A defining moment for housing: Have your say

Front cover of the Options Paper. Dark blue with white text.The Australian Building Codes Board has circulated a document for public comment: Accessible Housing Options Paper. Anyone can respond to the ideas in the document and have their say. The document is not easy to understand unless you know a lot about housing and house building. To save time and make it easier to respond, Penny Galbraith has put the key points on one page and provided a questionnaire you can fill out and send by email:    NCCawareness@abcb.gov.au

You don’t need to be a member of an organisation to respond – you can do it as an individual. After all, it’s your future home or that of your loved ones we could be talking about.

Now is the time to act by submitting your response to the Australian Building Codes Board by 30 November. This is one of those moments in time where ordinary folk can make a difference – everyone counts and every response is counted.  

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Home Coming? Yes it’s possible

A graphic in shades of green showing various types of dwellingsA timely article from Penny Galbraith given the Australian Building Codes Board’s call for responses to their Options Paper on Accessible Housing. Essential reading for anyone proposing to submit a response (closing date is 30 November). The title of Penny’s paper presented at the recent UD Conference in Ireland is, Home Coming? A Story of Reassurance, Opportunity and Hope for Universally Designed Housing in Australia.  You can also see Penny’s analysis of the Options Paper. It is on the open learning platform for convenient access. There is a short summary to get you going and an alternative question response sheet that you can submit. This is a very important time for this issue. There may not be a second chance.

Paper Abstract: This paper shows the complexity of housing and how it is the linch-pin for achieving economic, social and human rights imperatives. In Australia there are no minimum housing standards; the effect is now critical. In October 2017, a regulatory impact assessment was instructed, to consider Livable Housing Australia’s Silver and Gold standards, for inclusion in the National Construction Code. A substantial research project provided a knowledge and evidence base of the policy perspective; an expanded statistical context; and detailed analyses of Silver, Gold and Platinum design levels. The policy perspective included greater economic focus. The effect on productivity, directly attributable to housing, is significant. 34 specific policy ‘problems’ were identified that could be solved or mitigated if acceptable standards of housing were introduced. It is reassuring that universal design has permeated all levels of government policy. The statistical context explored demographics, households, dwelling types; tenure; occupants; disability and carers. Detailed analyses challenged many common assumptions and re-framed accessible housing into a mainstream problem. 73% of all dwellings are separate houses and the average home has 3.1 bedrooms. There are tremendous opportunities for universally design-led mainstream solutions. The compliance gap analyses show which design features might cost more; have potential to be designed out; or be cost neutral. Many design features are cost neutral and arguably should be included within mandated standards. As there is a minimal gap between universal design standards and current housing, there is hope that all Australians will, one day, live in a universally designed home.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

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Accessible but not usable: Mapping tourist destinations

Front cover of a tourist guide showing Trieste at twilight. A scene with buildings and water with small boats.Promoting tourism and making it more accessible is the goal of a group of tourism operators in Trieste in Italy. The University of Trieste is helping with a study focused on whole of journey information including facilities, attractions and destinations. They found that while some destinations were technically accessible they were only “usable with difficulty”. During the process, researchers found that some tourism operators, while supportive of accessibility, were reluctant to change anything citing heritage as a barrier. However, Italian legislation has allowances for accessibility requirements in heritage sites. The method involves mapping the usability of facilities using a process that gathers information from both academics and from representatives from the disability sector. The article covers the methodology, the development of tools and the processes for collecting data. The title of the article is, Tools to Upgrade Facilities for All: How to Improve Business Dealing with Tourism

Abstract: Providing quality services to any traveller requires constant efforts to
ensure that tourist destinations, products, and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their health condition, physical limitations, gender, origin, age. This entails a collaborative process among all the interested parties: administrators, tourist agencies, tour operators, and end users, who expressing their points of view can objectively contribute to reach shared and effective solutions. A single visit destination can involve many factors, including access to information: the project A Region for All, promoted by Promoturismo FVG in collaboration with CRAD FVG and the University of Trieste, focused on this issue. Promoturismo FVG is a semipublic destination management organization. Its mission is to develop the regional tourism system collaborating with all the active subjects to improve the promotion and to optimize the resources by concentrating the efforts. The organization pursues its objectives by planning and organizing the offer through specific tourism products. In 2016 a mapping process has been started to investigate the usability of the relevant services to tourists / visitors with special needs along the itinerary of eight tourist centers of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. To date, more than 200 facilities (bars, restaurants, pharmacies, cash machines…) have been detected. The paper will present the development of the work conducted by TrIAL – Trieste Inclusion & Accessibility Lab at Department of Engineering and Architecture within the University of Trieste for the management of the mapping process. On the strength of the mapping experience developed during the previous project LabAc (Laboratory of Accessibility) for the Province of Trieste and the project Trieste for All for the Municipality of Trieste (from 2013 to 2016), the research group has adopted and set a series of digital tools, has identified specific indicators and has focused on an efficient return of data to Promoturismo FVG. The overall project is still ongoing: collected data have not yet been published by the organization. Overall monitoring and evaluation activities are still lacking and will be part of a future phase of research.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

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Universal Design: Tangible and empathetic?

A group of students are on the grass outside the university building. they have several large cardboard shapes and appear to be arranging them in some kind of format.Students rarely get to practice on real clients, and this means they are left with just an academic understanding of issues such as inclusion and universal design. Using age as a lens for thinking about designs is one way to help architecture students understand diversity. The Department of Architecture at Buffalo challenged students through various exercises related to the extremes of age to empathise with, and ultimately design for, small children and frail older people. The article explains their process and is titled:  Age-Focused Design – A Pedagogical Approach Integrating Empathy and Embodiment. Several pictures and graphics help with explanations.

Abstract: Architects seldom design for themselves, yet in the course of studying architecture one is rarely presented with the opportunity to design for a real client. The abstract nature of this education model leads to a focus that typically prioritizes formal or technical design exploration and de-emphasizes the role of the user. While Universal Design centers human bodies within design practice, the broad and often vague ambition of universality is difficult for students to engage within an academic context. We argue that approaching Universal Design through the lens of human age emphasizes the physical, sensorial, and cognitive modes of spatial understanding of the young and old and offers a focused perspective through which to address difference and diversity in architectural education. In this paper we outline a pedagogical approach that prioritizes human embodiments, over physical bodies, and integrates empathic understanding as critical to an inclusive, human-centered design methodology. We will discuss how the approach emerged from design seminars and studios taught in the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo and was tested through exercises that challenged students to research, empathize with, and ultimately design for the specific needs, abilities, and desires of individuals at the limits of human age.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

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Applying UD principles in museums

One of the galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.Museums play an important role in understanding the world we live in and giving context to our lives. Making the content of museums available to everyone in the community is now an important part of the work of exhibition designers. The Helen Hamlyn Centre in UK conducted research to assist with this. Their findings and conclusions are reported in their articleUsing Design Thinking to Develop New Methods of Inclusive Exhibition Making. The project has, “identified the creation of clear, concise, and – most importantly – incentivising guidelines as a crucial, necessary factor in a universal approach to exhibition design. Making sure that designers feel like they are not obliged, or demanded to follow overly pedantic and stifling requirements, but rather encouraged and inspired by a reconsideration of access design as a space for innovation and experimentation, is a necessary in fostering and maintaining the principles of co-design, and a dialogue between user, institution and design team.”

Abstract : Museums and galleries are now making significant developments in the area of inclusion and awareness of disability rights. There have been noticeable advances in the design of cultural, physical and digital spaces, which provide wider access to a museum’s physical and intellectual resources, for individuals of diverse ages and abilities. However, responses have varied in consistency, efficacy, and legacy. This year-long design research project, in partnership with the Wellcome Collection and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art, develops a working set of tools that can be used by museums to improve accessibility in a more permanent and reiterative manner, with a view towards gathering and sharing relevant data, and design responses, within a broad network of museums and cultural institutions. This paper outlines recent approaches by relevant experts in the field and outlines a new approach to incorporating inclusive design within the process of exhibition creation. It uses co-design methods to provide a set of principled guidelines that respond to all relevant stakeholders. These guidelines are predicated on the understanding that establishing empathetic links between exhibition-makers and exhibition audience members is essential, resulting in a positive collaboration, combining the skills of museum professionals with the lived experience of people with disabilities. A central goal of the research is to explore how design issues surrounding access can be framed as an essential and positive component of the design process, and, more importantly, an opportunity for innovation, not simply an obligatory requirement. This paper comprises the observations of a current research project of a 12 month project, commencing in September 2017 and concluding in September 2018.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

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Smart should also mean accessible and inclusive

Graphic showing silhouetted city outline showing links to homes, factories, offices, transport and other city servicesThe term “Smart Cities” usually conjures up ideas of good urban planning and linking with Internet and communications technology. But how can it be smart if it is not also accessible to everyone by incorporating the principles of universal design? There is a plethora of apps to help with navigation and destination selection, but these don’t turn steps into ramps, or garbage bins into seating. Aimi Hamraie writes about a new breed of accessibility apps that can make life easier, but they can also make it more difficult. “Nothing About Us Without Us” is great for political purposes, but maybe not so good when it comes to mainstreaming goods and services. Much is covered in this comprehensive article.

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Pedestrians on Wheels: A new paradigm?

Personal mobility devices are shown as the Segway, Hovertrax, Ninebot Mini, Solowheel, Onewheel, and Z-board.Pedestrians are becoming more diverse. It’s much more than walking or wheeling these days. Added to strollers, wheeled suitcases, mobility scooters and wheelchairs, are Segways, skateboards, hover-boards, unicycles, and scooters. Manoeuvering around all these different pedestrians is difficult enough, but then we need to add in people who are using umbrellas, carrying large parcels, pushing delivery trolleys, and those looking in shop windows and their smart phones. Moving through public spaces needs more design consideration by urban designers. It also means accessibility is more than having kerb ramps and level footpaths. Pedestrian mobility will become more complex as mobility choices increase especially with battering powered devices.  An interesting study on personal mobility devices is reported in  Diversity of “Pedestrians on Wheels”, New Challenges for Cities in 21st Century“. In the conclusions, the authors discuss the need for regulations for users and on the use of the devices and using designs which can be easily detected by other pedestrians by using colour and sound. 

Abstract: Traditionally, pedestrians were identified as singular entities with
standard needs. Reality shows us that pedestrian diversity is a reality that is
becoming increasingly complex. How does urban design face the changing reality of pedestrian typologies? In the same way that in the 20th century the car set aside horse carriages and pedestrians, in the 21st century pedestrians are returning to take centre stage with regard to motor vehicles, but with new formalizations that imply new considerations in the design of streets, many of they are still unsolved. Citizens strolling on scooters, skates, skateboard, segway, unicycles, are added to the already traditional baby strollers, wheelchairs, and suitcases with wheels … “pedestrians on wheels” that pose new challenges of coexistence and design. Own functional requirements to walk and maneuver, to see and be seen … functional requirements of coexistence with other pedestrians that make a different use of the street (people looking at shop windows, pedestrians with umbrellas, reading on the smartphone…) or changes of use of the same space when the conditions are different: snow, strong sun, fog, at night … These are considerations of Universal Accessibility and Design for all that we cannot leave out while our society progresses. This paper identifies some of these new needs and studies this new pedestrian mobility is carried out through a progressive analysis in three phases: 1 classification of the different user of the street, 2 study of the Personal Mobility Devices (PMD) and 3 the new accessibility barriers that arise with the use of PMD. As a result, some action strategies are pointed out to respond to the difficulties of accessibility derived from this new reality and to integrate them into the Universal Design of the urban public space.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

 

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Teaching UD: Progress so far

A group of five students cluster around a computer screen. They look as if they are seeing something important.Tom Vavik argues that there are four pillars to teaching universal design to design students: benefits to society and individuals, laws and regulations, UD thinking as a creative tool and increased market potential. Vavik identifies four main changes that have occurred in UD teaching:

  1. From UD as basic principles to UD as an inclusive design process.
  2. From physical to cognitive accessibility due to becoming a digital society.
  3. From usability and functionality to non-stigmatising aesthetics
  4. From second to first year curriculum and not being a separate course.

In his short paper, Facilititating the Concept of Universal Design Among Design Students – Changes in Teaching in the Last Decade, Vavik argues for another four factors that instructors need to consider in teaching UD:

  1. Decide what the overall learning outcome is, what specific knowledge, skills and experience the students should obtain.
  2. Identify ways to influence the students’ attitudes and ethical values related to the design practice and profession in a UD perspective
  3. Identify what kind of design theory and literature the teaching is based on
  4. Identify the most relevant themes and tasks for the students to work on and ascertain when they are mature enough for this kind of teaching

Abstract: This short paper describes and reflects on how the teaching of the concept of Universal Design (UD) has developed in the last decade at the Institute of Design at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO). Four main changes are described. Firstly, the curriculum has evolved from teaching guidelines and principles to focusing on design processes. Secondly, an increased emphasis is put on cognitive accessibility. Thirdly, non-stigmatizing aesthetics expressions and solutions that communicate through different senses have become more important subjects. Fourthly the teaching of UD has moved from the second to the first year curriculum.

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Designing good mental health into banking

Looking upwards to the gable of a federation building with the name Bank on itAccording to an article by the Design Council, mental health conditions can have an impact on spending, something which banks and financial institutions often neglect. Zander Brade, Lead Product Designer at Monzo, talked to Design Council about the importance of design and innovation in implementing a broad range of features to help people with mental health conditions. Research has resulted in Monzo designing product features to help people with mental health conditions, including real-time balance updates and an option to block transactions relating to gambling. Zander believes that accessibility applies as much to mental health as physical health, and that embedding accessibility within their services will ultimately benefit all their customers.

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Upcoming conferences

Aerial view of a crowded conference scene where the session has finished and people are standing, sitting and walking about.AAG Conference “Advancing not Retiring: Active Players, A Fair Future” 21-23 November 2018, Melbourne.

Age & Work Symposium, 27 November 2018, QUT Brisbane. CUDA Director, Prof Philip Taylor will be contributing to this celebration of longevity.

2019

ATSA Independent Living Expo: Sydney on 8-9 May, Brisbane on 15-16 May, and in Canberra on 27-28 August as part of iCREATe conference.

Australian Network on Disability Conference 14 May 2019 in Melbourne. This conference is employment related.

ACAA Access Consultants National Conference, 14-16 August 2019, Luna Park Sydney. 

AAATE 2019: Global Challenges in Assistive Technology: Research, Policy and Practice. 17-19 August 2019, Bologna, Italy. Note that Universal Design is included in this conference. AAATE is sister organisation to Australia’s ARATA. Call for papers closes 1 February and 1 March 2019. See link for more.

Constructing our World: People, Performance, Politics 18-20 September 2019, Sydney. Submissions are open for registration and exhibition.

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