Universal Design: New York

Front cover is grey with the title. This handbook edited by Danise Levine was published in 2003 by the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access,  University at Buffalo. It provides guidance for all aspects of an urban environment as well as temporary lodging, workplace facilities and human service facilities.  It also lists seven myths about universal design and shows how they are just myths:

1. There are only a small number of people who benefit
2. Universal design only helps people with disability and older people
3. Legislation for disability rights have created equality, so no need to do more
4. Improved medical technology is reducing the incidence of functional limitation
5. Universal design cannot sustain itself in the marketplace because the people who need it most cannot afford it
6. Universal design is simply good ergonomic design
7. Universal design cost even more than accessible design
Download Universal Design: New York pdf

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Inclusion, Human Rights and the Market

Graphic with four circles: one each for exclusion, separation, integration and inclusion.How can we attain our rights within a market-based economy, when those who do not experience social and economic exclusion have the the power of the market in their hands? From this comes the notion that “you can have your human rights if you can pay for them”. So it seems we have to be pragmatic about human rights in a market-based economy. That in turn means rights get enacted only after a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out and “the excluded” are assessed as being “affordable”. To gain rights, “the excluded” need to bring a benefit to the negotiating table. For more on this discussion, see Jane Bringolf’s speech notes from the 2014 Brisbane Housing Forum. It includes an explanation of Mutual Advantage Theory by Lawrence Becker. In Western societies, justice and fairness are not inalienable rights, but a negotiated process based on mutual advantage.

Speech notes PDF document Housing Forum Brisbane 2014  

Speech notes Word document Housing Forum Brisbane 2014  

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Norway universally designed by 2025 – Update

Top half of the front cover of the plan. The graphic is various shades of blue with a woman operating an automatic teller machineThe Norwegian Government has taken the principles of universal design and applied them across all policies to create maximum inclusion. This has the effect of making everyone responsible for inclusion at every level – in the built environment, outdoor areas, transport, and ICT. In 2008, the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, launched its first Action Plan 2009-2013, which sets the goal of Norway being universally designed by 2025. In 2010, Norway amended its Planning and Building Act to include universal Picture of the front cover of the Norwegian Action Plandesign. In 2016, The Delta Centre was given responsibility, and funding, to coordinate the actions in the 2015-2019 plan. This plan is more comprehensive and covers ICT and communications to a more detailed level. This is in recognition of how we are becoming more reliant on digital applications.

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Getting in the door: the public interest in the design of private housing

Margaret Ward presented the inaugural Robert Jones Memorial Oration in Brisbane in 2014.  She recounts the life of Robert Jones and his dream to make public spaces and places accessible to everyone.  Margaret challenges popular assumptions about how accessible housing will be achieved using the evidence from her PhD study on the private housing market.

Download the pdf version: Margaret Ward Robert Jones Memorial Lecture 2014,

Download the Word version: Margaret Ward Robert Jones Memorial Lecture 2014

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7 Principles of universal design

ron_maceThe seven principles of universal design were devised in the mid nineties, but still hold today. They remain a good reference point or framework for designing any building, open space, product, phone app, or document. They were developed by a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers led by the late Ron Mace (pictured).

A good example of explaining the principles can be found on the website of the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland. Briefly the principles are:

  1. Equitable Use
  2. Flexibility in Use
  3. Simple and Intuitive to Use
  4. Perceptible Information
  5. Tolerance for Error
  6. Low Physical Effort
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use

An update to this list was published in 2012 by Steinfeld and Maisel as the 8 Goals of Universal Design. They are more action based than the principles, and include cultural inclusion.

In 2006 Steinfeld and Danford also ‘crosswalked’ the principles to the ICF – a handy reference for academics utilising the ICF for activities and participation.

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Inclusive Design Toolkit

The Inclusive Design Toolkit. This page link takes you to the section on user capabilities that need to be considered when designing products. It shows how many potential purchasers are left out by not considering universal design principles. Good information is available on other parts of the website as well.

The Toolkit was devised by the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge (UK) – hence the use of “inclusive” and not “universal” design.

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What is Universal Design?

Picture of Berrigan Library Building“Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples’ needs. Simply put, universal design is good design” (from the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design) .

“UD is an increasingly important feature of nations states seeking to develop a fairer society for people unable to access and use, with ease, the designed environment. It is based on the premise that the design of products and environments ought to ‘be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design’ (Mace, 1988: 1).” (From Universalising Design website)

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