A recent in-depth study from UK on wheelchair users reveals that in spite of legislation to improve accessibility, designers are still providing a bare minimum without regard to functionality for wheelchair users. One aim of the study was to find out the problems wheelchair users encounter in the built environment. Unexpectedly, they also found that wheelchair users were critical of their wheelchair saying the design could be improved. The title of the article is, “An Inclusive Design Study of Wheelchair Users in the Built Environment” published in the Journal of Engineering and Architecture, Tom Page & Gisli Thorsteinsson.
Abstract: The aim of this study is to determine the problems wheelchair users face in the built environment and why these problems have not been resolved. The study considered the role of the designer in creating an inclusively designed built environment. The literature review finds that there are many designers that support inclusive design, but also some that do not. The government has enforced many directives and legislation, but this is often met by designers using the bare minimum required and does not solve the issues that wheelchair users face. The empirical research then moves on to finding answers to research questions that were not found during the literature review. Two online questionnaires were used in order to gain qualitative and quantitative results from 45 wheelchair users and 54 designers. The results are analysed through the use of charts, and then the results are discussed. The designers are found to be in support of designing for wheelchair users, but often feel that if they do the revenue potential of their design will be affected. The study concludes that wheelchair users’ problems are a combination of the poorly designed built environment and the wheelchair they use.
The 2015 edition of the Dementia Friendly Community Environmental Assessment Tool provides a relatively simple checklist that takes in many of the regular aspects of accessibility overlaid with design thought for people with dementia. A good place to start your thinking. The more recent online resource from Dementia Training Australia expands on the 2015 edition and goes into more detail. Sections can be downloaded separately. There are three parts in the handbook:
- Part 1 ‘Key Design Principles’ contains a description of key design principles.
- Part 2 ‘The Dementia Friendly Community – Environmental Assessment Tool (DFC-EAT)’ introduces the DFC-EAT and provides directions for its use.
- Part 3 ‘Using the Spreadsheet’ contains a guide to scoring the DFC-EAT and showing the results graphically.
Worried that a driverless car won’t see or detect you? With a driver you can check to see if they are looking your way, but if there is no driver, that can be a worry. Autonomous vehicles are posing many problems for designers who are grappling with most of them quite successfully. So for this problem Jaguar has come up with a car with googly eyes. The “eyes” don’t “see” you, but it can give confidence that you have been detected because the eyes follow you as you cross the pedestrian crossing. I should think that once we get used to automated vehicles, eventually eyes will be phased out. Amy Child from Arup gave an entertaining presentation on this and other aspects of the move to driverless cars, including the googly eyes. The transcript of Amy’s keynote presentation can be downloaded in Word.
Three presentations focused on universally designed and accessible housing and discuss the need for regulation in the building code.
Margaret Ward tells the story from the perspective of Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) and their advocacy and lobbying for regulation. Universal design in all new housing: Keeping COAG to account (PDF 13MB). Transcript of the presentation in Word.
Courtney Wright reports on a survey about accessible housing and attitudes to regulation, costs and benefits to Australian society. Building all new homes to an agreed universal design standard: Understanding the perceived costs and benefits to Australian society. (PDF 500kb). Transcript of the presentation in Word.
Penny Galbraith gives a policy perspective and links it to Population, Participation and Productivity. She provides some interesting facts and figures including how costs can be designed out. Home Coming? A story of reassurance, opportunity and hope. (PDF 1MB). Transcript of the presentation in Word.
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Three papers from the latest issue of International Journal of Architecture and Planning address universal design. Once you scroll through the usual context-setting paragraphs on the principles of UD, the research itself has something to offer.
Disability and Otherization: Readings on Cinema in The Light of UD Principles. The study is about the relationship between architecture and disability in cinema, and how it is portrayed. Using 6 well-known films that include othering, the researchers apply the 7 principles of UD to analyse how disability is portrayed. Interesting way of dissecting societal attitudes and how such films might impact on social attitudes perhaps reinforcing prejudices.
User-Involved Universal Design Experience in the Space, Product and Service Development Process, concludes that universal design is about multiple users regardless of the design discipline. The aim was to encourage students to design beyond specialised “disability products” and to integrate a wide spectrum of users.
Public Space and Accessibility examines pedestrian ways including ramps. Specific dimensions make this a guide largely for wheelchair access. Car parking and bus stops are also covered. The article reports on a workshop they ran on UD. It ends with the note that other disabilities including cognitive diversity now need to be considered. Perhaps of most interest to access consultants to compare with Australian standards.
There are three Universal Principles of User Experience Design according to Christopher Murphy in an Adobe blog. They are: Visual Grammar, Language and Typology, and Narrative Design. Understanding of other principles from psychology, anthropology and economcs can be overlaid on these principles. As new technologies are imagined and invented they create problems that have never been solved before. Murphy argues that if you keep the the principles in mind at all times, the solutions stand a better chance of standing the test of time. The article goes on to explain the three principles in more details. For people who are not involved in ICT some of the ideas and strategies are still relevant to other design disciplines – graphics are used in lots of places.
“As designers working in an ever-changing field, it’s important that we develop an understanding of the timeless design principles that underpin everything we do.” The three principles, “…which should sit at the heart of everything we design and build, are critical and will stand the test of time.”
With the upcoming ABCB Options Paper for Accessible Housing about to be released, the South Australian Housing Trust Housing Design Guidelines. are worth a visit. It points out that the Adaptable Housing Standard (AS4299) is now outdated and can be replaced by the Livable Housing Design Guidelines as both of these are voluntary. There are detailed drawings to show dimensions of circulation spaces and placement of fixtures and fittings.
With more than 120 attendees, five countries present and five Australian states represented, it was a very successful Australian Universal Design Conference. The atmosphere was abuzz with like-minded colleagues catching up and new friendships forming. We were welcomed by Meaghan Scanlon, Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development, and Neroli Holmes, Acting Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. The conference opened with Nicki Hutley, who gave us the benefit of her years of research and declared that everyone benefits from inclusion both economically and socially. Lots to think about when it comes to self driving cars and Amy Child covered some of the many aspects to consider. Here are some of the slides from concurrent session speakers on day one – more to come next newsletter:
Thea Kurdi from Canada – Living in Place:Who are we designing for?
Lorraine Guthrie from New Zealand – Accessibility Charter for Canterbury: Collaborating to go beyone compliance
Michael Small – Developing the conditions to support a universal design approach
Emily Steel – Universal Design in social policy: Addressing the paradox of equality
Tom Bevan – Case Study: Accessible beaches for all.
Elise Copeland from New Zealand – A universal design tool for mixed use buildings. Slideshow was too big to upload but the transcript is provided plus the video below. You can go to the Auckland website to see the UD Design Tool.
Richard Duncan reminds us of design features that we never think of as having a specific design label such as “accessible”. For example, how would supermarket shoppers manage without automatic doors? These doors are everywhere and we don’t think twice about it. But more to the point, we probably do notice any door that doesn’t open automatically when our hands are full or we are pushing a trolley or stroller. That’s when universal design becomes visible – when it’s not there. When it comes to doors, the worst offenders are revolving doors and that is why many building codes require a separate door for people who cannot navigate the revolving contraption. Other devices we don’t think about are beeping noises at traffic lights. As more people have their heads down looking at their phones, this device designed for people who are blind has become good for many more. Lever handles and taps are now the norm because they are useable by everyone and probably more hygienic. Video captioning has also become a favourite for everyone watching social media on smart phones. Richard Duncan’s article, Hidden Universal Design: Commercial doors, is on his Linked In page.