Get me out of here!

A man in a red pullover, and a woman with a white jacket stand in front of a door that has a way out sign on it.How useful is a “way out” sign? It depends on where you are and what your spatial abilities are at the time. For people with dementia it can be a real issue in places where toilets are placed down corridors away from the shopping mall or supermarket. This issue was highlighted earlier this year when a man with dementia died in a stairwell because he lost his way. Due to auto door locks in the stairwell he couldn’t get out. Sainsbury’s supermarkets in the UK have toilets within the store. They are now installing “way out” signs to guide people back to the store. They are also making them more friendly for people with a stoma. Having a toilet within the store is also good for all customers. If you need to go quickly you don’t have to abandon your trolley. We could do with more in-store toilets in Australia, especially when they are not within a larger shopping mall.

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Tactile models popular with everyone

A metal model showing a town layout in relief with Braille on buildings and streets. There is a church and lots of houses and a town square represented.Tactile models of buildings and spaces are made with blind people in mind to help them orientate in unfamiliar surroundings. Many are found in tourist destinations where they can also provide information about the building or space itself. It turns out that sighted people like to use them and touch them too. While this can cause some problems with inappropriate use, there is another, unexpected up side. The author argues that tactile models may become a “completely valuable, universal tool for learning and a great way of studying architecture in an alternative way”. The article reports on a study of this perspective of tactile models. This is another example that highlights the idea that so-called “designing for the disabled” is in fact, designing for everyone. The title of the article is Tactile Architectural Models as Universal ‘Urban Furniture’(“Furniture” is a bit misleading in this title).  

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Keeping everyone active in urban space

landscape view of tower buildings in the distance and green parkland in the foregroundNew ideas are evolving on ways to activate public space. Formal and informal spaces are discussed in Activating Public Space: How to Promote Physical Activity in Urban Environments by Malgorzata Kostrzewska. Examples used are from Australia, UK, and Poland. In the latter part of the article the author discusses design ideas for activating space. Controversially, the she says design should be based on tolerance rather than exclusion of unwanted behaviours, “Instead of introducing numerous prohibitive signs (against skateboarding, parkour, ball games, etc.), it is better to seek a compromise concerning terms of use of the space specified by all the stakeholders in the course of workshop meetings and their participation in the design process. The compromise solutions already in existence (e.g. in Warsaw) confirm that if all the parties acknowledge their respective needs, they will understand and respect each other.” The conclusion section lists the most important spatial features to consider in any urban design.    

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Some Light Relief

The portable toilet has an exterior design of Victorian beach huts. Brightly coloured. They are low to the ground and can be made accessible with addition ramping to overcome the little step. They are placed on a green field.When you gotta go, you gotta go. To make this event more interesting we now we have international toilet tourism awards. These toilets are not just functional, they are interesting too. However, not sure if all are accessible judging by the comments. You can read more about each of the winners and the judges comments in the different categories. Queensland, Northern Territory, New South Wales, and Victoria all have winners. Toowoomba’s portable toilet took out the main prize. Other winners are from the USA and New Zealand. And yes, there is such a thing as World Toilet Day.  Get your toilet nomination ready for next year’s awards – let’s see some creative and accessible toilets as winners!. Submissions open next February.   

The winning entry looks like an old farm shed. Outside there is a wooden fence rail like you see in the Western movies, with all sorts of farm clutter around. The entry door looks accessible but there is no information about the inside design.

 

The toilet pictured above as beach huts is one in the Toowoomba Portable Toilet range, and the one to the left depicting a rustic theme is the overall winner for 2017.

 

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Less is more on websites

A computer screen advertising the Jaws for Windows screen reading software.A study of blind users of websites has found that getting straight to the point is better for finding relevant information. Isn’t this a good criteria for everyone? With so much of our lives dependent on digital delivery methods, is it time for writers to carefully edit their work, and for web designers to minimise graphics? The article, Web accessibility: Filtering redundant and irrelevant information improves website usability for blind users, reports on a study of blind users and screen readers. As with captioning for people who are deaf, it is likely that considering blind users will also have benefits for many others. You will need institutional access for a free read.

Abstract: Accessibility norms for the Web are based on the principle that everybody should have access to the same information. Applying these norms enables the oralization of all visual information by screen readers used by people with blindness. However, compliance with accessibility norms does not guarantee that users with blindness can reach their goals with a reasonable amount of time and effort. To improve website usability, it is necessary to take into account the specific needs of users. A previous study revealed that a major need for users with blindness is to quickly reach the information relevant to the task, by filtering redundant and irrelevant information. We conducted three experiments in which seventy-six participants with blindness performed tasks on websites which filtered or not irrelevant and redundant information. Cognitive load was assessed using the dual-task paradigm and the NASA-RTLX questionnaire. The results showed a substantial benefit for information filtering regarding participants’ cognitive load, performance, and satisfaction. Thus, this study provides cogent arguments for improving usability of websites by information filtering for users with blindness.

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Taking off at Brisbane Airport

A man and two women stand in front of the toilet. In front of them is a green ribbon. The woman in the middle is about to cut the ribbon.Knowing a Changing Places toilet is available at Brisbane airport means that some travellers will deliberately break their journey here to use the facilities. The facility is so well used a second is planned for Brisbane’s International Terminal. This facility removes a major barrier to travel for people with disability, their family members and companions. The picture shows the ribbon cutting at the opening of the facility. Brisbane Airport also caters for assistance animals in both terminals. Other travel and journey improvements include:

  • In collaboration with QUT-based Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration: Carers and Consumers (DCRC-CC) developing a step by step guide – Ensuring a Smooth Journey: A Guide to Brisbane Airport for people living with Dementia and their Travel Companions – an action plan and resources kit for airport staff to improve the experience of air travel for people with dementia. Through this program Brisbane Airport was the first airport in Australia to be recognised by Alzheimer’s Australia as an approved Dementia Friendly organisation.
  • Development of Brisbane Airport’s Accessibility Journey Planner which is due for release later this year
  • Completion of an Access Audit Program across both terminals by an accredited access consultant who provided recommendations.
  • Completion of a number of accessibility remediation projects including upgrading of public stairs, Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI’s) to escalators and travelators, lift upgrades and way-finding.
  • Australia’s first dedicated airport Assistance Animals ‘bathrooms’ were opened in 2014 in the International and Domestic Terminals.

 

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Universal Design at Work

five young people in the picture, two men, three women. Three are sitting on couches, and two stand behind. They look like they are having a discussion. Four are white, there is one black woman.The principles of universal design can be applied to the workplace as well as the built environment. Some of the basics are covered in Sean McEwen’s slide presentation, “Workplace Diversity Strategies: Utilizing Universal Design to Build an Inclusive Organization” such as: 

Physical accessibility (ramps, ergonomics, work stations)   
Systemic accessibility (protocols, polices, flexibility)
Leadership / Interactional Competencies (cultural agility, EQ)
Work Culture Accessibility (inclusive, employee well being etc)

The presentation addresses the question, “How do we intentionally design recruitment and onboarding protocols and workplace cultures that work for everyone?” It covers cultural agility, micro inequities, wellbeing at work, and strategies for building an inclusive team, among other topics. There is also an employment toolkit with various sections that can be downloaded. While the focus of this web tool is on people with disability, the principles can be applied to any group that is considered part of population diversity. This resource comes from Canada.

For an Australian perspective on similar issues, see the Australian Network on Disability (AND). They specialise in creating disability competent organisations and businesses. 

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