of the article, authors Libby Callaway and Kate Tregloan summarise the participants comments about making all homes accessible: 

“Several opportunities to take advantage of, and to stimulate, both accessible and adaptable housing supply and demand were identified through the focus group. Participant 5 stated, “This is a conversation about housing for people with disability, not disability housing”. Aiming to design and build homes that may also be rented on the open market or on-sold highlighted the need for suitable housing models beyond single houses. This need for a range of housing options, suitable for on-selling, has been identified in both current research and NDIS policy documents (Wiesel et al. 2015a; National Disability Insurance Agency 2016c). Roundtable participants recommended a legislative approach to increase accessible housing supply. They felt this would ensure an increase in volume via inclusion of accessible design principles and relevant standards within regulations for all buildings (e.g. via the Building Code of Australia) and other regulatory devices. This was seen to offer benefits to people with disability as well as other community groups, such as ageing Australians who want to remain living at home. It was anticipated that a relatively low-cost impost would offer great community benefit, depending on the level of requirement established (e.g. silver-level Livable Design compliance; Livable Housing Australia, 2012). Participants suggested this approach may offer greater flexibility for any subsequent home modifications required for people with disability. Participant 7 summarised the need for further work in this area: “Making all housing accessible isn’t already a national level of discussion . . . Liveable Housing design can be taken over [and incorporated] into the Australian Standards”

There is much more to this study which includes inclusive communities, integrated technology and transportation.

Editor’s note: While such an approach will suit most people with disability, there are some people who will need a home designed or adapted around their particular needs and that of their carers. This is the role of the Specialist Disability Housing funded under the NDIS. 


Neurodiversity and overseas study

A young man in a blue academic outfit is smiling at the camera and is giving the thumbs up sign. Many courses include overseas study either as an option or a compulsory part of the program. This is because cultural exchange is considered a valuable enhancement to the overall education of the student. But what about students with autism? An article on this topic reminds us that people with autism, with the right accommodations, can enhance learning programs. This is because they can bring a fresh perspective, another way of thinking. Consequently, there is opportunity to enhance the overseas study experience for everyone. So, making overseas study more inclusive is a win-win all round.  

The article provides two case studies that highlight what makes an overseas exchange a success for people with autism. Such improvements are, in the end, good for all students and educational institutions.  The authors sum up at the end: 

“Both cultural observation and self-evaluation are central objectives of a university’s drive to provide opportunities for cultural competency. Thus, although the participation of students in the autism spectrum poses plenty of challenges, their increasing access to study abroad opportunities could enhance the study abroad experience. As such, while the challenges are many, we move from a framework that adjusts to the needs of these students to an inquiry into the ways in which they can contribute to enrich the study abroad experience. The case studies presented here certainly show how an inclusive program, through proper orientation mechanisms, could be beneficial for all participants’ self-awareness and ability to reflect.”

The title of the article is, How to Run Together: On Study Abroad and the ASD Experience.  In Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Vol. XXXII, Issue 2 (January 2020): pp. 104-118.


Universal Design Fact Sheet

Aerial view of Melbourne Park tennis precinct.The Victorian State Government has an easy to read two-page fact sheet on universal design. It relates to sport and recreation, but the content can be applied to other areas of the built environment. It’s based on the classic seven principles of universal design and shows how they can be interpreted and applied in sport and recreation. 

The first page briefly explains universal design and how it is different to accessible design. Costs, if any, are also explained. It is a good document for government procurement purposes where suppliers are required to adhere to universal design principles in their design and supply. The fact sheet is available on the publications and resources section of the Victorian Government website. There’s also the Design for Everyone Guide with an accompanying video.


Swim, Sail and Relax

Front cover showing two people surfing in black wet suits. One is laying down on the board the other is standing on it.Having fun in the sand and surf is the iconic Australian pastime. But not everyone gets an opportunity to join in the fun. The Association of Consultants in Access, Australia newsletter features articles and case studies on beach access, sailing, a resort for people with spinal cord injury, and provisions for people with autism. Plus the general news of the association. The articles mainly feature specialist activities and designs, such as the resort. But that is all part of creating an inclusive society.

The newsletter is available online where you can choose to view online through Issuu or download a PDF version (7MB).


UD2020 Conference: A look at the program

Conference logo. Universal Design Conference 2020Check out the program for the 4th Australian Universal Design Conference. Apart from our amazing Keynote Speakers and Panellists, we have a great selection of concurrent sessions. Local government is well represented in the program:

    • Holiday Parks Access Project – Garry Ellem, Lake Macquarie City Council
    • Sensory rooms – Jack Mulholland, Maroondah City Council
    • Supporting beneficial housing models in a dynamic disability housing market: a cross sectorial response – Linda Martin-Chew, City of Whittlesea
    • UD in local government: action research findings – Adam Johnson, Edith Cowan University

Also of interest to local government will be two presentations on inclusive playspaces, the dementia project in Moonee Ponds, and mobility scooter research. Public toilets also get a place in the program along with two papers related to autism. And remember we have James Thurston’s keynote on the Five Pillars of Inclusive Smart Cities. That’s a must for everyone.

Join us for this celebration of universal design and register now for earlybird rates!  CUDA members get an extra discount. 

The conference will be held at the brand new Victoria Pavillion, Melbourne Showgrounds 12-13 May. For extra value, the ATSA Independent Living Expo will be in the same location for 13-14 May. Entry to the expo is free.

Front entrance of Victoria Pavilion, the conference venue

UD2020: 4th Australian Universal Design Conference

Conference logo. Universal Design Conference 2020It’s promising to be a great conference! The conference website has the program with links to abstracts, and the list of speakers. Highlights include keynotes from James Thurston from G3ict, Philip Taylor from Federation University, and Paul Harpur live video from New York.

The inclusive tourism panel will have Martin Heng, Lonely Planet, Nicole Healy, Victorian Government, and Sarah Seddon, formerly from Destination Melbourne. The final panel session will discuss the role of government in promoting and implementing universal design: James Thurston, G3ict, Michael Walker, Victorian Government, and Fiona Morrison, NSW Government will give their views. With a lunchtime walking tour, Table Topic discussions, workshops and posters there’s something for everyone! 

Earlybird registrations close 31 March.

Time to think about sponsoring – what about the coffee cart at $3500? or maybe the lanyards $800? See the prospectus for more opportunities or email Tannia Garces

The conference will be held 12-13 May 2020 in the brand new Victoria Pavilion, Melbourne Showgrounds. It’s close to the city and the airport. 

Front entrance of Victoria Pavilion, the conference venue

A Place to Age Right

A fireside, a hot drink in a mug and slippered feet up on the recliner.An Australian perspective on living in the right place in later life is the subject of a new report from the Global Centre for Modern Ageing. Their research is aimed at the business community, but the findings support other social research. They use a “House-Home-Haven” framework to present their findings. They found that older Australians are not planning their enablement to remain at home:

    • “Despite wanting to stay at home, only 17% of respondents thought their home would require repairs or modifications to enable them to do so.”
    • “Even amongst those who are experiencing difficulties at home, only 40% acknowledge the need for home modifications.”
These findings repeat that of the larger scale AHURI research that found  most want to stay put and think their current home will enable them to do so. Similarly, the My Home My Choices Tool is a response to this issue.
The report identified seven distinct needs that make the right place: Choice; Safety; Comfort; Access, Independence; Connection; and Happiness. But they weren’t planning get all this in a facility where help would be available. There’s much more in this easy to read report, Ageing in the Right Place