UD2020 Publication of Papers

Logo for universal design conference UD2020.I am pleased to announce that Griffith University is generously sponsoring the publication of papers for the 4th Australian Universal Design Conference

That means all successful presenters can take up the option to provide a full paper or extended abstract for publication. Details will be sent to successful presenters when they are notified about their abstract. 

Poster submissions close 30 November. So there is still time to contribute to the conference and take up this generous offer. The closing date for Posters is 30 November. 

Please note that we had an overwhelming response to the call for papers and there will be a delay in responding to everyone. So that we can include as many presenters as possible we will be reducing speaking time from 20 minutes to 15 minute sessions with 5 minutes for questions.

Jane Bringolf 

How not to build a library

A long flight of stairs on the left looks out over Manhattan with rows of books tiered up on the right hand side. They are only accessible via the stairs.An architectural triumph that fails its patrons. If ever there was an example of how not to design a public library, this has to be it. All because the architects failed to check with any user groups. The architects still maintain the issues are just “wrinkles” in the design, not flaws. However, bookshelves lay empty, bleacher seating is sealed off for safety reasons, baby strollers block the walkways, and that doesn’t include the issues for people with disability – patrons and staff alike. Clearly they thought the ADA was nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, the building offers wonderful views. The article is from the New York Times, New Library is a $41.5 Million Masterpiece. But About Those Stairs. It explains the issues in more detail and has more pictures. There is also a news video from Spectrum News with the story. A salutary lesson in remembering function as well as form in design.


Liveability plus lovability

Open area with trees and people seated at tables in an outdoor cafe. Liveability usually refers to physical conveniences associated with city life. But how do they make us feel? Are our places lovable as well? A study from 26 neighbourhoods in the United States found that liveablity and lovability are not correlated. Intangible aspects of place aren’t just nice to have – they are critical for improving economic performance. But how do you measure lovability? Lucinda Hartley of University of Melbourne explains more about the research and how socialisation of places also increases economic activity. A place needs to be inclusive with Access-ability to make it lovable by all, of course. The title of the article is, Lovability versus Liveability: What big data tells us about our neighbourhoods. Includes nice pictures and links to other references.

Good Design: How do you measure it?

Logo of the Urban Design Conference.Good design means different things to different people, so how can you measure or evaluate it? As Trivess Moore says, “Poor design – an absence of ‘good’ design – locks in owners, the local community and cities to substandard urban environments, often for considerable time periods.” Moore believes that arguments for the value of good design are too easily dismissed because we lack a rigorous evidence base. Maybe this is one of the reasons the principles of universal design and notions of public good are ignored. An interesting argument in this paper to which the principles of universal design could be added. While written in 2014, it has relevance to the upcoming RIS on Accessible Housing.

The paper was published in 7th International Urban Design Conference 2014 and is titled, Valuing form and function: Perspectives from practitioners about the costs and benefits of good apartment design. It’s on page 73.

Abstract: Methods for placing values on good design are under-researched in Australia. Without a rigorous evidence base, costs are anticipated and benefits unrecognised. This paper presents an overview of the current state of the value of good design research for the built environment, and reports upon a series of interviews with experienced building industry stakeholders in Australia and the UK. The research finds that while the benefits of good design are recognised by building practitioners, these are not being consistently translated into exchange value and are therefore not being picked up in mainstreaming best practice. In order to raise the quality of design there is a need to develop ways to measure and articulate these benefits to housing producers and consumers.

Inclusive environments: encouraging uptake

A modern building in Beijing. It looks like a concrete round beehive shape.The difference between inclusive design and accessibility is discussed by the Design Council in an article published in a special edition of World Architecture magazine. Catherine Howill and Elli Thomas explain how inclusive design works better for everyone. However, achieving this in the building industry has its challenges. “It requires a significant systematic and cultural shift.”

They argue for leadership from the top and commitment to change from the bottom. Collectively this can set up a framework and formal mechanisms to guide industry and also develop practitioner skillsets. The social and economic arguments are included together with thoughts on outcomes and next steps. The article includes a graphic of the Ladder of Participation.

The title of the article is Inclusive Design: Beyond Accessibility. It’s published in a special edition of World Architecture Magazine China – ‘Accessibility for All’. It is published in both English and Mandarin.

Part of the article is on the Design Council website which has an easier text to read than the PDF version in the magazine

Abstract: The essay advocates for the building industry to go beyond meeting accessibility requirements and instead focus on an inclusive approach to designing places, arguing that Inclusive environments work better for everyone and are essential if we are to create a fair society and a sustainable future. Through the lens of a UK context – the article examines the legal, systematic and policy changes already in place and discuss next steps to ensuring widespread industry and practitioner uptake.

Inclusive Design: Beyond Accessibility

Keywords: inclusive design, places, diversity, requirements,industry change

Colours for colour blindness

Title of the blog article using light blue and dark blue colours.Colour is often used in charts, maps and infographics, but what if you can’t see some colours? One in twelve men are colour blind, but not for all colours or the same colours. Infographics are becoming more popular as a means of explaining things. So choosing the best colours is to everyone’s advantage. Venngage website has an good guide and lots of tips on making charts more accessible. It shows the three types of colour blindness and compares them with normal vision. Different colour palettes are provided along with templates. The blog page includes links to other resources. Colour combinations to avoid include:

    • Red & green
    • Green & brown
    • Green & blue
    • Blue & gray
    • Blue & purple
    • Green & gray
    • Green & black

Most colour blind people can detect contrast, so as a last resort, if you must use these colours, make the contrast as strong as possible. Patterns and textures also work. The article is titled, How to use color blind friendly palettes to make your charts accessible.  Colour blindness is technically referred known as colour vision deficiency (CVD). 

Editor’s note: The Venngage blog site includes advertising.


You understand me? Maybe

Front cover of the toolkit with three overlapping circles, bright pink, purple and turquoise.This toolkit about communicating with customers follows its own advice. The information is written in a straightforward way. Lots of graphics illustrate key points, and the information is very specific, such as when to write numbers as digits or as words. While the information might not be new to some, it serves as a good reviser of current practice. Designed for organisations but good for everyone.

The Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach has sections on written, verbal and digital communication. At 134 pages it is comprehensive. Each section has examples, tips, checklists and links to learn more. The intention of the toolkit is for public service planning, training and informing contractors. But of course, it works for anyone who is communicating with the public. 

Another great resource from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland. Interesting to note that they have chosen colours for the cover and their logo that almost everyone can see – that includes people with colour vision deficiency.

Diversity, Design and Usability

An infographic wheel with Designing for Diversity at the hub, and the different factors mentioned in the text around the hub.The term Diversity is often thought of as a cultural thing just as Accessibility is thought of as disability thing. The concept of universal design doesn’t separate these and doesn’t separate them from what’s considered mainstream. That’s the meaning of inclusion and inclusiveness. Let’s not get hung up on the words. 

Diversity covers gender, ethnicity, age, size and shape, income, education, language, culture and customs. There is no Mr or Ms Average – it’s a mythical concept. Dan Jenkins writes about diversity as inclusion for the Design Council and makes this observation;

“Often, it’s a perceived efficiency-thoroughness trade off – a variant of the 80:20 rule, that crudely suggests that you can get it right for 80% of the people for 20% of the effort, while it takes a further 80% of the effort to get it right for the remaining 20%. However, much of the time it is simply that the designers haven’t thought enough about the diversity of the people who wish to interact with the product that they are designing, often because it’s not in the culture of the company.”

Similarly to Kat Holmes, Jenkins says to think of capability on three levels:

1.    Permanent (e.g. having one arm)
2.    Temporary (e.g. an arm injury)
3.    Situational (e.g. holding a small child)

“The market for people with one arm is relatively small, however, a product that can be used by people carrying a small child (or using one of their arms Infographic wheel with Usability in the centre. The next ring has three factors: Sensory, Physical and Cognitive. The outer rim expands on these three aspect.for another task) is much larger. As such, designing for the smaller market of permanent exclusions is often a very effective way of developing products that make the lives of a much wider group of customers more flexible, efficient and enjoyable.”

Jenkins reminds us that all our capabilities will be challenged eventually, either permanently or temporarily. That’s why designers need to think of the one arm analogy in their design thinking. Excellent easy read article from the Design Council. Infographics are taken from the article.

Much of Jenkins’ content is similar to Kat Holmes material and the Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit. There are three articles on this website that feature Kat Holmes:

Typewriters: A device for vision loss.

What does inclusion actually mean?  

What is the meaning of inclusion in inclusive technology?  

Also her book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design,

Meet the Normals: Adventures in Universal Design

Stick figures represent the family members. The video is in black and white. This is one frame from it.Having trouble convincing others that universal design is for everyone and not ‘disabled’ design’?  A 6 minute video shown below takes you through an everyday family activity of leaving the house and catching a bus. It goes through the process of how to design for everyone. “For many of us we don’t think twice about how we use technology, travel, move in and out of buildings or use the web…” The video explains how universal design is good design for everyone.

The video was produced by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland. It is a good example of both closed captions and audio descriptions. 


Innovative Solutions with UD

Long view of the inside of an airport building.Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access – IDeA, advocates for socially responsible design to be standard practice. IDeA claim that adoption of UD has been hindered by a lack of detailed guidelines and gaps in training for designers and builders. This is where their Innovative Solutions for Universal Design project, or isUD comes in.

The short video below begins with the basics of universal design and why designs should be inclusive. It then invites viewers to check out over 500 solutions in their online program. The nine chapters based on the 8 goals of universal design cover: design process; space clearances; circulation; environment quality; site; rooms and spaces; furnishings and equipment; services; and policies. The focus is on public and commercial buildings. IDEA, is a research-based organisation based at State University of New York, Buffalo.