Towards an Australian Centre for UD

Towards an Australian Centre for Universal DesignThe Association of Consultants in Access Australia held their 2015 conference in Melbourne. The theme was universal design. Jane Bringolf presented the case for a centre for universal design in Australia, using the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and the WHO Age Friendly Cities program as the underpinning driving force. Both documents cite universal design as the means by which to achieve social and physical inclusion. A PDF of the slide show can be downloaded: ACAA UD Conference Melbourne 2015  (1.5 MB)


UD and Sport and Recreation Facilities

Evan WilkinsonEvan Wilkinson outlines the process that Sport and Recreation Victoria went through to bring about a better understanding of the principles of universal design and how they can be applied to sporting infrastructure and recreational programs. One of his key arguments is that if universal design principles are considered at the outset, the cost implications are low. However, if left until later in the design and construction process, the cost of ‘adding on’ access features is far more costly. Download the PDF of the PowerPoint Slideshow. (5.5 MB)

Sport and Recreation Victoria have also launched their Design for Everyone Guide. The link takes you to the website that also has a very useful video on universal design shown below.


It’s the intent of the design that matters

John Hockenberry is the son of a designer and a journalist. He also uses a wheelchair. His Ted Talk is warm, funny, thoughtful, insightful and has many messages that resonate with universal design in all its forms.  At 20 minutes it is a relatively long talk, but is captivating right up to the end. Take the time to watch.


Inclusive Housing – a pattern book

Steinfeld Inclusive Design and UrbanismProf Ed Steinfeld’s keynote address at the ACAA/UD Conference in Melbourne included an outline of the rationale for his inclusive housing pattern book. The book covers both home and urban design elements as well as architectural elements. He argued that in the same way that we transitioned from barrier-free to accessibility, we now need to move to more inclusive and universally designed built forms.  Download the PDF of his presentation here. (2.5 MB)


Notes from the ACAA/UD Conference: Ed Steinfeld’s Keynote

Ed SteinfeldProfessor Ed Steinfeld’s topic was shifting the paradigm from accessibility to universal design. “Universal Design” was coined in the 1980s and has moved on from functionality in the built environment (barrier-free) to embracing the concept of inclusion and addressing diversity in all its forms. But people want to know “what’s in it for me?” and how it relates to outcomes. Most people who know about universal design are aware of the seven classic principles attributed to Ron Mace. However, these principles are not tied to a database of literature. Also,they are generally not very instructional.  

Prof Steinfeld has translated the seven classic principles into eight goals – the eighth adds cultural diversity which is not covered by the seven principles. Briefly, the eight goals* are:

  1. Body Fit: accommodating a wide range of body sizes and abilities
  2. Comfort: keeping demands within desirable limits of body function and perception
  3. Awareness: ensuring that critical information for use is easily perceived
  4. Understanding: making methods of operation and use intuitive, clear and unambiguous
  5. Wellness: contributing to health promotion, avoidance of disease and protection from hazards
  6. Social Integration: treating all groups with dignity and respect
  7. Personalization: incorporating opportunities for choice and the expression of individual preferences
  8. Cultural appropriateness: respecting and reinforcing cultural values and the social and environmental context of any design project.

*Copyright Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012, Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (

Prof Steinfeld provided examples of universal design when going through the 8 goals. He also cautioned against unintended consequences of being too smart with technology so that while it benefited some people, including people with disability, it may exclude others. 

The Association of Consultants in Access Australia held the conference in Melbourne 7-9 October 2016. The next Australian Universal Design Conference will be 6-7 September 2016 at the Sydney Town Hall.


Inclusive Design + Energy Efficiency = Comfort?

Merging Inclusive Design and Energy Efficiency as a disruptive approach to housing renovation

logo-uhasselt_0_0This well designed Poster presentation focusing on home renovations is from Hasselt University in Belgium. It takes the position that comfort can be a unifying way of looking at both energy efficiency and inclusive design.

Abstract. There is a pressing need for housing renovations that both accommodate lifelong living and significantly increase energy efficiency. Much research has been done on both Inclusive design (ID), particularly in the context of accessibility, and energy efficiency (EE). However, they are treated independently and faced with limited adoption. A simultaneous renovation for ID and EE might lead to renovation concepts that better fulfil the residents’ desire for comfort in addition to savings in money and time. Comfort is an important driver for both types of renovations. As a result when the concept of comfort is expanded to include also spatial/usability, social, cognitive and cultural aspects, the merging of ID and EE can offer residents a more complete sense of comfort, thereby increasing the adoption of both ID and EE.



Redefining the Principles of Universal Design

Steinfeld Danford 2006 ICF presentation

In 2006 Ed Steinfeld and Scott Danford re-worked the classic seven principles of universal design to make them more understandable. They also ‘crosswalked’ the principles with the ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health) which is an international system that can be used as a basis for research world-wide. Download the presentation to the 2006 ICF Conference held in Vancouver.

Briefly the redefined principles are:

Body fit; Comfort; Awareness; Understanding; Identity; Social integration; and Cultural appropriateness.