Conference attendance from a user perspective

picture of a large audience watching a presentation.When academics organise a conference on health and wellbeing of people, some of the people being discussed are likely to be in attendance and potentially on the speaking program. But how many academic conference organisers think about this? Not many it seems. Sarah Gordon has written a very readable article about her experience as a conference speaker, attendee and user of the health system. Conferences that have content relating to disability are generally considerate of the “nothing about us without us” approach. But when it comes to conferences on mental health, it seems the users are given little if any consideration. While the focus is on mental health in this paper, the comments can be applied more generally. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is referenced throughout and this makes it a long read. The point is made that conferences are part of the right to life-long learning and education, and the right to give and receive information. The application of universal design principles are discussed as a means to create greater inclusion for conferences. The paper is titled, What makes a ‘good’ conference from a service user perspective? by Sarah Gordon and Kris Gledhill, in the International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law (2017).

Editor’s note: This is one of the few academic papers available as a Word document with free access. 


Captioning for business presentations

Aerial view of a crowded conference scene where the session has finished and people are standing, sitting and walking about.Geoffrey Clegg is a university lecturer in business communication who is gradually losing his hearing. He is using his experience to educate his students about the diversity of audiences they will encounter in their workplaces. His paper explores the use of text and also provides students with a framework to question their assumptions about ability and disability that will transfer to their workplace practices. The article goes on to look at captioning research. The article is titled, Unheard Complaints: Integrating Captioning Into Business and Professional Communication Presentations from Sage Journals. Or you can request full text from ResearchGate  or download from iDocSlide.Com.


Inclusive Tourism: free online learning

A graph showing the growth of inclusive tourismHow can you make an hotel, a place of interest, an event, or holiday accessible and inclusive? What’s actually involved and why should anyone bother? The answer to these and many other questions are found in a comprehensive e-learning program – and it’s free! The course was developed by Local Government NSW to help tourism operators make the most of their potential clientele. There are several modules and each has learning content followed by quick questions. You can access the course, the case studies and resources on the Local Government NSW website. 

The course was developed as a result of a collaboration with the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse when it became clear that information about accessible and inclusive tourist destinations and activities was often incomplete. Although this was developed with local council tourist centres in mind, the content is applicable broadly – including shops, cafes, restaurants and novelty places – anywhere for visitors whether they are local, interstate or international.



Introduction to Universal Design

Title of course: introduction to universal design, yellow and orange blurred coloured background with dark blue text.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. 


Introduction to Universal Design Launched

Title of course: introduction to universal design, yellow and orange blurred coloured background with dark blue text.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 DesignWhy 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


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.