Panel session: Economics of Inclusion

Ro Coroneos head and shoulder shotThe conference ended with a panel session discussing the economics of inclusion. Ro Coroneos from Lendlease explained the process they used for Barangaroo South, a major development on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour. Working with Australian Network on Disability they consulted with a wide range of community representatives to create comfortable, convenient and attractive spaces and places in the development. Ms Coroneos said that making the place fully accessible was often in the details, such as seats with armrests and lighting in strategic places to read signs. Lendlease has produced a handbook which is being used to help other sections of Lendlease improve their design processes. Ms Coroneos said it makes good business sense to attract and keep as many people as possible in the precinct – it’s not just about people with disability themselves, it is also about the friends and family who accompany them on outings.

sally coddingtonSally Coddington advises businesses on ways to attract and retain customers by being disability friendly. She regularly counters the argument that the number of people with disability is small, “People say that 20% of Australians identifying as having a disability is a small market. I don’t call that small”, she said. By the time you add in the rest of the family, or friends in a group, you are looking at more like 50% to 60% of the population. Strategies based on universal design stimulate business growth, enhance customer loyalty, generate goodwill and improve profit.

Kelly VincentThe Hon Kelly Vincent expressed her frustration about how others keep saying that inclusion and universal design costs too much. No-one talks about the costs of NOT designing for inclusion. There are knock-on effects to health and well-being, let alone the convenience for everyone of getting out and about. And it is not just about the built environment, inclusive customer service still has a long way to go. Kelly’s aim is to do herself out of a job – she looks forward to the day when having a disability “is not a full time job”.

paul-nunnari-2aPaul Nunnari began his presentation with the great UK advertisement promoting the Paralympic Games in Rio; Yes I Can:  We are the Superheros. The full length video clip shows people playing musical instruments, participating in track and field events, swimming, dancing, singing, and generally doing many things most people would be unable to think about, let alone attempt. As the inclusive events manager for the NSW Dept of Premier and Cabinet, Mr Nunnari explained how NSW has improved access and inclusion for everyone in major events such as New Year’s Eve and Vivid Sydney. These events bring money to NSW, and it is essential to capture as many customers, visitors, and revellers as possible. If a wheelchair user or blind person cannot get around easily, the rest of the family will stay home too and watch it on TV.

In summary, panelists provided good arguments and evidence that ignoring 20% of the population is poor business practice and poor policy development. However, the biggest drawback is that no-one seems to be listening.

Feedback from many delegates said this session was one of the highlights of the conference.

UD Centre announced at UD Conference

Jane Bringolf announcing Centre for Universal Design Australia at the UD ConferenceI was pleased to announce the establishment of Centre for Universal Design Australia Ltd at the Universal Design Conference. This is a not-for-profit organisation with the aim of furthering the cause of universal design across Australia. 

Now we need supporters to show we have a strong following when it comes to seeking seed funding, and later, funding for projects. There are several ways you can show your support:

A reminder that a call for expressions of interest for director positions is still open until 12 September 2016. We have three directors as required to become a legal entity leaving five remaining director positions. A passion for universal design is a must, and some time to contribute. All positions are entirely voluntary – we have no money for expenses as yet. You can download the expression of interest document which provides a lot more information. 

This website will continue with voluntary effort until such time as we can gain funding to support it. I am pleased to say that in the 18 months this site has received more than 20,000 hits, has 120 newsletter subscribers, and more than 450 posts.

Jane Bringolf, Website Editor and Director of Centre for Universal Design Australia


Dementia and urban design

A street scene showing a wide footpath and a row of shops in the suburbsGuy Luscombe’s presentation at the Universal Design Conference in Sydney showcased a new toolkit he has been working on for Moonee Valley City Council. There are four components to the toolkit:

  • Getting up the street (walking)
  • Getting there and back (the journey)
  • Making walking easy (the pathway)
  • Being out and about (other assistive devices such as signage and wayfinding)

Pedestrian crossings, entrances, places to rest, toilets and lighting are all mentioned. Social and physical isolation for people with dementia and their family members is a major issue. A few small but thoughtful tweaks to designs can make a huge difference. Still being able to reach the shops should also not be forgotten – small businesses could gain from inclusive urban design.

Update: You can download the Age n’ Dem toolkit here.

Hearing and vision simulator

Picture of a coffee machine in a cafeEver wondered what it is like for someone with hearing loss trying to be part of a conversation in a restaurant? Or wondered what it is like to try and read a subway map if you have glaucoma?  Now you can check this out online using a simulator to get the idea of the way things sound and look.

Further to the development of the Inclusive Design Toolkit, the Inclusive Design Group at the University of Cambridge have come up with a simulator that covers mild, moderate and severe hearing loss in five different settings: restaurant, classical music, rock music, a ringing phone, and a station platform announcement. Similarly, the simulator includes the main vision impairments including macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. 

You can also use their Exclusion Calculator for vision, hearing, thinking, dexterity, reach and stretch and locomotion, to see how many people might be excluded if not thought about in the early stages of design. You can set the calculator for multiple capacities, such as sight, hearing, thinking and locomotion – all of which are needed to negotiate public transport, for example. A very useful tool for any designer.

Anthony Hogan gave a very informative presentation at the Universal Design Conference using examples of hearing loss. It is not the hearing loss measured by beeps in a soundproof booth that matters, it is the hearing loss that affects the ability to hear in social settings. His presentation will be available soon.

Economics of UD ICT

Front cover of publicationWhen governments and private enterprise fail to listen to social justice arguments it is often thought that economic arguments will win the day. This may be partially true if these arguments are allowed to be heard. “On Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Universal Design of ICT”, is another attempt at showing that universal design has cost benefits, particularly if you take the longer view. 

Abstract: In the ICT and IT domains, Universal Design is typically viewed as a burden and an expense, and its application is often justified only by ethics and/or legislation. Advocates for Universal Design (UD) are arguing that it is cost-effective, but so far there are few studies that document this in a detailed way. In this work, we discuss related research and studies dealing with the costs and benefits of accessible and usable ICT solutions. In particular, we discuss the findings regarding what is a universally designed solution, what is needed to make such a solution, how much does it cost, what impact can be anticipated by the extra effort, and how it can be measured. Finally, we suggest an approach for carrying out cost-benefit analyses of developing universally designed solutions. There is a weak indication that the economical benefits of UD solutions are much higher than the initial and running costs.

I think it is problematic to talk “cost-benefit” because politically it seems it has to benefit those who are not excluded. “Cost effectiveness” is a somewhat different measure with a focus on outcomes rather than outputs. Schraner et al have developed a different model using assistive technology as a case study. Jane Bringolf, Editor.

Home access improves quality of life

Kitchen with drawer storage 2According to a systematic literature review by an international research group there is a link between modifications that make people feel safe and an improved quality of life. Preventing falls and the fear of falls, not being restricted from getting around the home and out of the house all help to lift depression and improve self esteem.The research team used the WHO ICF (International classification on functioning, disability and health) as a measurement tool for measuring activities of daily living (ADL). The title of the article is, Accessible Home Environments for People with Functional Limitations: A Systematic Review

Edited Abstract: The aim of this review is to evaluate the health and social effects of accessible home environments for people with functional limitations, in order to provide evidence to promote well-informed decision making for policy guideline development and choices about public health interventions. [After assessing 94 articles] … Fourteen studies were included in the review. A narrative approach was used to synthesise the findings of the included studies due to methodological and statistical heterogeneity. Results suggest that certain interventions to enhance the accessibility of homes can have positive health and social effects. Home environments that lack accessibility modifications appropriate to the needs of their users are likely to result in people with physical impairments becoming disabled at home.
The team included members from Ireland, South Africa, Czech Republic and Northern Ireland. 
Picture shows a kitchen with easy reach drawer storage and an oven at waist height.

Bridging the exclusion gap

inclusive design toolkitThe Inclusive Design Group based at the Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge (UK) have been working over many years to find ways to demonstrate to product designers how many potential users are excluded from using, and therefore purchasing, their products. They first published the Inclusive Design Toolkit and have continued enhancing this work. Two gadgets to help designers, gloves and glasses, are now available. Using a pack of Post-it Notes as an example Sam Waller demonstrates in the video below how many people will find it impossible to remove the cellophane wrapping. A good case of including people with low vision and/or arthritis is good for everyone and increases market size.


Accessible websites: debunking the myths

Stylised picture of a group of computer monitors in various shades of blueIn a straightforward fashion Cris Broyles addresses five common myths about what you can and can’t do to make websites accessible. So no, they don’t have to be boring with just plain text and no images. Yes, you can use images, videos, and audio clips. And no, it is not enough to ask a blind friend to check the website. And it doesn’t have to be difficult – with the right resources it can be done. 

Hearing Loops are not obsolete technology

picture of Sydney Centennial Hall (Town Hall) set up for an event with red chairs in rowsSome technologies are overtaken by new discoveries, but others just keep getting better. One such technology is hearing loops. The basic technology remains the same but improvements are being made over time. Thinking that modern hearing aids have improved so much that people don’t need augmentation in meeting venues is a bit like saying wheelchairs have improved so much we don’t need ramps.

Andrew Stewart at ClearaSound nicely addresses all the myths and misconceptions about hearing augmentation systems and says that the hearing loop is still the most efficient and effective for users, and the most convenient for venue managers. Other systems are not popular because of additional equipment that needs to be worn or used which singles users out from the crowd. Andrew also provides the BCA references at the end of the newsletter.

It is noteworthy that recent research is showing that one in three older people do not use their hearing aids – it will be worth finding out why because it is one of the key factors in social isolation. 

Picture is of Sydney Centennial Hall (Town Hall). A hearing loop is installed.

Inclusive event and meeting guides

front cover of Accessible Events guide. purple with white writingFully accessible venues can still be difficult to find. Getting in the door and having an accessible toilet is only the start. Venue owners and managers, caterers and equipment suppliers are yet to get up to speed with what is required. Indeed, while trying to think of everything to make the 2014 Universal Design Conference inclusive, we found the suppliers of the staging equipment did not have a handrail for the steps and the wheelchair ramp was too steep to climb without help. The one-size fits all lectern is also a problem. Rarely is there a lectern that a seated person or person of short stature can use.

Meetings and Events Australia have a comprehensive handbook on accessible events which was written in consultation with the Human Rights Commission in 2012. The Guide also has a checklist at the end. 

Free to access guides include the Event Accessibility Checklist from Australian Network on Disability.  Also the West Australian Government checklist is available.

Factors that many organisers might not think about are, a drinking bowl for an assistance dog, the way the event or meeting is promoted, and ensuring there is lighting on the face of speakers for lip readers.

Editor’s Note: In my experience, some event operators aren’t aware that they have to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.