Interacting with objects and places: a conference

High rise building atrium looking down the levels that all look the same.Rethinking relations between people, objects and environments is the theme for a conference in January 2020 in Florida. Call for papers closes 20 June 2019. The conference is an invitation to engage in cross disciplinary discussions around the role of people, objects and environments and how individual practices and professions are inseparable from each other. It is interested in perspectives from a range of fields, including: interiors, products, health, psychology, education, furniture, well-being, art, architecture, universal design, urbanism, landscape and occupational therapy.

Dates: 16-17 January 2020
Place: Florida State University, Tallahassee.
Abstract Submissions: 20 June 2019


Transport and Health Conference: Call for Papers

A Melbourne tram moves along a quiet street after the rain. A cyclist is in the background.The Transport and Health Conference will be held in Melbourne 4-8 November 2019. The call for papers closes 8 May 2019.  The overarching themes are: Transport and Health Behaviour, Technology for Smart Cities, Transport and Health Impacts of Cities, Planning for Smart Cities, Sustainable Urban Transportation, and Women’s Health and Transport. Under these themes are topics that lend themselves to accessibility and inclusion. It would be good to see papers addressing these issues. For example, being green is of little use if you can’t access the transportation. The conference theme is, Smart Cities. Disruptive Mobility. Healthy People.

See conferences and events upcoming for a list of more conferences. 


“I don’t need a microphone.” But yes, you do

Picture of an ear with sound wavesThere are three types of hearing augmentation systems – but which one to use? The system preferred by most users is a “hearing loop”. It is connected to the sound system in a meeting room or auditorium. People wearing a hearing device with a telecoil, have the sound sent directly to the device. It screens out all the background noise and gives definition to the speech. However, a microphone must be used all the time. So no more “I’ve got a loud voice, I don’t need a microphone” because it won’t be transmitted. Hearing Connections website gives an explanation of this system, FM and Infra-red systems. A system with an ambient microphone that picks up all the sound in the room amplifies all the sounds – so background noise is included with the speech. It can defeat the object. Also, the system should be turned on automatically – no-one should need to ask for it – that’s the point. Building designers, owners and managers have a legal obligation to incorporate the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Editor’s comment: I’ve been given lots of different reasons why the hearing system isn’t working. I’ve been told that permission is needed from  security to turn it on, as well as being told it can’t be switched on because people outside the room might hear confidential information. Clearly, having the system installed and connected is one thing, and training people about its use and purpose is another. 


Conferences for 2019

A large room with a power point screen at the front and people sitting at tables cabaret styleATSA Independent Living Expo: Sydney on 8-9 May, Brisbane on 15-16 May, and in Canberra on 27-28 August as part of iCREATe conference.

Australian Network on Disability Conference 14 May 2019 in Melbourne. This conference is employment related. Registrations are now open.

Liveable Cities Conference, 12-13 August 2019, Adelaide. Call for abstracts closes 26 April 2019. Key themes: Happiness, Health and Wellbeing, and Strategies, Planning and Design for People. Call for abstracts closes 26 April 2019.

ACAA Access Consultants National Conference, Theme Inclusion by Design: Equality, Diversity and the Built Environment. 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 Universal Design is included in this conference. AAATE is sister organisation to Australia’s ARATA. See conference flyer for more information.

Constructing our World: People, Performance, Politics 18-20 September 2019, Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney. Joint hosts are the Institutes of Building of Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Earlybird Registrations open now.

​​International Conference on ​Transport & Health – theme: Smart Cities. Disruptive Mobility. Healthy People. 4-8 November 2019, Pullman Melbourne on the Park. Abstract submissions close 8 May 2019.

International Conference on Urban Health: People Oriented Urbanisation – Transforming cities for health and well-being. 4-8 November 2019, Xiamen, China. Abstract submissions close 19 April 2019.

World Engineers Convention – theme is Engineering a Sustainable World: The next 100 Years. 20-22 November 2019, Melbourne. Call for papers has closed.

Space International Conference 2019 on Housing: 29 November – 1 December, London, UK.  Call for papers closes 19 August 2019. Aim: to discuss recent advances and research results in the fields of Housing as well as architecture, policy studies, education, interior architecture, city planning and urban studies, social sciences, and engineering.

Florida State University AMPS Conference: Experiential Design – Rethinking relations between people, objects and environments. 16-17 January 2020, in Tallahassee. Abstract submissions close 20 June 2019



Making conferences more accessible

A student lab showing a man with a cochlear implant talking to a womanAn academic paper titled Making Academia More Accessible chooses to start the topic with accessible conferences and events. A case study is used to to demonstrate how it is possible to overcome “Ableism in Academia”. An interesting and easy read for anyone staging events of any size. Each of the features are listed including; quiet room, catering, live captioning, sign language, PowerPoint presentations, staging, microphone use, ticketing and toilets. The concluding reflections discuss the feedback they received and the ongoing impact of this work. The paper also discusses how academia has to consider the diversity of its workforce as well as its student body and others. The case study comes from University College London and University of Kent. There is a link to a one page summary of the strategies at the end of the article.

Editor’s comment: While there were extra costs involved, especially live captioning and signing, there was no extra budget assigned – it was achieved by volunteer effort and sponsorship. The argument for the economic value of inclusion is therefore lost and will continue to be lost until it is realised the extra cost is actually an investment. It is not ‘lost’ money.


World Engineers Convention 2019

The conference banner with the date and placeEngineers Australia and the World Federation of Engineering Organizations are holding their next convention in Melbourne 20-22 November 2019. The overarching theme is Engineering a Sustainable World: The Next 100 Years. The focus is on engineering innovation, and how this can have a positive impact on our lives by creating sustainable engineering solutions. Sustainability is used in the broadest sense including ethics and social responsibility.

The three day program will feature six streams, with each aligning to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Engineers Australia is celebrating its Centenary in 2019, and this convention will highlight Australian engineering on a global scale and explore the distinctive and sustaining mindset of our profession; the notion that ‘anything is possible’. This also calls for a universal design approach to their solutions and social responsibility.


AAATE Conference 27-30 Aug 2019, Bologna

An aerial view of Bologne, Italy showing terracotta roofs and medieval style buildings around a square.In Europe the quest for inclusion is about both universal design and assistive technology. Although the AAATE conference has a strong assistive technology focus, they have a universal design strand and encourage universal design researchers and practitioners to submit abstracts. UD followers can find value in seeing the progress in assistive technology in all its forms, and how it supports and fits with the principles of UD. Papers are published by IOS Press. AAATE is a sister organisation to ARATA (Australian Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Association).

Editor’s note: I have found these conferences very interesting because much of the leading research, funded by the EU, is showcased here. Everything from mainstream universal design to smart technologies, robotics and web developments. At  the 2009 conference I presented a paper with a philosophical take on inclusion, Turning back time for inclusion for today as well as tomorrow.  



Universal design and accessible meetings

picture of a large audience watching a presentation.Even conferences about inclusion, universal design and accessibility can fail to meet the first requirement of their own content – to make the conference and venue accessible and inclusive. So how will conference organisers learn about access and inclusion?  New research aims to promote awareness among meeting organisers and the conference supplier companies about the need to remove barriers to meetings and conventions. This includes the whole issue of destinations and visitor experience for the surrounding area. The report, Universal Accessibility in Meetings, was produced by BestCities Global Alliance, Gaining Edge, and RI International. 12 cities are featured in case studies, including Melbourne, and there is a 15 point checklist for meeting organisers. Final step will be to get presenters to universally design their PowerPoint presentations.  A quick review can be found on the Conference and Incentive Travel website.


Look at me!

An orange automated vehicle has eyes that appear to be looking at a pedestrianWorried 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. 


It was a great conference!

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.