Get me out of here!

Green emergency egress signs showing running figure and wheelchair figureEmergency evacuations are tricky at the best of times, but when you find steps and stairs difficult or just impossible, what do you do? According to Lee Wilson in Sourceable magazine, Australian building legislation has generally steered clear of promoting the use of refuge areas in commercial buildings. The preferred method of evacuation for people with mobility difficulties is a fire rated evacuation lift. However, this is a costly solution and therefore not widely adopted. But the refuge area hasn’t been properly adopted either. Read Lee Wilson’s article for the Australian regulatory situation, and how Australia fares with other nations and their accessible means of access. Also go to the link at the end of the article about individual workplace PEEPs (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans). They play an essential role in emergency situations.

Photo credit to Loughborough University  


Kitchens for all time

Picture shows a long island bench with white drawer cupboards and a timber benchtop. It has a low section attached to the front of the bench with a knee hole with two child sized bar stools. The knee space could just as easily suit a wheelchair userA well designed kitchen is essential for all members of the household. Participating in food preparation is important part of everyday life in many cultures. So anyone who wants to join in with meal preparation should be able to do so. While the Consumer Report website article was published in 2015, many of the ideas are still current. Storage, work spaces, sinks and taps, lights and power outlets, flooring, doorways and handles, appliances, cookware and utensils are all covered. The information is presented with minimum fuss and lots of pictures.

With a growing trend to update kitchens every 12-20 years, renovation time is the best time to think about the usability of the kitchen into the future. You can see more from the Lifemark article on usable kitchens.  For a more academic approach to kitchen design you can download A Systematıc Approach for Increasing the Success of Kitchen Interior Design within the Context of Spatial User Requırements.


Seeing Red – or is it Green?

Colour diagram showing the three different types of colour vision deficiencyNot everyone experiences colour in the same way, yet the use of colour in illustrations is rarely questioned in terms of universal design. If people with Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) are not included when illustrations, charts and images are designed, what colours should a designer use to include the 8% of the population with CVD? There are three types of CVD as shown in the image: green blindness, blue blindness and red blindness. People with CVD also have other difficulties in discerning some types of text, shapes and lines.

Preparing Images for All to See explains in detail how people with different versions of CVD experience colour. The article also gives some great guidelines for illustrators, map makers and others who communicate using coloured images. Included is a summary of the most frequently cited best practices for publication, presentation and instruction. Here is a synopsis of their recommendations.

  1. Select graphic styles for accessibility and use bar charts instead of pie charts 
  2. Distinguish items by more than color. Use circles and squares and solid and dashed lines. 
  3. Red and Green usually have the same hue (density of colour) and can’t be distinguished. Dark red–dark green, blue–violet, red–orange, and yellow–green are also not good. Magenta and turquoise are good choices because people with RedGreen-CVD can see the blue component.
  4. Make fonts and lines thick bright and with contrast.  
  5. Avoid rainbow color maps as this is the worst possible choice

You can also find out more about CVD or colour blindness from going to the National Eye Institute website

Three circular charts showing how people with colour deficiency see different colours on the colour wheel




Kitchen appliances

close up of the knobs on a stainless steel oven and a diswasherThe Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (RICA) has a set of online resources about easy to use appliances. While this information is great for consumers, it also highlights the factors industrial designers should consider when designing kitchen appliances. Using information from Which magazine in the UK and Choice magazine in Australia they provide a good overview on appliances such as kettles, washing machines and microwaves. 

logo of the centre for inclusive design and environmental accessThe IDeA Center at Buffalo has also has an online section on Accessible Appliances and Universal Design. It covers a little history of product development and the issues involved, and regulations. Using the seven classic principles of universal design, it has details on reach range, dexterity, and size and space for approach. Some of the information is a little dated as technology and design ideas move on, but it gives another perspective on how to design products that almost everyone can use.

The links below take you directly to some of the appliances reviewed by Which and Choice:

To see more, go to the RICA website


Neat ideas for the kitchen

The latest newsletter from Todd Brickhouse Associates includes some good kitchen design ideas. Scrolling down the page, you can see a picture of a pull-out table that nests neatly under the kitchen bench and over the storage drawers when not in use. Colour contrast is mentioned as an important feature. Another idea is a dual height island bench which has multi functional use. The newsletter includes other items that are probably more specific to north America and also some disability specific items.

Editor’s note: I included a pull-out workboard in my kitchen. It is at a height for sitting to prepare food, for a child to make a sandwich, and for stirring a large mixing bowl at a more convenient height for my arms and shoulders than the bench.


From specialised to ubiquitous

standard jug lifted in the air to read the levelWhen product designers start with a “disability market” focus they can be surprised to find they have created an easy to use product for everyone. The OXO Good Grips story is just one such example – an item designed for someone with arthritic hands has evolved into a range of some of the best selling kitchen OXO jug with level markers that can be read from looking down into the jugutensils on the market. A good example is being able to easily read the liquid level in a measuring jug. Instead of reading from the side of the jug (a bit hit and miss), with the OXO jug you can see the level from above and get it right first time – so much more convenient!

This item is courtesy website

Editor’s note: Arthritis Australia has been working with several product manufacturers in Australia to reconsider some of their packaging designs. I will post information on their activities soon. In marketing theory the packaging is considered part of the product which is why so much emphasis is put on making packaging look good. However, if you can’t open the carefully designed packaging, you can’t use the product.


The Access Symbol: time for a revision?

The access symbol, often called the “disabled” or “wheelchair” symbol is one of the most recognised in the world. However, this icon is often interpreted as indicating use by wheelchair users only. Given that only some 15% of all people with disability use wheelchairs, this sign can be misleading and confusing. The TED Ed video below explains the history of the design, some of the issues in use, and puts out a call for action for updating the symbol.

Editor’s Note: Confusion exists on whether non-wheelchair users can use a “disabled” facility, such as a toilet. Some think that accessible toilets must be reserved for wheelchair users. But someone who is ambulant may need assistance with toiletting. A regular cubicle cannot accommodate two people and besides, may they not be of the same gender. Parents with strollers and small children, and people with continence issues, also need to use these facilities. Accessible car parking is another matter and that is why a permit is required. A factor that annoys some people is the accessible toilet being used for “other” purposes. These “other” purposes can also be done in a regular toilet. My view is that I only care that they don’t take too long, and leave the place clean. It matters not what they are doing. What matters is that everyone benefits from more useable and convenient facilities – I think it would be a rare case for a person to think a ramp is only for wheelchair users.