Comparisons between Melbourne and Seoul

A pedestrian street scene in Seoul with a bookshop on one side and entry to a train station on the other. Tall buildings can be seen in the background. People are going about their daily business.Saumya Kaushik gives an overview of her trip to Seoul through the lens of accessibility and architecture. Good, well designed public transport and wayfinding, particularly for English-speaking visitors were a stand out. Saumya concludes her overview, which is the VDD Newsletter, saying that all is not perfect, but it did feel as if people with diverse abilities were the focus in the design and planning. The VDD Newsletter also features more in depth explanations of the principles of universal design. Back issues are available on their website. It is good to see universal design being promoted by architects.  


Coles now has quiet shopping hour

overhead picture of the fresh food section of a supermarketIn line with UK Supermarkets, Coles is the next to introduce a quiet shopping hour for people who are sensitive to noise and hub-bub. The pilot project has been designed in partnership with Autism Spectrum Australia. Some of the features would also suit people with cognitive issues such as dementia – but perhaps not the low level lighting. But an hour of no PA announcements, aisles free from stock cages, and low level piped music could be enjoyed by many.  Parents with children with autism can be more assured of successfully walking out with their groceries – something a Melbourne mother said was a milestone for her.

Editor’s note: It makes me wonder how many people would actually prefer no piped music, a minimum of PA announcements (use a mobile device) and aisles without clutter.


Gold and Silver for Grocon!

Aerial view of the park with a helix shaped sculpture circling a multicoloured saucer shaped water feature. Blocks of apartments surround the park. Each block is a different colour - yellow, orange, red.Grocon has finished building the Parklands project which will be the athlete’s village for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018. All the apartments are to the Livable Housing Design Gold Level and above, and the townhouses are to Livable Housing Design Silver Level. And Grocon says it cost no more to do it. Grocon has also factored in environmental considerations. This means the development is both socially and environmentally sustainable.  So time to get going and do it for all new dwellings in Australia! 

Photos courtesy Grocon are of the bathroom, kitchen and the lever door handle. You can see more pictures of the development site on the Grocon Parklands website including a video of a fly through and a time lapse video. All dwellings will be available for rent after the Games in 2019.  

Editor’s note: I have it on good authority from the registered assessor that the dwellings do in fact meet the LHA Guidelines, give or take a centimetre here or there.


Do we need another form of Braille?

The picture shows a book in landscape with large red icons of the Elia Frames system and a person's hand touching the raised icons.People who are born blind are introduced to Braille from an early age. But what if you become blind at a later age? Is Braille the most suitable system for accessing text, and even if it is, how easy is it to learn? This is a tricky area to navigate in terms of design and policy. However, someone has come up with a tactile system that is based on the alphabet that sighted people know and is easier to learn later in life. It has one an award for innovation. In the article, The Complicated Quest to Redesign Braille, readers are taken through the story and the rationale for the development. The developer claims the new tactile markers are easier and quicker to learn than Braille. Of course, there is no reason why both systems can’t co-exist – the universal solution. The point is also made that the digital world has changed much for people who are blind with products and services such as talking books and podcasts.

The article was found on the Fast Co.Design website.  


Make Way Day

An older woman in a powered wheelchair struggles to get past a bicycle chained to a pole. The front wheel of the bicycle is at a ninety degree angle to the path of travel. She is putting a red Make Way Day sticker on the wheel of the bicycle.Getting along a footpath isn’t always easy especially when some people act either illegally, or without thought for others. Make Way Day in Ireland is creating awareness of the common footpath obstructions that people with disability and pram pushers face every day. On Make Way Day volunteers put “Make Way Day” stickers on the obstacles in their path of travel. This brings attention to the issues for the offender as well as other footpath users. See the link for the examples and a video of obstacles that people have to deal with. There is also a Twitter feed for this.

Editor’s note: This looks like a great project for Australian councils to support by having the stickers printed for volunteers to use and also announcing a Make Way Day to bring attention to it.


Smart Grid and the Internet of Things

Graphic showing silhouetted city outline showing links to homes, factories, offices, transport and other city servicesSmart cities is the new buzzword. But what does that mean? Is universal design considered smart? Darren Bates writes on his blog site that accessibility is a key aspect of a smart city. He covers transportation, community space, playgrounds, city culture, and smart apps. Although he hasn’t discovered anything new, it is good to see the message getting out in mainstream content and linked with innovation. You can read his article on smart cities built for everyone.




Better world with Google Maps

A cartoon drawing with figures with wheels - wheelchair, wheelie walker and a woman pushing a baby strollerSmart phones have changed many things about the way we live.There are apps for almost anything. Some are of particular benefit to people with disability and create greater convenience and independence. Smart phone owners will be familiar with Google Maps for navigating both short and long distances. The maps also contain additional information about parking, places to eat, toilets, and more. For people with wheels, knowing the level of accessibility is critical to their journey and destination planning, whether its a holiday or a local restaurant. Google is encouraging people to sign up to their mapping project that will expand their database of accessible places, spaces and points of interest. You can find out more about this project and see two really interesting videos. One is a wheelchair user in Chicago, and the other is in Indonesia – she uses a modified motor bike to get around. There is also a short introductory video with the key points.

Of course, parents with strollers or anyone with wheels, or with difficulty walking will find this map information useful, so this is taking us closer to a universally designed world.