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:
Let a user do what they set out to do
Be easy to find
Clearly explain its purpose
Set the expectations a user has of it
Be agnostic of organizational structures
Require as few steps as possible to complete a task
Have no dead ends
Be usable by everyone, equally
Work in a way that is familiar
Make it easy to get human assistance
Require no prior knowledge to use
Some of these aspects could be applied in other situations too.
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.
It 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.”
“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 articleand see what you think about the proposition of a multitude of symbols.
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.
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.
The 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:
Allow users to change or write in their own gender
Consider not having users specify gender
Allow users the choice to hide or display identifying information from profiles
Don’t assume anything about gender presentation
Don’t assume your user’s pronouns
Be careful with your marketing materials
Don’t make assumptions about who your users date (or don’t)
If you are making a niche product, receive actual feedback from the people in the niche
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 beencutting 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.
Ron Mace is often reported as being the “father of universal design”. While this is not strictly true, he was a passionate leader in universal design thinking. The 20th anniversary of his death gives us pause for thought about his vision that started well before the 1970s. Richard Duncan has posted a short biography of Ron Mace to pay tribute to his vision and work that lives on across the globe. Mace contracted polio as a child and used this experience in his architecture practice where he understood how much the fine detail mattered. He was instrumental in setting up the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. This anniversary also gives pause for another thought: Why hasn’t universal design been universally accepted after more than 50 years of talking about it?
Editor’s note: I was very fortunate to visit Ron Mace’s widow, Joy Weeber, during my Churchill Fellowshipstudy trip in 2004. Joy invited me to her home and was very generous with her time. She showed me a video of his last interview two days before he unexpectedly died in June 1998. Jane Bringolf
Parking on and across footpaths in Australia is illegal. But how many times do you see this? Especially where the family has too many cars to fit on their driveway (they use the garage for storage). So what? For people who are pushing strollers or wheeling anything it means going out on the roadway. And not good for people who are blind or have low vision for the same reason. An article on the BBC News website explains some of the difficulties about this issue, especially now that the UK are providing designated places where it is OK now to park on the footpath. A backward step (excuse the pun). The article includes videos showing the problems. Hope it doesn’t happen here – legally, that is.