Say it, write it, and post it with universal design

Front cover of the toolkit with three overlapping circles, bright pink, purple and turquoise.The Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach has sections on written, verbal and digital communication. At 134 pages it is comprehensive. Each section has examples, tips, checklists and links to learn more. The intention of the toolkit is for public service planning, training and informing contractors. But of course, it works for anyone who is communicating with the public. The toolkit follows its own advice in presenting this written information in a straightforward way. Lots of graphics illustrate key points, and the information is very specific, such as when to write numbers as digits or as words. While some of the information might not be new to some, it serves as a good reviser of current practice.

Another great resource from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland. Interesting to note that they have chosen colours for the cover and their logo that almost everyone can see – that includes people with colour vision deficiency.


Learning about dementia and design

logo of Alzheimer's Australia learning program. It is a black owl figure with blue eyesAlzheimer’s Australia has some great learning programs for all aspects of living with, and designing for, dementia. The Virtual Dementia Experience provides a simulated experience that provides insights into what it is like to live with memory loss and cognitive changes. Although it was initially designed for aged care workers, it’s helpful for anyone with a connection to dementia or wanting to better understand the condition for design purposes. Alzheimer’s Australia run sessions across Australia and you can book online.

There are also some practical online modules you can do at your own pace. The first is free to see if it what you are looking for, and the subsequent modules are modestly priced at $25 each. They cover communicating, a person-centered practice, and a problem solving approach. Mostly aimed at allied health professionals, but could be useful for designers wanting to get a real feel for the topic.

More specifically for environments you can download Enabling Environments, and a great app for tablets and smartphones for the Dementia Friendly Home. The Resources tab on the website provides more on these topics.


7 things the autistic person needs in the workplace

A wheel diagram shaded with the seven colours of the rainbow Ashlea McKay wrote an interesting article on Linked In, 7 things the autistic person in your workplace needs from you“. Ashlea was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) aged 29, but she prefers to refer to herself as an autistic person – “I am autistic” she says, and she explains why. She discusses the difficulties of being stereotyped and how small adjustments in the workplace can increase her productivity so that everyone can benefit from having someone with a brain that thinks differently to most others.

As no two people who are autistic or diagnosed with ASD are alike, the key is to ask the person what they need to function well in the workplace. Acceptance and appreciation of their sometimes amazing thinking processes is probably the first step. The diagram relates to how Ashlea thinks autism looks – not a spectrum indicating a linear continuum – but a circular spectrum where all aspects are linked.


Architecture students’ attitudes to UD

architecture blueprint with rule and pencilThe attitudes of architecture students to universal design is the focus of a Deakin University study. It builds on previous work (Design 4 Diversity) in 2010 on inter-professional learning for architecture and occupational therapy students. The findings of this latest study show that while architecture students viewed access to public environments favourably, there was a mixed response in relation to private homes.

Reasons not to include universal design features in homes included cost, client desires and restrictions on creativity. For example, “Over-designing for the sake of making the residence accessible in the future, just in case, is an unnecessary cost”; “Private homes should be designed to the individual”; and “Legislation restricts design, resulting in negative impacts the ‘requirements’ did not intend”. (Ed Note: These phrases have been used many times by practicing architects and designers as followers of UD are aware.)

The study used a quantitative approach and applied statistical techniques to the data. The first part of the document covers the history of universal design (as all such studies do) and there is an extended section on methods and statistics. For followers of UD, the Discussion section might be of most interest. 

The authors of Students’ Attitudes to Universal Design in Architecture Education, are Helen Larkin, Kelsey Dell, and Danielle Hitch. It was published in the Journal of Social Inclusion, 2016.

See also previous work by Larkin et al, on this topic, and the 2016 UD Conference presentation by Nicholas Loder and Lisa Stafford, “Moving from the Margins: Embedding inclusive thinking in design education” 


DeafSpace design works for everyone

shows people in a circle using their fingers to connect to each other to form a circleHere is a video (below) from an American university about designing for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It shows the importance of thinking through how deaf people need to see everything that is going on, including people they are communicating with. Once again, considering a marginalised group in designs enhances the environment for everyone.

On a related matter, Andrew Stewart from Printacall has done some great research on eligibility for the NDIS for people who have hearing loss, and produced a detailed document that answers just about any question on the matter. 

For more on DeafSpace design and concepts go to the Gallaudet University website.




Survey of architects on UD education and implementation

architecture blueprint with rule and pencilThis paper reports on a survey of architects, architecture educators, and architectural technologists in Ireland to find out how they are dealing with the implementation of universal design principles. The researchers (Eoghan C.O. Shea, Megan Basnak, Merritt Bucholz, & Edward Steinfeld) sought to address the following questions in the survey:

1. How inherent is Universal Design knowledge to current building design practice?

2. What are the current Universal Design education and training needs of Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?

3. Which Universal Design themes and topics are of most interest to Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?

4. To what extent does existing CPD for Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland address Universal Design topics?

5. What can motivate Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland to access Universal Design CPD?

6. What are the most effective means by which to deliver Universal Design CPD to Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?

The survey is one phase of a longer study aimed at providing a research base for developing CPD in Universal Design for Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland.


UD in Higher Education

view of university of seville library with students sitting at desks. bookcases are in the backgroundWhile inclusive education at all levels is written into policy documents, strategies for implementation are sometimes few and far between. Barriers in many forms still confront students with disability in educational settings, whether it be the built environment, attitudes of staff and other students, or the design of the curriculum. 

The main the main objective of this paper, Inclusive University Classrooms: the importance of faculty training is to identity, describe and explain barriers and aids related to faculty that students with disabilities experience in classrooms. The paper is by a cross-disciplinary group from the University of Seville in Spain. Reference is made to the work by Australians Valerie Watchorn and Helen Larkin on this topic. It is interesting to note the recent frequency of articles by Spanish authors appearing in the literature on different aspects of universal design.

The picture is of the library at University of Seville.