While this set of guidelines is focused on Ireland, there are some good ideas that are not country specific. The online resource produced by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design is divided into separate downloadable sections:
- Home location and approach
- Entering and moving around
- Spaces for living
- Elements and systems
The Design Guidelines complement Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland and are intended as a first step in raising awareness. They provide a flexible framework for designers to apply the guidelines creatively to all new home types through incremental steps. The Home Design Guidelines are informed by research, a literature review of national and international best practice and guidance and a consultation process with key stakeholders.
Guy Luscombe has also tackled this topic and developed a toolkit for designers. He presented this work at the 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference in 2016.
There are several lists around that debunk myths about universal design. Lifemark in New Zealand has produced an excellent version related to housing. Their 10 stereotypes about accessible housing includes great examples of convenience for people who consider themselves to be without disability. For example:
- You break your leg during your holidays: what a joy to have a shower without having to go up the stairs!
- You just have had a child: How practical it is to be able to easily enter the front door with the stroller or to help your children get into the car without scraping your car door on the walls of a narrow garage.
- Dinner time! You have several glasses in your hands, how easy it will be to open the doors because they have lever door handles.
- You have slept badly and have a terrible back pain: fortunately, your power points are high enough to avoid bending down too far.
- You cook and have your hands wet or oily: lucky you! Your kitchen drawers are so easy to open!
The list includes examples of trendy fittings, dealing with steep sites, and the inevitable cruncher – busting the cost myth.
You can go to the Lifemark website to subscribe to their newsletter.
There is some potentially good news on the topic of housing. After the last Building Ministers’ Forum in December, they circulated a communiqué that briefly outlined their discussions. Halfway through the short document was this statement: “Ministers discussed important issues relating to accessibility, including universal and accessible housing, and agreed to have further discussions on the costs and benefits of applying a minimum accessibility standard for private dwellings in Australia at the next BMF meeting.”
The economics of accessible housing in Australia has been done at least twice, but that didn’t change anything. So it is not clear whether they will stall any decisions by saying they need more evidence or use the existing evidence. PD Hill in 1996 showed the economics of modifying and refitting a home added significantly to the costs of ageing in place, especially with government funded home modifications. Another economic study was done by Landcom (now UrbanGrowth) in 2008 and resulted in the Landcom Guidelines. The Livable Housing Design Guidelines are based on the Landcom Guidelines, which showed that if universal design features were included from the outset of the design (and not thought about at the end of the design process) it would be cost neutral in most cases, and perhaps an extra 1% of construction costs in difficult cases. Landcom’s analysis covered all dwelling types and showed that with some creative thinking, UD features could be included – it just required some extra thought.
And let us not forget the economic study by Smith, Rayer and Smith (2008 and 2011) that showed that any new home built today would have a 60% probability of having an occupant with a permanent disability, and a 91% probability of having a visitor with a disability. Two key sentences can be found in this study that have the potential to alter the perspective of planners and designers:
“Clearly, the probability of housing a disabled resident is substantially greater when measured over the lifetime of a housing unit than when measured at a single point in time.”
“Regardless of the specific assumptions used, however, two facts are beyond dispute: 1) The proportion of households with at least one disabled resident is substantially higher than the proportion of persons with disabilities, and 2) Most housing units are occupied by several households over their lifetimes.”
Editor’s note: You might like to consider contacting your state Building Minister (usually a title added to a planning minister or similar) to make sure they know the importance of universal design in housing for the upcoming meeting in Sydney in March 2017.
The short answer to this is no. We are nowhere near the promises made in the strategic plan that Livable Housing Australia was set up to deliver in 2010. This is because policy makers believed that the house-building industry could work together for change without regulations and standards. As the strategic plan was endorsed by COAG (Council of Australian Governments), it was assumed it would happen. Six years on and we have the NDIS, an ageing population and still no accessible housing aside from that which some local governments might demand from developers using existing planning laws.
The Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) has kept up their lobbying activities. Suggestions to turn the Livable Housing Design Guidelines into an Australian Standard to help local government apply the design features have been refused. Appeals to the Australian Building Codes Board to include basic access features in all new housing have met with the same response.
And now we have the Specialist Disability Accommodation program being rolled out to the tune of $700m a year. Is the house-building industry pricking up their ears now perhaps? Will the relevant State ministers with responsibility for the building code in their state start to realise something has to change? ANUHD is following the case closely and should know more after the relevant state ministers meet this week. It seems several State ministers are in favour of regulation for accessible housing “in principle”, but we shall see if this translates into anything more concrete.
Livable Housing Australia’s strategic plan sets out the path to achieve 100% of new homes to the Livable Housing Guidelines by 2020. It is worth being reminded that this was not supposed to be just a nice idea – it was supposed to happen for two reasons. To meet our commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, and to prepare for population ageing. Margaret Ward tells the story from ANUHD’s perspective.