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.


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 in Europe 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.


Inclusive tourism starts with information

Hotel bedroom with polished floors, orange and red pillows on a couch and textured wallpaperWill the hotel room be suitable? What’s the accessibility of public transport like? Will any shops and restaurants be accessible? The answers to these sorts of questions will dictate where people with disability, older people and their families will take a vacation or have a day out. Too much inconvenience and frustration will turn them away. And this includes not being able to find the relevant information on the destination websites. Probono Australia interviewed Lonely Planet’s accessible travel manager, Martin Heng, who has more to say on this in “Making Tourism More Inclusive For All”.

The Victorian Opposition party has announced their policy on Accessible Tourism in the lead up to next month’s state election. Bill Forrester writes about this on his blog and points out the level of missed business in the tourism market. 

Both articles point to the lost business of tourism operators by not considering the high number of people with disability who travel alone and in groups. 


Learning about Standards and Universal Design

view from the back of a university lecture theatre where students are seated listening to a lecture.It is assumed that students in design disciplines, such as engineering, automatically learn about standards and how they are developed. According to an article by Jenny Darzentas this is not the case. The way standards are developed and written makes them difficult to understand and apply. Too much emphasis is placed on “learning on the job”. Darzentas says that “education about standardisation would be beneficial in Universal Design courses for design students … especially in Europe and North America. This is in contrast to countries such as Japan, Korea and China (JKC) where courses on standardisation education are routinely found in their universities”. The title of the article is “Educating Students About Standardisation Relating to Universal Design”.

Access to standards documents is not usually discussed as a barrier to accessibility and universal design, but this article draws attention to the need for people not only access the documents easily, but also those documents should provide information in a way that is easy to access. An argument for standards to follow the concepts of universal design?

Abstract: Standardisation education is rarely taught to students in the design disciplines in academic settings, and consequently there is not much evidence about best practices. This paper examines this situation, and elaborates on some of the possible reasons for this situation. Further, it gives an example of how students may be instructed and encouraged to further their interests in standards and the standardization-making process as a means for increasing Universal Design in practice.

This article comes from the published papers from the 2016 Universal Design Conference held in York, UK, which are open access.


Home life is changing fast

A family room with a couch, cushions and a throw.A lot of people don’t feel “at home”, at home according research carried out by IKEA. This company has a vested interest in looking ahead to plan for customer needs and aspirations. So it was a surprise to find that a significant proportion of people, according to their worldwide research, don’t feel at home, at home. There could be many factors for this, but perhaps, in Australia, given we haven’t really significantly changed the basic design of homes for 100 years, could design be part of the story? Home purchasers only have the choices they are given by designers whether an apartment or a free-standing house – unless you can afford a architectural bespoke home. And these choices are mainly around cosmetic features. Time to re-think the way we live in 21st century, and the way our lives are impacted by home design and new technologies. A touch of universal design thinking might help – it is underpinned by being user-centric. See the article from the FastCo website for the overview of the findings and links to the IKEA report.  A fascinating read.


The sound of one hand clapping?

Large crowd clapping and cheering at a nighttime concertHere’s the dilemma. An audience clapping enthusiastically is seen as a good thing. But what if the sound has an adverse effect on people with autism or others who are neurodiverse? A UK university student union has banned clapping and introduced the sign language equivalent of applause –  the soundless “jazz hands” movement – for meetings and events. But what about people who are blind? Another opportunity for some creative thinking to find a way to include everyone. Perhaps some form of technology can help solve this problem too. See the article and video from BBC News to see what you think.  


Social factors and accessibility

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsAs our world becomes increasingly digitised, it’s important to ensure that no-one is left behind. However, it seems that influencing designers’ actual practice remains challenging. Design for Social Accessibility is an approach that encourages designers to focus on social as well as functional factors in their design. Researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Washington used workshops and brainstorming with designers to bring about a change in their attitudes, and to see the effectiveness of the Design for Social Accessibility approach. Their article, Incorporating Social Factors in Accessible Design, is lengthy because it includes quotes from workshop participants and is very thorough in its reporting. They conclude, “Accessible design is not an impossible challenge; instead, is within reach for professional designers, if given appropriate tools and resources. We offer Design for Social Accessibility as one such tool that designers can use to include disabled and non-disabled users and complex social and functional consideration toward accessible solutions. Designing technologies for people with disability does not exclude non-disabled people. The focus of this study is on people with vision impairment. Social accessibility relates to the social factors of using a device or product not just functional aspects.

Abstract: Personal technologies are rarely designed to be accessible to disabled people, partly due to the perceived challenge of including disability in design. Through design workshops, we addressed this challenge by infusing user-centered design activities with Design for Social Accessibility—a perspective emphasizing social aspects of accessibility—to investigate how professional designers can leverage social
factors to include accessibility in design. We focused on how professional designers incorporated Design for Social Accessibility’s three tenets: (1) to work with users with and without visual impairments; (2) to consider social and functional factors; (3) to employ tools—a framework and method cards—to raise awareness and prompt reflection on social aspects toward accessible design. We then interviewed designers about their workshop experiences. We found DSA to be an effective set of tools and strategies incorporating social/functional and non/disabled perspectives that helped designers create accessible design.


An real close shave

An older man is being shaved by a younger man.How hard can it be to give a man a shave? Actually, it’s quite hard because razors are designed for self-shaving, not someone else doing the job. This is one time where specialist design is required – a razor for people who have the job of shaving others. Gillette fuses a razor blade with a tube of shaving gel to give shavers more control while keeping the mess to a minimum. For more on this novel idea, and how it was developed, see the FastCo article by Katherine Schwab and the video below.



Architecture and Accessibility Podcast

Panelists sit in chairs on the podium holding microphones.North Sydney Community Centre hosted a panel event for the Sydney Architecture Festival last month. I was honoured to be part of this panel along with access consultant Mark Relf and architect Philip Graus. Each panel member gave a short presentation before engaging in a conversation led by Fenella Kernebone. North Sydney Community Centre has compiled podcasts of each of the presentations and the panel conversation.

The key point of my presentation was that universal design is about the ones we love. (5 mins)

Mark Relf covered some of the history of how accessibility compliance in the built environment has evolved. (16 mins)

And Philip Graus used pictures to illustrate his point about how design should make people feel welcome. (6 mins)

The panel conversation ranged over several topics including housing. This was also a topic of particular interest to the audience in their questions from the floor. (30 mins)

The North Sydney Community Centre webpage has all the podcasts listed including the questions from the audience, and the biographies of panelists. The picture shows left to right, Jane Bringolf, Mark Relf, Philip Graus and Fenella Kernebone.

Jane Bringolf, Editor


ATSA Independent Living Expo 2019

Advertising banner for ATSA independent living expos in Sydney and BrisbaneSponsored Content. Australia’s premier assistive technology, daily living aids and equipment show will be back and bigger than ever in 2019!  One of the most comprehensive events for people with disability, older people, allied health professionals, rehabilitation providers and the public, the ATSA Independent Living Expo will take place in Sydney on 8-9 May, Brisbane on 15-16 May, and in Canberra on 27-28 August as part of iCREATe conference.

The expos are set to bring together a number of assistive technology providers and suppliers under the one roof to showcase the latest equipment and services for the disability sector. A key feature of the expo is the free conference program, which is held in rooms conveniently located next to the exhibition floor. The program provides an excellent opportunity for allied health professionals, including occupational therapists and physiotherapists, to broaden their practical and theoretical learning. Seats are expected to book out well in advance of the event.

ATSA Independent Living Expo is open to visitors of all ages, including those with a disability, older people and their families, friends, therapists and carers. For more information, visit www.atsaindependentlivingexpo.com.au.  

This post is sponsored content.


Building for Everyone – a guide

Front cover of the guide.Building for Everyone: A Universal Design Approach is an extensive guidebook for the external built environment. At 100 pages this publication from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland is comprehensive. It covers siting, car parking, pedestrian environments, construction sites, and footpaths. At the end of each section is a checklist for reference. There is an appendix of Human Abilities and Design which lists and explains physical, sensory and intellectual abilities, and age and size. This guide is one of ten published by the Centre. The good aspect of these guides is the perspective of a universal design approach rather than proposing prescriptive design parameters.