From the Editor: The feedback about this free short online course has been very positive. I know that many subscribers feel they already know a lot about universal design, and this is true. It is also true that this is very basic as the first couple of pages show. But there is a little more to it as you progress. Although it aimed at those who are fairly new to the concept, have a go and when you get to the end you get a certificate of completion. The more you know, the quicker you will be. And we’ve tried to make it fun. This will be the entry course to other units that we will be adding later. Jane Bringolf.
At the Access Consultants Conference in Brisbane last week, I had the pleasure of announcing CUDA’s first online course: Introduction to Universal Design. This free course is aimed at people who have heard of universal design but not sure what it is or how it can be implemented. Of course, anyone can sign up and go through the steps. You don’t have to do it in one sitting. There is a certificate of completion at the end. Briefly, the topics are the seven principles and eight goals, diversity and stereotyping. It concludes with an overview of how it can be applied in the built environment, to products and to technology. There are captioned videos to watch and quizzes to complete. Depending on your prior knowledge it should take between one to two hours to complete Introduction to Universal Design. Why not give it a go?
We are happy to receive feedback on the course and suggestions for improvement. Also, we would like to know what topics you would like us to develop for online courses, or there might be a topic you would like to contribute to.
Jane Bringolf, Chair, Centre for Universal Design Australia
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.
Alzheimer’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.
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.
The 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”
Here 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.