Social factors and accessibility

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsSocial factors influence how people with disability choose to use their technology. So they are sometimes disadvantaged because they don’t want to be “different”. Design for Social Accessibility is an approach that encourages designers to focus on social as well as functional factors in their designs. 

Using a workshop method, researchers worked with designers to bring about a change in their attitudes, and to see the effectiveness of the Design for Social Accessibility approach. The results are published in Incorporating Social Factors in Accessible Design. It is a lengthy read because it includes quotes from workshop participants and the reporting is very thorough. They conclude that accessible design is within the reach of professional designers if given appropriate tools and resources. Designing technologies for people with disability does not exclude people without disability. The focus of this study is on people with vision impairment. However, the principles are applicable to the design of any product or place. The article is open source.

Abstract: Personal technologies are rarely designed to be accessible to disabled people, partly due to the perceived challenge of including disability in design. Through design workshops, we addressed this challenge by infusing user-centered design activities with Design for Social Accessibility—a perspective emphasizing social aspects of accessibility—to investigate how professional designers can leverage social factors to include accessibility in design. We focused on how professional designers incorporated Design for Social Accessibility’s three tenets: (1) to work with users with and without visual impairments; (2) to consider social and functional factors; (3) to employ tools—a framework and method cards—to raise awareness and prompt reflection on social aspects toward accessible design. We then interviewed designers about their workshop experiences. We found DSA to be an effective set of tools and strategies incorporating social/functional and non/disabled perspectives that helped designers create accessible design.


Accessible Housing RIS Update

A graphic showing facades of different styles of free standing homes in lots of colours. They look like toy houses.The release of the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) was scheduled for 3 April. However, at the last minute, the Australian Building Codes Board decided to delay the release. According to an update from ANUHD, this is partly due to comments received from the Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

While we wait, it would be useful to gather some case studies. CUDA is looking for any story about costs, financial and otherwise, of modifying a home. If you have one please send the information in an email to Jane Bringolf. Remember, Livable Housing Australia wants to maintain a voluntary approach, not a regulatory one.

Alternatively, you might like to think about the value of some of these scenarios if you were building a brand new home. Would you be willing to pay an extra $50, $500 or $5000? You can comment in the reply box below:

      • How much would you pay NOT to go to aged care any sooner than you have to?
      • How much would you pay to keep your mother comfortable and safe in her home rather than have her go to aged care sooner rather than later?
      • How much would it be worth to go home from hospital earlier because you can be cared for at home?
      • You are in your hospital bed and told you can’t go home because your home doesn’t allow you to get in the door or to receive home care – how much would you pay to go home? 

Scroll down to leave your comments in the Leave a Reply box.

Here is the information ANUHD (Australian Network for Universal Housing Design) received from the Australian Building Codes Board: 

“As of yesterday [31 March 2020], a subcommittee of the Board agreed to delay the release of the Consultation RIS to enable time for further refinements to be carried out to the document, partly in response to comments received from the Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

“Please note that it was only agreed to delay the release of the Consultation RIS. The release will still proceed once the sub-committee is satisfied with the document. It is hoped that the delay will only be for a matter of weeks.”

The purpose of the RIS is to weigh the costs and benefits of applying the Silver and Gold levels of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. This is measured against the cost of doing nothing different at all. This is against the backdrop of population ageing and demands from the disability sector for a better deal. Keep in mind that one third of Australian households include a person with disability – not a small number. And it’s households we should be measuring, not individuals with disability or who are ageing. 

For more information on the RIS see previous post. Feel free to share this post through your networks.

Seasons Greetings from the Editor

Christmas banner with red and white baubles.Hello Subscribers! This will be the last newsletter for 2019. So time to say thank you to everyone who shared the posts with colleagues and on social media. This is a good way to spread the message of universal design an inclusive practice.

During the holiday period I will be compiling Summer Editions with some of the most popular and useful posts in 2019.

Next year CUDA will host UD2020 the 4th Australian Universal Design Conference in Melbourne, 12-13 May. CUDA members receive a discounted registration fee. Sponsorships are open now and range from as little as $500. We were very excited to receive so many high quality abstracts. So we are looking forward to an exciting event with lots to share! Watch out for updates.

You can support this newsletter and the work of CUDA by donating via PayPal, and/or by becoming a member. You can find out more about CUDA’s activities from the 2018-2019 Annual Report.  

Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful holiday period.

Jane Bringolf, Editor.


Annual Report 2018-2019

Panel session at the Brisbane UD Conference.CUDA made much progress this year and contributed to many events and community consultations. The website and social media views continued to receive good attention throughout the year.  Key points from the Annual Report 2018-2019 are:

    • Our first online learning course, Introduction to Universal Design, had a 44% completion rate from 440 enrolments.
    • Preparation for and staging of the 3rd Universal Design Conference in Brisbane.
    • Participation in events to promote universal design, including a breakfast event organised in conjunction with Lend Lease.
    • Conference presentations included 4 papers at the UD conference in Dublin, Ireland, and Community Housing Industry Association Conference
    • Invited contributor to two magazines: Inner Sydney Voice and Building Connection.
    • Submissions and contributions to public policy through committee representation, roundtables and written submissions to government inquiries.

The full Annual Report can be downloaded in PDF format. The picture above is from the UD Conference in Brisbane with Lenna Klintworth at the lectern, Emily Steel, Jane Bringolf, Penny Galbraith and Chris Veitch.



Building Code: Rights and Research

picture of a modern building Norway Opera House.Building regulation is a highly contested space, especially in relation to disability access. So the Norwegian Building Authority decided that standards and codes should be based on evidence rather than the views, compromises and experience of interest groups. The Norwegian Research Laboratory for Universal Design was set up to focus on access solutions using established research methods. But this brings about a dilemma.

People with disability have fought for many years to have equal access to the built environment. “Some of the criteria have been based on compromises and “old truths”. These criteria are now put under scrutiny. This examination and possible reversal of minimum requirements may feel like a slap in the face of those who have fought for these rights. But what is the possible downside?” 

Their research results are based on the 90th percentile. But what happens to those who are outside the 90%?  Who pays for the compensatory adaptations or assistance? This is where it becomes political. Nevertheless, research by the Laboratory suggests that “those who cannot manage the minimum levels cannot manage any level”.

The paper provides some interesting research results on doorway approaches and ramp gradients. A relatively short paper with some good food for thought.

The title of the paper is, Deregulation of the Building Code and the
Norwegian Approach to Regulation of Accessibility in the Built Environment

Abstract: Deregulation is on the political agenda in the European countries. The Norwegian building code related to universal design and accessibility is challenged. To meet this, the Norwegian Building Authority have chosen to examine established truths and are basing their revised code on scientific research and field tests. But will this knowledge-based deregulation comply within the framework of the anti-discrimination act and, and if not: who suffers and to what extent?  

This project is part of the quest for Norway Universally Designed by 2025 and the updated Action Plan

Tourism marketing toolkit

Front cover of the workbook.Bill Forrester has a new marketing workbook for the tourist industry. It’s to help resorts, hotels and other accommodation collect key information and create an accessibility guide. It includes a detailed self audit tool to help with this. There’s lots of good tips at the beginning of the workbook that cost nothing and are easy to implement. 

Saying your accommodation is “accessible” is not enough information. It means different things to different people – specific information is needed. Pictures are important too. While most disabilities are invisible, it is useful to include a person with a visible disability within a group. Pictures of rooms and facilities are important too, especially if you include room dimensions and floor plans with furniture layout. 

“The workbook is not a statutory audit checklist, it is designed to be used as a “walk-through” tool to enable you to collect information on your facilities.”

“Having a tag line of “call us for accessibility information” is putting potential customers at a disadvantage over other customers searching on the internet and potentially putting your establishment at a competitive disadvantage over your competitors.”

The workbook comes in two formats: online on the Travability website or download the PDF.  

Home Truths: Dispelling Myths

Front cover showing an older woman wearing glasses and a headscarf. She is sitting in an armchair.Across the globe, advocates for universal design in housing find themselves faced with the same myths. And these myths prevail in spite of hard evidence. AgeUK and Habinteg have put together a fact sheet, Home Truths – rebutting the 10 myths about building accessible housing. They challenge the ideas that it is too costly, difficult or undesirable. And also why the solution is not in building more age-segregated developments. It will be interesting to see how the proposal to include accessible features in the Australian building code progresses through the Regulatory Impact Statement.

Note: In the UK, Part M4 (1) of the building code mandates some basic access features. There are two other sections; one is to include adaptability, and the other is to be wheelchair accessible. However, these are optional unless it is set down in the local government plan because there is a community need. Developers challenge these plans asserting that the local authority has failed to prove the need. This indicates that industry will continue to fight for what suits them rather than occupants of the home.  


ABCB moves to next phase

Timeline for the next steps to the Regulatory Impact Statement.The process for the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for Accessible Housing is underway. With more consultations due soon for the RIS, it is worth refreshing our memories on the issues. Using a lot less words, a Building Connection magazine article picks out the key points of the first report by the Australian Building Codes Board. The article by Jane Bringolf is on page 16 of the online flipbook titled, A Summary of the ABCB’s Report on Mainstream Accessible Housing. The infographic shows the timeline for the project. If minimum access (universal design) features are agreed, it will be included in the 2022 edition of the National Construction Code.  The related Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) is expected to be released in June 2020.

CUDA made a submission to the Australian Building Codes Board Options Paper.

Are UD and ID rivals?

a series of black icons on white background depicting people of all shapes and sizes, including a baby in a stroller, a person with a can and a wheelchair userFrom the Editor: This week I came across an article by John Harding who writes about rivalry between universal design and inclusive design. While I have encountered people who believe there are nuanced differences, I cannot agree that the concepts are rivals, academically or otherwise. A rivalry point of view is contrary to the work of advocacy groups striving for more inclusive societies. Indeed, “universal design” is cited in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability as the means by which to create inclusion. It is also cited by WHO guidelines for age-friendly cities.

Harding, in his dense academic paper, appears to base his argument on universal design being about the “widest range of users”, whereas inclusive design is about “offering everyone access”.  He then goes on to claim that universal design is “first generation” and inclusive design is “next generation”. 

Using a study of transportation in UK, Harding proposes that the “rivalry” between UD and ID hasn’t helped the cause for inclusion. I believe the barriers to inclusion are far more complex than terminology. However, terminology is very important to academics if they want to compare their work. 

Whether you use universal or inclusive, the aim is to cater to diversity, and that includes diverse ways of explaining universal/inclusive design for an inclusive world. Most academics use the terms interchangeably and include “Design for All”.

The paper is open access on ResearchGate. Have a look and see what you think. The title of the paper is “Agent based modelling to probe inclusive transport building design in practice”. 

It should be noted that John Harding is based in the UK where they have stuck by the “inclusive design” term throughout, whereas Europe has favoured Design for All, and most other countries have followed the UN Convention and use universal design. Most academics recognise the convergence of concepts rather than rivalry.

Jane Bringolf

ICT, AI and older people

An older woman sits at a table in a room with a tv behind her.The Digital Age has brought us Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Ambient Technologies, but can people and policies keep up with the pace of development? The 5G network brings additional promises, but will designers consider the diversity of the population, especially in algorithms? A keynote paper presented by Liz Mesthenos gives a thoughtful overview of the state of play regarding this technology and older people.

It is interesting to note that the EU “appears to be keen on free access to the internet to ensure non-exclusion…” Mestheneos cautions the use of sensors used via smart phones, web cameras, etc., for family carers to monitor a relative. Ensuring they are non-intrusive and data remain private will be a continuing issue. AI products will have to ensure they are accessible as well as secure, and are not based on existing human prejudice and assumptions.

The title of her paper is, “Reflections on Older People in Relation to ICT-AI” and covers: the importance of co-creation, system usability, justice, fairness, privacy, safety, and inclusive design. A well thought out paper. But it is not readily available. Let me know if you want a copy.

ABSTRACT: Can ICT e.g. AAL, AI, Ambient Living technologies, really help the growing numbers of older people live better, more fulfilling lives? Or are these technologies primarily being developed for the interest of health and welfare systems and tech development experts? Have we genuinely listened to the needs of older people and reacted to their problems and needs, or are the driving forces behind innovation state budgetary limitations and the management of new and ever expanding problems? Even in the context of management, can these ICT technologies be effective or are they marginal to the management of living with dependency, long term illnesses and alone. Can and in what way do they help make older people’s lives more connected, meaningful and richer? Ensure that older people do not become objects, presenting technical problems to be solved, but people who have capacities which technology can help support. The presentation will concern the limitations of current approaches and suggest ways forward to genuinely support older people.