Beyond the city

A tree-lined walkway with a wide grey path with a gravel edging. there is grass on either side.Because so many of us live in major cities, it is easy to forget regional and rural communities and their need to plan and create communities that are healthy and accessible for everyone. Town centres have footpaths, but these often disappear in the residential areas, or are patchy at best. Or they are shared cycling and pedestrian walkways – a design strategy that is not suited to everyone, particularly older people. Distances to services and shops mean the car is essential. Susan Thompson discusses built environment issues in rural areas in her article, Beyond the city – healthy built environments in regional and rural localities. She says, “Healthy planning is about supporting the wellbeing of all people, no matter where they live, their age, physical and mental abilities, and irrespective of their socio-economic status” The article also refers to case studies that provide some good ideas for creating communities where people can be active and feel that they belong.

The article comes from the UNSW City Futures blog page.

No fine print: Small business and ICT

Front cover of the guide with two men and one woman with a pair of hands on a computer keyboard in the foregroundThere are many resources and articles that remind us of the economic value of including people with disability and older people. Each person with disability can influence the spending decisions of another 12 to 15 people who are colleagues, family members, business owners and other service providers. Making products, services and buildings accessible is only part of the job of inclusive business. The task is completed by creating promotional materials, websites, telephone systems and customer services usable by all. The Accessible Information and Communication: A Guide for Small Business was developed by a consortium in Canada. It provides tools for small business operators to help create accessible information and promotional materials. There are checklists to help assess the current situation, some thoughts on organisational commitment and employee training, and some technical information about accessible formats. It also includes an example of an Information and Communications Accessibility Plan and implementation strategies. This is a detailed document that covers all aspects of information and communication. There is no place for “fine print”. The guide was developed in Canada by GAATES* but the content is applicable anywhere. There is also a web-based version of the document.

* Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES). 

Smart Grid and the Internet of Things

Graphic showing silhouetted city outline showing links to homes, factories, offices, transport and other city servicesSmart cities is the new buzzword. But what does that mean? Is universal design considered smart? Darren Bates writes on his blog site that accessibility is a key aspect of a smart city. He covers transportation, community space, playgrounds, city culture, and smart apps. Although he hasn’t discovered anything new, it is good to see the message getting out in mainstream content and linked with innovation. You can read his article on smart cities built for everyone.



Flexibility and adaptability in housing design

a blue glowing house icon is held in the handsThe house is an eco-system, not just a building. This is what Hassan Estaji proposes in  A Review of Flexibility and Adaptability in Housing Design. The author discusses terminology, some history, and different approaches taken by various architects over time. “House as an eco-system consists of three main parts: Environment, users and system (building).” The article concludes with a useful table of definitions of flexibility and adaptability (accessibility and universal design) in housing design from across the globe. 

From the abstract: “This paper presents a comprehensive review of all significant research about flexibility and adaptability in architecture with particular focus on housing design. A summary of different
definitions from different points of view is given. A matrix compares these definitions from social, economical and environmental aspects. In the analysis part, strengths, weaknesses and limitations of each study are compared with other researches.”

The article is featured in the International Journal of Contemporary Architecture ”The New ARCH“ Vol. 4, No. 2 (2017)

Better world with Google Maps

A cartoon drawing with figures with wheels - wheelchair, wheelie walker and a woman pushing a baby strollerSmart phones have changed many things about the way we live.There are apps for almost anything. Some are of particular benefit to people with disability and create greater convenience and independence. Smart phone owners will be familiar with Google Maps for navigating both short and long distances. The maps also contain additional information about parking, places to eat, toilets, and more. For people with wheels, knowing the level of accessibility is critical to their journey and destination planning, whether its a holiday or a local restaurant. Google is encouraging people to sign up to their mapping project that will expand their database of accessible places, spaces and points of interest. You can find out more about this project and see two really interesting videos. One is a wheelchair user in Chicago, and the other is in Indonesia – she uses a modified motor bike to get around. There is also a short introductory video with the key points.

Of course, parents with strollers or anyone with wheels, or with difficulty walking will find this map information useful, so this is taking us closer to a universally designed world. 

Tehran seeks social sustainability through UD

A distance view of the city of Tehran showing high rise buildings and mountains in the backgroundIn spite of the number of people injured in the Iran-Iraq war, and legislation for accessibility, urban spaces in Tehran still have a long way to go. Hence this article outlining research on finding solutions for increasing access in the built environment. The research asks: What is causing inefficiency in the regulation of universal design, why is social participation by people with disabilities limited, and which factors are contributing to universal design? It seems the issues are worldwide regardless of whether the population is affected by war or not. The abstract of the article, Universal Design and Social Sustainability in the City: The Case Study of Tehran Iran, follows:

Following the proposal of Universal Design in 1974, a public society was founded in Iran in 1981, in order to aid the disabled victims of the Iran-Iraq war. Official authorities have also made legislation on this topic. During the last three decades many efforts have been made to apply this concept in public spaces. Unfortunately these have not succeeded. It means despite the existence of inherent rules and regulations and the general will to apply the principles of Universal Design in Tehran, urban spaces are still an improper environment for the independent presence and movement of people with disabilities. This problem is considered a serious threat for social sustainability in Tehran.
The main goal of this research is finding solutions for increasing social interaction and greater participation of people with disabilities in public spaces by applying Universal Design. The research is seeking to answer these questions: What is causing inefficiency in the regulation of Universal Design in Tehran? Why is social participation by people with disabilities limited in Tehran? Which factors are contributing to Universal Design in Tehran? The research is based on applied theory, field research methods and a mixed qualitative–quantitative approach. In addition, and the results include both empirical and functional solutions.
The consequences show that many of problems are rooted in cultural issues. The people must attend to disability as a public concern which can involve everybody. They must comprehend that all the members of the society, regardless of their physical condition, have the right to use public facilities independently. The second problem is related to lack of any integrated approach to applying Universal Design. This research proposes some solutions such as preparation a Universal Design master plan, an integrated approach for implementation project in all organizations, and public education for improving citizens’ knowledge about Universal Design.

The article is from the conference proceedings of: Universal Design 2016, Learning from the Past – Desiging for the Future. 


Designers! – A Call for Papers

Logo for the conference in bright pink with white wavy lines and white text for the call for papersThe Design Research Society is a global multi-disciplinary research community. Their next conference is set for 25-28 June 2018 in Limerick, Ireland. There is an inclusive design track: Designing for Diversity; Inclusive Design as a catalyst for change?  The call for papers seeks to go beyond disability, ageing and physical accessibility to include fields that have not previously received much attention, for example, neurodiversity, mental health, and obesity. The call for full papers closes 6 November 2017. There is also a call for workshops.

The conference home page says “Design shapes are daily lives, influencing how we interact with each other and with our environment. When at its best, design is a powerful catalyst for change. DRS2018 Limerick, invites designers to explore these relationships across an exciting four day conference from 25th-28th June 2018”.

Editor’s note: The next major International Universal Design Conference will be held 30 November to 2 December 2018 in Ireland (probably Dublin). More information to come shortly. This conference follows the one in 2016 in Lund, Sweden. The 3rd Australian Universal Design Conference will be held in Brisbane between late August and mid September 2018 – planning is well under way.