Tree change, sea change: think carefully first

A weeping willow tree shades the free range chickens. The house is hidden behind bushes and there are hills in the background.Fresh country air and room to breathe – it sounds perfect for retirement. Leaving the busy city behind for a care-free country life seems wonderful, but is it? City dwellers often find out the hard way that country living is often missing a few things they have taken for granted all their lives. Access to medical treatment, shops, entertainment and public transport can prove difficult as one couple found in this story. And the culture in regional and country towns is a little different to the big city too. Fitting in with country ways can take some adjusting. The story is nicely written and gives food for thought. However, this is not necessarily the experience of all retirees.

Editor’s note. I worked on the mid-north coast in community services for a few years and saw first hand how the romance of country living soon lost it shine. The article explains what I saw many times. 

Cultural background – your hidden bias

A globe atlas of the world sits on a desk and lined up in front are small dolls representing different countriesWe need to be aware of our biases if we are to become more inclusive in our thinking, designing and planning. Dr Belina Liddell argues that culture may affect the way your brain processes everything. And that is important. The term “culture” is a very complex web of dynamic systems – beliefs, language and values, and also religion, socio-economic status and gender may play a part too. Dr Liddell says, “Broadly speaking, Western-based cultures focus on an independent and unique self that values autonomy, personal achievement and an analytical style of thinking. This is known as individualism”. But non-Western cultures value collectivism. The article goes on to explain how culture makes a difference to the way we not only perceive things intellectually, but visually as well. All this is from the emerging field of cultural neuroscience.  Now we have new acronym to deal with, WEIRD – Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic. The article also discusses refugee populations. See the ABC science website for more on this interesting article. 

Service design done with UD principles

Distored digitised picture of young people sitting in a group.Most people think of universal design as being something for the built environment, but it is much more than that. Service design is an important factor in access and inclusion. There have been major disruptions in how we shop, get take-away food, share our accommodation and our cars. Universal design thinking processes have a major role to play in service design. This is the thinking of Airbnb and other similar platforms. The article in FastCompany lists a few things to think about. Here are the headings:

  1. Let a user do what they set out to do
  2. Be easy to find
  3. Clearly explain its purpose
  4. Set the expectations a user has of it
  5. Be agnostic of organizational structures
  6. Require as few steps as possible to complete a task
  7. Be consistent
  8. Have no dead ends
  9. Be usable by everyone, equally
  10. Work in a way that is familiar
  11. Make it easy to get human assistance
  12. Require no prior knowledge to use

Some of these aspects could be applied in other situations too.

Case study of a UD home

Sliding doors opening to a decked area but also having level entry.There’s a nice case study in Lifemark’s latest newsletter on a home built with universal design in mind. This is a key phrase, keeping it in mind. That means you can be creative with the design without focusing on a particular type of design or standard. The family home was also designed and built with wheelchair access in mind. When asked to name a favourite space, the wheelchair user said he didn’t have a favourite place, but he did like the “flow-through – in the morning it is bedroom, bathroom, dining table, without any sharp turns or back-tracking up hall. That would not be possible in any other house.” However, the flush level entry was greatly appreciated as well as level entry to the alfresco. Lots of pictures in the article and a note that it cost no more than a standard build. The title of the article is Everything Works Better for Everybody. There are more case studies on the Lifemark website. Photo courtesy Michael Field.

Auckland Council will be holding their universal design conference 6-7 September. Find out more on their conference website. 

The future of kitchens

A kitchen with white cabinetry and a bar extension showing two place settings and chairsIt is often quoted that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and that part probably won’t change in the future. But what people might doing in the kitchen could change significantly. A blog on a product website lists five key design features trending for the future: connectivity, sustainability, ease of use for all, the rise of professional products, and the kitchen is more than just cooking. Below is a video where researchers and designers from around the world were asked how they thought kitchens will evolve. Their ideas on the future are worth looking at. There are some neat ideas at the end of the video. One of the designers, Patricia Moore, says, 

“We must be able to choose at all times what suits us. Some people have to work sitting down or in a wheelchair. A small child should be able to help Mom and Dad prepare food. And our grandparents, who will experience reductions and have less physical strength and mental capacity, should be able to prepare a meal with comfort and safety.” 

Symbol for disability or for access?

four white figures on a blue background showing a man and woman with a square head and a man and a woman with a misshapen head“Does the universal symbol for disability need to be rethought”? is the title of an article in the FastCompany blog. First question this raises is, “Is it a symbol for disability or a symbol for access?” The article proposes a variety of symbols for different disabilities. But do we need more symbols and if so, what purpose would they serve?  Some people might like to have a symbol they can relate to if they are not a wheelchair user. But could another symbol further stigmatise? For example one of the proposed symbols shows a person with half the head missing. Another shows a square head. Currently the universal and international symbol for access is more about buldings meeting legislative compliance than trying to send a message about different disabilities. The aim of universal design is to not need more symbols and labels, but to need them less. Have a look at the article and see what you think about the proposition of a multitude of symbols.

ACAA Newsletter focuses on education

front cover of access insight magazine.The topics in this issue of Access Insight focus on educational facilities and students. “Equitable Design in Educational Architecture” covers some of the basics in designing schools. Avoiding ramps by integrating grades into landscape features, creating visual cues for students and teachers with low vision, and wayfinding enhancements are discussed. “Primary school hearing of primary importance” discusses some of the issues with open plan spaces and student group work when it comes to hearing and speech intelligibility. Is it possible that such designs work against the intent of the Disability Discrimination Act? “Tertiary Education Facilities and Access Challenges” looks at all the work going on with the extensions to university campuses and how they can better meet the requirements of students and teachers with disability. In a separate piece, the Supreme Court of Victoria’s ruling on the Owners’ Corporations is outlined. 

 

Financial Literacy for Everyone

A calculator and a bank statement are sitting on a desk.Understanding finance-speak is difficult for quite a few of us according to the latest HILDA survey reported in The Conversation. Perhaps it is time to take a look at what they are doing in Universal Design for Learning on this topic. If curriculum designers can devise a program for young people with disabilities about to enter the workforce then perhaps it would work for the rest of us. The article in The Conversation highlights the inequitable divide by age and gender when it comes to understanding finances. This is another reason to apply universal design principles to financial literacy. While women scored lower than men, generally men still have low levels of financial literacy. Given that most adults can function well in other areas of literacy, the finance sector has much to do to bring us up to speed. Low levels of financial literacy are over-represented in poverty statistics so this has to be addressed from the perspective of equity and inclusion. The article in The Conversation has a five question test you can take and a video of 10 emerging trends in Australia as well as more information from the HILDA data. 

 

10-step guide to queer UX

smoke swirls of rainbow coloursThe concepts of universal design are expanding to encompass marginalised and disenfranchised groups in our community. In the article A 10-step guide to queer UX, there is a nice quote “There’s nothing revolutionary about technology if it is only for a limited number of people.” Making products and places more accessible for gender non-conforming and trans folk is also making them more welcoming for everyone. Roniece Ricardo writes about her observations and interaction with software as a queer gender non-conforming woman. She makes ten points:

  1. Allow users to change or write in their own gender
  2. Consider not having users specify gender
  3. Allow users the choice to hide or display identifying information from profiles
  4. Don’t assume anything about gender presentation
  5. Don’t assume your user’s pronouns
  6. Be careful with your marketing materials
  7. Don’t make assumptions about who your users date (or don’t)
  8. If you are making a niche product, receive actual feedback from the people in the niche
  9. Be mindful of regionalisation
  10. Diversify your staff.

For more detail on these ten points go to the article on the FastCompany website.    

Retiring Retirement

Red Green and Yellow balloons with 100 printed on them in white.Is it time to retire the word “retirement”? Does it have the same meaning now as it did 30-40 years ago? Ending paid work, especially if it wasn’t enjoyable, makes the idea of a permanent holiday a dream come true. But is it? For those who are not the retiring type, the notion of being on holiday for up to 40 years is not something they relish. They want to keep going past the nominated pensionable age. So this area has no one-size-fits-all solutions. But one thing common to all, is having the ability to get out and about and access everyday activities and be welcome everywhere, and to have a home that accommodates issues of ageing. That is, let’s have more universal design rolled out so we can have the choice to do what we want as we age. The BBC webpage has an interesting story about a 106 year old man who continues his medical work on a voluntary basis. Examples of centenarians still working include a barber, who has been cutting people’s hair for 95 years, and aYouTube star aged 107, who teaches her million followers how to cook dishes such as fried emu egg.