Fire protection and accessibility

burning house at night timeScott Williams writes in Sourceable about the safety of older Australians in fire and other emergency situations. It is good to see this being discussed. Sprinkler systems are a key ingredient, but easy and safe access and egress into and within buildings and homes is also important. Williams writes that the Australian Building Codes Board is keen to make the National Construction Code (formerly the Australian Building Code) more accessible. He means, more readable. This is somewhat ironic as what we really need is a NCC that includes accessibility for all in the built environment, not just readability of the NCC for builders and designers with differing reading abilities. Nonetheless, this is taking up the basic philosophy of universal design – inclusion and usability – it’s a start. Issues of climate change and bushfires are mentioned in the article as well as the issues of dealing with solar panels in a fire situation. 


Tokyo 2020 Accessibility Guidelines

Tokyo Olympic and Parlympic Games logosJapan has committed to the adoption of universal design in preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.  This has been well received by the International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven: “Universal design will promote a barrier-free attitude among the people of Japan and make for more accessibility facilities. I hope through this place we will see the marrying of Japan’s strong traditions with the innovative culture that is world renowned for in order to make for a more inclusive society.”

As part of the preparations, the Tokyo 2020 Accessibility Guide has been published and can be acquired by emailing the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.


Check out relaxed shopping

A large sign at a supermarket checkout lane saying in red lettering, Relaxed Lane, feel free to take as long a you needTesco Supermarkets in the UK have launched a “relaxed” checkout where shoppers can take their time to unload the trolley and get out their money without anyone tut-tutting behind them. This is a good example of inclusion by parallel design. It is still a universal design because anyone can use it, but it will mostly benefit people who need time to think and organise themselves, or are just a bit slower than others with their movements. This means a lot less stress and will encourage people to keep doing their shopping by themselves. A parent with three small children might also decide to use it – another example where considering people with disability benefits many more people than you first thought of.

This is not a specially designed checkout, so any supermarket can adopt this customer service idea. The Mirror online newspaper has a short video, and there is more from the Kiddermister Shuttle website.


2nd Destinations for All Summit

Front cover of the tourism guide showing a hotel swimming pool with a vacant wheelchair poolsideThe press release for the announcement of the Destinations for All Summit to be held in Brussels in Autumn 2018 states, “With the Western population aging and the benefits of including disabled people in all facets of society, the tourism, culture and transportation sectors have no choice but to fully welcome and adequately serve all citizens, and to be particularly attentive to the needs of elderly and physically disabled people. … The second edition of the Destinations for All World Summit will provide the opportunity to assess progress made since 2014 and move closer to an international standard of accessibility, information sharing, practices and services for persons with disabilities.” You can read more from the press release and the guide and recommendations produced by the World Tourism Organization.


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.”


Disability Inclusion Access Awards

Three trophy cups representing Gold, Silver and BronzeThe Association of Consultants for Access in Australia (ACAA) in partnership with the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) is proud to announce the inaugural Disability Inclusion Access Awards. The aim is to recognize achievements in enabling people with disabilities to fully participate in community life through the creation of an accessible built environment. Entries close 21 June 2017. You can download a PDF of the information. Some of the information is shown below. General enquiries to email:

Award Categories & Prizes
These Awards provide three categories with the prizes being awarded to a team that includes an Architect/Designer, ACAA Access Consultant and Builder. The three categories of development include: 
1. Residential development.
2. Public domain urban outdoor space.
3. Non residential development. 

Prize money 
There are three prizes of $3,000 for each of the three categories for total prize money of $9,000. The $3,000 prizes will be awarded to each team which are to be shared equally.

In addition to the major prize winners ACAAshall award the; 
4. Associate Members Prize in recognition of their work on an Access Audit, Access Study that involved research of various forms, Action Plan or Policy development in the field of enabling inclusive access for people with disabilities, which could be employment, education, accommodation or have a community access related focus. 

Eligibility Criteria 
Eligible projects shall be projects located in NSW and completed during the calendar years between January 2012 and March 2017.

All eligible projects must include an ACAAAccredited or Associate Member within the team and demonstrate their involvement in the project. The ACAA Consultant member may reside outside the state of NSW. All ACAAentrants shall confirm they are financial paid up members of ACAA

More information about the NSW Disability Inclusion Act and strategies can be found on the FaCS website


Inclusive Meetings and Events

front cover of Accessible Events guide. purple with white writingMany event managers and venues have yet to get their head around their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act. While many public buildings may have access through the front door and accessible toilet, this does not make for an inclusive event. Did anyone think about a handrail on the steps to the podium, a lower lectern for a seated speaker, or what to do with the guide dog?

Venue owners and managers, caterers and equipment suppliers are yet to get up to speed with what is required. Meetings and Events Australia have a comprehensive handbook on accessible events which was written in consultation with the Human Rights Commission in 2012. However, it appears only to be available to members of the Association and is not visible on their web home page. Nevertheless, a Google search will also find the Accessible Events Guide.  The Guide also has a checklist at the end. 

front cover access events vic gov.Free to access guides include the Victorian Government guide and checklist. This one uses easy access English as well, so the guide itself is accessible, and covers the role of MC and speakers. Also the West Australian Government checklist is available.

Factors that many organisers might not think about are, a drinking bowl for an assistance dog, the way the event or meeting is promoted, and ensuring there is lighting on the face of speakers for lip readers.

Editor’s Note: While trying to think of everything to make the 2014 Universal Design Conference inclusive, we found the suppliers of the staging equipment did not have a handrail for the steps and the wheelchair ramp was too steep to climb without help. The one-size fits all lectern is also a problem. Rarely is there a lectern that a seated person or person of short stature can use.