The Curb-Cut Effect – more than a ramp

new concrete kerb ramp with yellow tactile indicatorsStanford Social Innovation Review’s article by Angela Glover Blackwell tells how wheelchair users in Berkeley, California, began the curb-cut movement. One night they poured a cement ramp against the kerb and wheeled off. This act of political activism gained publicity and led to more wheelchair users campaigning for kerb ramps. As the kerb ramps were gradually rolled out for wheelchair users it became obvious that many others benefitted, notably parents pushing strollers. This benefit to others became known as the “Curb-Cut Effect” (to use the American spelling) and could be applied to other movements for equity.

The Curb-Cut Effect recognises that helping one group does not hurt another – everyone wins when more people can engage in economic and social activities. As Blackwell says, “Opportunity doesn’t trickle down; it cascades out and up”.

kerb ramp with pedestrian crossing with no tactile markersThe article is a reminder that political activism has its place. All improvements towards equity for any disadvantaged group have been hard fought, and not always won. The article also discusses the growing inequality between rich and poor, and between whites and people of colour. Blackwell goes on to discuss how, “The curb-cut effect applies to America’s new demographic profile in two important ways. First, curb-cut thinking is animated by the idea of equity. Second, the curb-cut effect illustrates the outsize benefits that accrue to everyone from policies and investments designed to achieve equity.”


The Right Type – and no mistake

Actor Warren Beatty with the card for the best movie, MoonlightGraphic design is an important factor in communication. Presenting text and pictures so they make sense to any reader is a skill. Thought needs to go into the ordering of words, the choice of typeface and font size, use of upper and lower case, italics and bold, all have a role to place in the design. Readability is the goal. What might seem clear to the designer may not be clear to the reader. The recent debacle at the Oscars is a case in point. The video below spells out how the poor design of the announcement cards contributed to the error – an error that should have been immediately obvious to the readers, but wasn’t. As you can see from the still shot, “Oscars” takes top place, and the key award, “best picture” gets tiny italic print on the bottom of the card. Add poor lighting and reduced eyesight and it is a recipe for disaster. A lesson for anyone who designs text in any context.

See video – Bad typography has ruined more than just the Oscars


Inclusion: Emerging or Niche Market?

A group of people with a Barclays Bank banner behind themIn an article on the BBC’s website, Canadian Rich Donovan estimates the market “comprises about 1.3 billion people with disabilities worldwide, plus an additional 2.42 billion people once their friends and family are taken into account, which Donovan describes as “huge”. Rich goes on to say that companies are still looking at disability from the wrong angle – it is an emerging market, not a niche market. That is why it has gone unseen for so long. 

Embracing inclusion brings into perspective the family members and friends who are attached to every person with disability and sheds the perspective of the individual – the historical figure of the “poor unfortunates”. Rich says, “Disabled people don’t want ‘special’ products, but they are hungry to be included in the mainstream consumer experience. The article discusses how companies such as Google have taken on the challenges of creating truly inclusive products, including a car a blind person can drive. The same thinking processes can be applied to any marginalised group in society.

Times are changing and a few marketing professionals are re-thinking their markets – thinking inclusion. But there is still a long way to go – attitudes are difficult to change. See related article from the Australian Human Rights Commission and their report, Missing Out: The business case for customer diversity.


2020 Games boosts universal design in Japan

Japan's Prime Minister sitting at a table in a meeting, speakingTokyo will host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and is keen to make them as “comfortable and accessible to everyone” regardless of age, nationality and ability. Japan’s Universal Design 2020 Action Plan was praised by the President of the International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven, when he met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Prime Minister said, “we will take the Tokyo Paralympic Games as an opportunity to realize a society of coexistence, a society in which those with disabilities can pursue their dreams and more fully harness their potential and capabilities, in the same manner as those without disabilities. This will become one of the greatest legacies of the Tokyo Games.” The Prime Minister went on to say that he expected people with disability to be involved in the planning. He also said that it was time for the implementation of “barrier-free-mind” education for all children at school, and that there needs to be a revision of systems and legislation related to universal design and urban planning.

Japan staged the first international conference on universal design in 2002. The initiative was lead by the leaders of Japan’s major manufacturing companies – there is an interesting declaration by the conference committee about their hopes for the uptake of universal design. You can find out more from International Association of Universal Design websiteThere is a short article on their website about the hopes for the Games and its legacy. 


UD in housing: a personal account

Wendy Lovelace had always wanted to be an architect and her early diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) soon after graduating caused her to think about architectural designs quite differently. In the ArchitectureAU article Wendy provides a personal account of her “housing career” and the impact that it’s had on other aspects of her life. The impact goes further than just being able to move around inside her home. It affects all aspects of her life. In talking about universal design she says, “Barrier-free access is important to everybody, not just those on wheels. People in wheelchairs are the most obvious but there are so many others who benefit.” The article provides good insights for designers and planners.

Wendy’s architecture practice focuses on access auditing, equity and inclusion. She started the Queensland Action for Universal Housing Design (QAHUD) as a means of advocating for universal design in housing and to build support for mandating accessible features in all new homes. 


Forget-me-not: Dementia friendly communities

A woman holding a baguette is reaching across a market stallA suburb of London has just been named as dementia friendly. Now campaigners want the whole of London to be dementia friendly – but what would that mean? Probably the most important factor is the way businesses have come on board with this campaign. The idea is for people with dementia to feel confident in getting out and about and participating for as long as possible. There is no single template for designing for dementia, rather it is based on the local people and their experiences of interacting with the environment and coming up with solutions. It is a bottom up approach to designing which is really the basis of universal design thinking. We could do with more of this thinking in Australia. The article comes from the Guardian online newspaper.

You can also find out what Moonee Valley City Council in Melbourne is doing. They have developed a toolkit on this topic.


Accessibility is an issue for everyone

Four women using wheelie walkers crossing the roadUniversal design is gradually being understood by individuals in the building industry, and some have taken to writing blog or magazine articles – even if they are a lone voice. Nevertheless, they all extol the virtues of UD as good for everyone. This article from New Zealand by Rosemary Killip, also raises the question of whether the access standards based on people with disability, specifically wheelchair users, is now fit for purpose. Rosemary asks, are the needs of people with wheelie walkers and walking canes the same as wheelchair users, or even pram pushers and delivery trolley pushers? She argues it is time to review these standards with a broader cross section of the community in mind.

This article was posted by Lifemark.