UD and the Internet of Things

Close up of Todd Stabelfeldt with yellow text over The QuadfatherThe development of digital technology has made made possible many things that were impossible. A cliché to some, but for many people with disability it has real meaning. What is a convenience for some becomes independence for others. The IBM blog features what looks like an extended advertisement for Apple iPhones, but a closer look at Innovating for people with disabilities: Why companies should invest in universal design, discusses how the Internet of Things has changed the world and is now designing for diversity. Tracey Lindeman says that embracing the principles of universal design makes financial sense in the log run as retrofitting can be costly. It may also uncover unintended client bases – a device for people with low vision can help a fire fighter in a smoke filled building. The article contains some nice videos explaining how technology has opened up life and created new opportunities to participate and to retain dignity and independence. Nicely written piece.



Modular design: Will it suit the lifespan?

photo taken looking upwards on the corner of an apartment block showing two balconiesArchitectureAU e-magazine features an article on a cooperative housing development in Perth. This particular apartment complex design shows how modular design of various sizes can be stacked in different ways for variations on a theme. The University of Western Australia and WA LandCorp were part of the collaboration. The article talks of a “malleable concept” that “flexes according to individual needs”. However, they are likely talking about size rather than designing for the lifespan and ageing in place. Other aspects of liveability have been considered with communal facilities included in the development. Energy efficiency also gets the tick of approval. 

Editor’s note: With the trend to modular design, will this add more barriers to incorporating other liveability features such as those in the Livable Housing Design Guidelines? 


Stop talking about accessibility…

drawing of two computer screensThe envato blog features an article that begins, “Accessibility… Wait! Don’t stop reading! This isn’t a preachy article about how you should design your digital platforms to be more friendly to the disabled. No. This is a hard-nosed business article about maximizing your potential audience and your profits at the same time. Keep reading, I promise it is worth it.”  The article, Stop talking about accessibility. Start talking about inclusive design, by Paul Boag, goes on to say people have the wrong view of accessibility: “If we are honest we tend to think of blind people.” He says it is time to rebrand accessibility in this easy to read article. He ends with “So next time a client or colleague says they don’t have disabled customers, ask them what they mean. Because they could be turning away more than 1 in 5 of their customers.”

Editor’s Note: Terminology for inclusive practice is critical to success. Accessibility is linked to disability rights and is often legislated. This is why it is still considered to be something for “the others”, and not for everyone. As a human rights issue, inclusion has been hard fought over many years. The terms universal design and inclusive design are still often interpreted as “disabled design”. I wrote a paper on the issues of terminology, Calling a Spade a Shovel: Universal, accessible, adaptable, disabled – aren’t they all the same?  It’s a universal mix-up. Jane Bringolf.


Hearing loss makes it harder to remember

Adults seated at tables in a classroom setting looking forward to the instructor at the front of the roomIn Shari Eberts’ blog article, Does Hearing Loss Make it Harder to Remember Things? she explains how people with hearing loss are using most of their brain capacity to interpret sounds. Consequently there is not much left over for remembering.This is particularly the case where there is a lot of background noise. In information situations, such as fire training, this is an important factor in ensuring everyone will remember what to do. In learning situations it also a significant consideration. This finding supports the case for instant captioning of live events and closed captioning in pre-filmed situations. A study on student learning also found that captioning helped learning. Where captioning is not possible, reducing cognitive load is another strategy. That means selecting places where background noise is minimal, speaking clearly and not too fast, using a microphone, and allowing sufficent time for questions. Other studies have found that visual information is more easily remembered by everyone, so pictures and videos would work well in information sessions and instructional situations.  


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


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.


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