Normal is a fantasy

black and white photo of a young man wearing a T shirt and leaning on the bars of a window grille.This article begins with, “Your stomach is knotted. But you’ve prepared. It’s go time. Outwardly, you fit in with your peers. Yet only you could know about the invisible disability within you that no one else can see. The thing that makes you different. Not “normal.”” The article goes on to discuss the concept of normal from the perspective of a young person starting a new school year.  An interesting read about being a normate, the fear of being ordinary (FOBO), and identity. It is presented in a very readable way with lots of great photos. The article, This May Sound Awkward, but Normal Is a Fantasy,  can be found on the Invisible Disability Project website.  


Designs for Life

Dr Phillippa Carnemolla is in the news for her work on home modifications and how it can improve the quality of life for older people and people with disability. In the UNSW Newsroom article, she says, “I want it to be much easier for people to have houses that they can live their entire lives in with autonomy and mobility and freedom.”  As an industrial designer, she has a passion for design and human rights.

Phillippa’s PhD study showed that “improving people’s home environments not only impacted the amount of care received in the home – it almost halved the amount of care – but it changed relationships.” She goes on to say, “Inclusive design is design that enables people to have that quality of life that we’re talking about – so to participate, to be as independent as possible, to be autonomous and to live in the world without having to ask permission.  It’s about how we include people in the research and design process so that they’re a participant in that decision making and that what we get in the end works for as many people as possible.”

Kitchen Drawers with easy grip handlesRead the full article by going to the UNSW Newsroom website. You can also read one of Phillippa’s conference papers.  She is currently working on a project providing supported accommodation for people at the highest level of need; people who require assistance to be available 24-hours a day.

Dr Carnemolla is a Director of Centre for Universal Design Australia.


Improved captioning for Facebook

Man in a dark blue t shirt leans against a red brick wall near a doorway. He is wearing glasses and looking at his smartphoneAccording to Hearing Like Me website, automatic closed captions are coming to Facebook live videos. Facebook claims these automated captions will be an improvement on the mostly incomprehensible auto captions we see on YouTube – hence the term “craptions”. In the words of one deaf user, “Auto-generated captions are often wrong, providing confusing transcripts, which is frustrating for those of us who rely on written word or lip-reading to fully understand speech.” Of course, captions are also good for anyone who is in a situation where they they don’t have ear plugs and need their phone on silent.

Show a keyboard an two hands with red nail polishDeaf YouTuber Rikki Poynter has been advocating for accurate captions on social videos. As a profoundly deaf teenager, Rikki wanted to access videos in the same way as her peers. But the captions are auto-generated and often result in nonsense. So Rikki started her campaign with her  #NoMoreCraptions awareness project.


Dining out and missing out

A cafe scene without people showing a bar and a row of hi-top tables with bar stoolsRestaurateurs are missing out on a significant group of potential customers who like to dine out. There are two groups that are generally not made welcome either through the design of the establishment or poor customer service. Not that this is deliberate – they just don’t figure in their thinking. Acoustics are an issue for people who can’t hear with high levels of background noise – and it isn’t just older people. Wheelchair users are also disadvantaged by steps, hi-top tables and stools, and multi-level areas. In an interesting article from the Eater website, people with disability discuss their issues and much of it focuses on feeling comfortable and welcomed by staff. Physical accessibility, where it exists, is not the be all and end all of their eating experience. 

Just one step can mean the restaurant misses out. It’s not just the one diner – it’s also the whole party or family group. Too often accessibility is an afterthought in the design process when someone thinks about meeting the obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act. 


Respect: the key to being dementia friendly

An older man sits with his back to the camera in a cafeThe Guardian has published an article on What makes a Dementia Friendly Community? Respect, collaboration and support.  Some key points in the article are:

  1. Being dementia friendly is largely due to grass roots action
  2. Members of the public need to be able to recognise the signs of dementia
  3. Carers need consideration too and better supports for both formal and informal carers
  4. Large companies need to engage with communities on this topic.

See also the latest from Alzheimer’s Australia about the World Health Organization agreement and what it means for an Australian dementia strategy.


Innovations in architecture

Arial view of the 8 House showing the overall design is configured as a figure 8Australians John Wardle Architects and NADAAA project, the Melbourne Design school, has been shortlisted for an international design prize. But perhaps the Danish entry of mixed use development as pictured is the worthy winner. 8 House by Bjarke Ingels Group is a “mixed-use residential building in Copenhagen comprising 475 units in varying sizes for people of all stages of life, also includes offices, a kindergarten and a cafe on the ground floor. The infinity symbol – or figure eight-shaped structure allows apartments to access natural light, ventilation and external views. The project does not provide parking, instead prioritizing access to public transport and cycling paths.”

The prestigious Moriyama RAIC International Prize was “established in 2014 by celebrated Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and the RAIC Foundation. It honours a single work of architecture that embodies values of respect, equality, inclusiveness and social justice”. Sounds just like the principles of universal design.

According to Moriyama, the Prize is aimed at encouraging architects to be service-oriented rather than just focusing on producing something that looks good in magazines. It is about serving the community and humanity. Definately universal design!

You can read more about the four finalists in ArchitectureAU.


Fire protection and accessibility

burning house at night timeScott Williams writes in Sourceable about the safety of older Australians in fire and other emergency situations. It is good to see this being discussed. Sprinkler systems are a key ingredient, but easy and safe access and egress into and within buildings and homes is also important. Williams writes that the Australian Building Codes Board is keen to make the National Construction Code (formerly the Australian Building Code) more accessible. He means, more readable. This is somewhat ironic as what we really need is a NCC that includes accessibility for all in the built environment, not just readability of the NCC for builders and designers with differing reading abilities. Nonetheless, this is taking up the basic philosophy of universal design – inclusion and usability – it’s a start. Issues of climate change and bushfires are mentioned in the article as well as the issues of dealing with solar panels in a fire situation.