Designers! Call for workshops in Limerick

Logo for the conference in bright pink with white wavy lines and white text for the call for papersThe Design Research Society’s next conference is set for 25-28 June 2018 in Limerick, Ireland. The call for Workshops and/or Conversations closes 15 February 2018. There is an inclusive design track: Designing for Diversity; Inclusive Design as a catalyst for change?  The conference seeks to go beyond disability, ageing and physical accessibility to include fields that have not previously received much attention, for example, neurodiversity, mental health, and obesity. 

The conference home page says “Design shapes are daily lives, influencing how we interact with each other and with our environment. When at its best, design is a powerful catalyst for change. DRS2018 Limerick, invites designers to explore these relationships across an exciting four day conference from 25th-28th June 2018”.


International Conference on Transport & Health

Banner for call for abstracts for the International Conference on Transport and HealthThere’s a second call for abstracts for the International Conference on Transport and Health. Have a look at how many topics are covered! It’s just about everything! The call closes 21 January 2018. The conference will be held 24-27 June 2018 in Michigan, USA. From the conference website:

For policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers. ICTH is designed to bridge the gap between scientific investigation and real-world application. This avant-garde experience is guaranteed to make you feel just a little uncomfortable, a little bit curious and possibly change your perspective. Join us by becoming an abstract presenter. 

2018 European UD Conference call for papers

Website banner announcing the conferene

Wondering where the 2018 European Universal Design Conference is being held? It will be in Dublin, Ireland. It follows on from Oslo, Norway in 2016, and Lund, Sweden in 2014.  It’s easy to miss the call for papers because they have partnered with higher education for this one. It will be held at Dublin Castle from 30 October to 2 November 2018. This event will show how universal design across all disciplines including education and learning are interrelated. The call for abstracts is now open and closes 30 January 2018. The conference home page gives more information about the partners and the event. The full title of the event is Universal Design & Higher Education in Transformation Congress: Transforming our World through Diversity, Design and Education. The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design is the major host.

There is also a call for papers for the International Conference on Transport and Health, which covers just about everything, and for the Design Research Society’s conference which will be held in Limerick. And don’t forget to save the date for the 3rd Australian Universal Design Conference 4-5 September 2018 in Brisbane.


3rd Australian Universal Design Conference

Call for Presentations now open

Banner for the conference The third Australian Universal Design Conference will be held at the Brisbane Conference and Exhibition Centre. The theme is, Home and Away: Creating inclusion everywhere. A call for presentations is now open. The Home and Away theme is to encourage contributions on housing and home, and on tourism and travel. The aim is to attract more practitioners in home design and construction, and tourism operators and businesses. With everything being connected via the digital world, we will also welcome contributions on digital accessibility. See the conference website for more information.  


Destinations for All: Get ready

The photo was taken in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. A woman in a red dress stands looking at plants and behind her is a man in a hat sitting in a wheelchair and moving along the path between the plants. The glass windows can be seen above.Brussels will be hosting the 2nd World Summit on Accessible Tourism next year. It will present the innovations and best practices for the development of the accessible tourism chain. Abstract submissions open November 2017 and close end of March 2018. The date of the summit is 1-2 October 2018.

You can read more about the first summit held in Montreal in 2014 where 360 participants from 31 countries shared their expertise and experiences. At the end of the summit, they adopted the declaration “A world for all”. Available in 10 languages, the declaration includes 40 concrete measures to implement the recommendations of the UNWTO for inclusive tourism. The declaration is a genuine action plan at the local, national and international levels, promoting the accessibility of tourist infrastructure, buildings and services.  Proceedings from the first summit are also available and worth a look.  


It’s Everybody’s House

Syney Opera House taken from a ship at sunset - the House glows yellow and orange“The Sydney Opera House is the People’s House” says the CEO Louise Herron. That’s why they have a commitment to inclusion and accessibility of both the building and performances. Further building upgrades are scheduled which will include enhanced physical access for audiences and performers. “Accessible performances” as they are listed on the website, include Auslan interpreting, captioning, and audio description.

Children are also well catered for with special educational programs that allow them to appreciate some of what goes on. For example, it is great for a blind child to talk to a ballerina and touch her tutu. There are also autism-friendly performances for families. Free Sing & Play sessions are offered in the Drama Theatre Foyer either before or after specified performances. It includes a range of fun play activities. The musical themes from the performances are facilitated by a Sing & Play music therapist.

For visitors wanting to know more about the building there are regular tours. Accessible tours cater for wheelchair users, people who are blind or have low vision, and people who are deaf or hard or hearing.

Economic inclusion has also been considered. Tickets for $5 are available for some performances for people who hold a Commonwealth Health Care Card.

You can download the Theatre Access Guide for more information about how to get around the building with the minimum of fuss. And the quick reference guide to the theatres, building tours, and availability of the shuttle bus.

If you type “Access” into the search function, this will take you to the relevant tabs and menus. Much thought has gone into accessibility and inclusion in all aspects of the House. They have set a great example for other leading organisations for the arts and other cultural experiences. This is also an example of how a heritage building, designed with no thought for people with disability, can be made fit for purpose.


A universally designed conference: are we there yet?

A view of the vestibule of the Sydney Town Hall showing arched doorways and upper storey windows. The colours are classical heritage colours, mustard yellow, pale green and dark red.The 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference showcased the concept of inclusion across several design disciplines and was well received for this aspect. Less well received were aspects of the venue. Indeed some feedback indicated that there was disappointment that the conference itself was not universally designed. So to answer the question, “are we there yet?” the answer is no, not yet. But we are on the way.

I wish that all conference venues were perfectly universally designed. Brand new buildings might meet this criteria – at least they have to comply with access standards. Established buildings particularly heritage buildings are another matter even when upgrades are due. 

So why did we choose a heritage building, the Sydney Town Hall? Sponsorship is an important factor in organising a conference. It not only provides financial support, it also provides commendation. Having the sponsorship of City of Sydney was important for both reasons, and the way the City provides sponsorship for community events is to provide a venue at a significantly reduced cost. 

While some building accessibility features were not optimal, they were at least present and compliant to standards. They also showcased how heritage and access can work together, but compromises were clearly obvious. For example, the toilet signs were almost impossible to see in the dark corridors as they were brown figures on a small sign – a heritage requirement. But this was overcome by supplementing the signage with moveable large signs on stands at waist height. However, the lighting had not been addressed as this is where universal design meets both heritage and “green” agendas! More to be done here.

Picture shows Siam Imm Goh presenting with the live captioning screen behind her
Keynote by Siam Imm Goh

And then there is the actual “machinery” of the conference. Conference staging companies and audio-visual technicians are yet to understand accessibility let alone universal design. The stage ramps normally provided are too steep, and a hand rail for the steps is unheard of. We were at least able to source a compliant ramp and this did not go unnoticed. Few audio-visual technicians have worked with live captioning and have to learn as they go. But at least a few more people would have gone away from this conference with an example of how it should be done. This seems to be the story of universal design – education by example – frustratingly it seems, one person at a time. So, we are definitely not there yet, hence the need for Centre for Universal Design Australia!

Jane Bringolf, Conference Committee Chair 

The top picture is part of the vestibule in the Town Hall showing the intricacies of the design. The lower picture shows keynote speaker Siam Imm Goh with the large captioning screen behind and the presentations screens to both sides.