Lee Wilson makes a plea to organisers of festivals and markets for more inclusive thinking in his recent post on Linked In. He gives an overview of things to think about and that includes emergency procedures. Sometimes an accessible portaloo is installed, but no-one has thought about the grass or gravel leading up to it. Information should also be accessible, particularly to people who do not read English well, or have low vision. Auslan interpreters and audio describers make festivals and events enjoyable for people who are deaf or blind. There are several good resources on making events inclusive:
Accessible Events Checklist from the WA Government
Accessible Events Guide from Meetings and Events Australia
Event Accessibility Checklist from Australian Network on Disability (AND)
Vivid Sydney – example of a website with a section on the access and inclusion features of the event.
The 3rd Australian Universal Design Conference will be held 4-5 September 2018 in Brisbane. The venue is the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (Grey Street side). The organising committee is in the process of finalising the program from the high quality abstracts received and inviting exciting keynotes speakers. It is promising to be an interesting, informative and entertaining event! Keep an eye on the conference website for updates.
For four years the Design Council Spark program in the UK has been mentoring and funding new designers to help get great products to market. The Design Council website has an overview of all the finalists and their projects – which vary considerably. Among the finalists are these products:
- Making strength training easier for people with long term conditions
- Beautiful functional lingerie that works for women with dexterity problems
- Comfort and style after mastectomy
- A saddle for all riders
- Opening doors with ease
Beer, electric bikes, lemons, virtual reality, saving fingers, and exercise also feature. See the web page for more details.
Ted Talker John Carey makes some great statements. “Dignity is to design is what justice is to law and health is to medicine”. “The design reflects back to you your value”. “If good design is only for a privileged few, what good is it?” “Good design shapes our idea of who we are in the world and what we deserve.” John calls fellow architects to account – to design for people other than themselves – who, for the most part, are white males. Unlike law and medicine, architecture has failed to attract and sustain women and people of colour (in the US). A passionate talk that does not mention accessibility in particular, but is a call for good design for everyone – to consider everyone. Worth a listen/view.
A very interesting conversation between a WordPress designer and an advisor to Automattic where they discuss inclusion and how people understand the concepts of inclusive design in different ways. They claim that a diverse team does not necessarily mean that diversity will be reflected in designs – it is a company-wide culture change that is needed. “Success is when inclusive design is the default way to design any aspect of society.” The conversation is between John Maeda of WordPress, and Kat Holmes the advisor to Automattic. Nicely written, large text, lots of good points and tips, and easy to read with extra links at the end of the article.
Google has officially introduced wheelchair-accessible transit routes in Google Maps. It will help people moving with wheels to get around more easily – assuming there is an easy option. Similar ideas and apps have been developed elsewhere. However Google Maps already has such widespread use, any other apps will need to focus on niche conditions and areas. We might have to wait a little longer for the Google Maps app to include Australia, but they claim to be adding this feature world wide. Here is an excerpt from their blog on the official launch:
“Google Maps was built to help people navigate and explore the world, providing directions, worldwide, to people traveling by car, bicycle or on foot. But in city centers, buses and trains are often the best way to get around, which presents a challenge for people who use wheelchairs or with other mobility needs. Information about which stations and routes are wheelchair friendly isn’t always readily available or easy to find. To make public transit work for everyone, today we’re introducing “wheelchair accessible” routes in transit navigation to make getting around easier for those with mobility needs.”
When academics organise a conference on health and wellbeing of people, some of the people being discussed are likely to be in attendance and potentially on the speaking program. But how many academic conference organisers think about this? Not many it seems. Sarah Gordon has written a very readable article about her experience as a conference speaker, attendee and user of the health system. Conferences that have content relating to disability are generally considerate of the “nothing about us without us” approach. But when it comes to conferences on mental health, it seems the users are given little if any consideration. While the focus is on mental health in this paper, the comments can be applied more generally. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is referenced throughout and this makes it a long read. The point is made that conferences are part of the right to life-long learning and education, and the right to give and receive information. The application of universal design principles are discussed as a means to create greater inclusion for conferences. The paper is titled, What makes a ‘good’ conference from a service user perspective? by Sarah Gordon and Kris Gledhill, in the International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law (2017).
Editor’s note: This is one of the few academic papers available as a Word document with free access.
One in six people experience hearing loss. It is one of the silent disabilities (no pun intended). New survey research by Ideas for Ears paints a clear picture of the problems people experience at meetings if they have just a minor degree of hearing loss. And most of the problems can be easily fixed because the majority of people with hearing loss can hear well enough if the situation is managed well. This includes using a microphone, having good acoustics, and sufficient lighting to lip read. Frustration, feeling excluded, stressed and embarrassed are some of the feelings expressed by respondents. Hearing augmentation was covered in the survey, and once again, not having the hearing loop switched on or not working was top of the list. The report makes for interesting reading for anyone organising and running meetings – any meeting – especially if the purpose is for participation and inclusion. While the research was done in the UK, there is no reason to assume it is any different in Australia (or elsewhere). An overview of the survey was published on the Ideas for Ears website. The Clearasound website has some great resources for understanding hearing augmentation systems. Better Hearing Australia also has resources and support services.
The New York Times has a great article, How Design for One Turns Into Design for All. It traces the number of designs that were originally meant to solve the problem for one person and later it was found many others could use the item too. The article also addresses the issue of ugliness; most designs for people with disability have been constructed by engineers without any user input. Those days are starting to disappear. Prosthetic limbs in different designs is one case in point. You can’t hide the prosthesis but there is no need to make it ugly – or too sci-fi either. This statement says much:
“This is plain logic, really. All our shoes, coats and sweaters, the beds we sleep on, the forks and knives we eat with, our lamps and loudspeakers, stairs and elevators, central heat and air-conditioning exist to compensate for what every human being, to some degree, lacks and needs.”
Yes, all technology is “assistive” but “assistive technology” is a term assigned for people with disability and when it comes to design, too often no thought is given to aesthetics. That includes some hideous ramps added to buildings. Lots of pictures illustrate the article.
Runaway Play has embraced the concept of inclusion for their virtual reality games. And they go beyond physical accessibility. Some people get motion sickness, so they came up with a solution. Some people get anxious, particularly from sensory overload – another solution found. The company’s approach to design stemmed from working with a return to work rehabilitation organisation. The title of the article is Learning to design virtual reality for accessibility, by Emma Johansson, and is featured on the Venture Beat website. Good to see IT, AI, and VR going in the right direction.