Access consultants’ newsletter

The Association of Consultants in Access Australia (ACAA) has restyled their newsletter.  Access Insights is in a format where pages are read scrolling left to right. It has all the same type of information as previous newsletters, mostly relevant to access auditors and consultants, and those involved in the disability sector. This edition has articles on the three access award winners, the wayfinding standard, specialist accommodation, the conference, and more. There are lots of links to other information too. You can also download a copy from the weblink. Contributions are welcome and should be sent to Farah Madon admin@accessarchitects.com.au

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Engineers as designers

aerial view of three people at a desk looking at a set of construction drawingsIt seems engineers might have a reputation for going their own way on projects. Dame Julia King has some comments for engineers about design. “All engineers should be taught elements of design, marketing and psychology as part of their course,” she says, “as it is absolutely critical that they can communicate with other specialists and work with them in teams.” In an opinion piece by Faith Archer, King explains that the engineering discipline rarely uses words like imagination and creativity. She goes on to say that companies should combine engeering with user-centred design to drive success. Apparently engineers don’t get to interact with the users of designs. King cites Apple and Dyson where some of the best outcomes have come from people who have come from a design background and developed a passion for engineering. You can read more about King’s thoughts.

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When you can’t leave

Drawing of a grey interior door opened in a room with dark grey wallpaper. The doorway is a white blank indicating you can't pass throughWhen you spend most or all of your time at home, it is important to have it the way you like it. The layout and design also needs to support whatever activities you like to do. Ricky Buchanan can rarely leave her home due to the level of her disability. So she is in a good position to give five tips for getting the most out of your home when you can’t leave it. There are lots of pictures with labels explaining how each item is used and 3D printing features for make it yourself items. The blog site has some other information including a fun but powerful rap video Hands Off, It’s My Home.  On the blog site, Opening Homes, she discusses the five tips:

  1. Prioritise ambience
  2. Fit more things around you
  3. If you can’t find what you need, create it
  4. Utilise Technology to give you power
  5. Mix things up
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Access for All: But when?

Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch holds up a banner with hashtag access for allAndrew Heaton’s article in Sourceable raises the issue of how much work there is yet to be done since the advent of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1992 and the long-awaited Access to Premises Standard in 2011. In terms of getting out and about, around 30 percent of people with disability (under the age of 65) don’t leave home as often as they would like. The figures haven’t changed since 2003. Many public places and buildings are still off limits in 2017. Some of this is due to the spaces between accessible infrastructure. Accessible places remain inaccessible because there is no joined up access. And some of this is because building owners focus on compliance rather than a successful, usable outcome for users. As for housing, this has slipped under the radar in terms of access and equity in the same way as it is applied to public buildings. In his article, Heaton concludes that we are not talking about a small group of people. It’s about “getting people to relate to the idea of access for everyone rather than only those with disability.” Yes, that means designing universally.

Picture is of Ms Liesl Tesch MP, Member for Gosford. The photo was taken during a rally for the installation of a lift to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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Inclusive video gaming

A young woman avatar with yellow hair and a white dress with yellow flowers holds out her arm that is a black prosthesisA recent article in The Guardian explains how video game developers are designing avatar elements to be more representative of population diversity. There is a growing realisation that choice of skin tone, gender, ethnicity or physical ability for a character is important to players for the “looks like me” appeal. Games are a key element of childhood and teenage life, so it is important to have avatars that represent them. Xbox now have avatars that allow players to depict themselves as wheelchair users or having prosthetic limbs, as well as other atributes such as body shape and skin colour. The article includes a section on gender non-conforming players using gaming as a means for helping them with their coming out process. Games are also a way for children to share time with others when they might not be able to communicate verbally. The article nicely counters arguments about diversity being a fad or holding back creativity:

“When people dismiss representation as a political fad, as an imposition on the creative process, as a means of ticking off lists, they are almost always doing this from a position of privilege. The argument that it’s not the gender, ethnicity or physical abilities of a character that are important, but whether they’re written well and fun to play, is easier to make if you’re already being comfortably represented. It is easy to assume your experience is universal. But it isn’t.” 

A young male and young female are depicted as wheelchair usersA very readable article covering the diversity spectrum in gaming. Short explanatory videos are included.

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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.  

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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.

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