Progress on UD in Norway: A review

Tall houses are reflected in the water.The houses are different colours, yellow, red and blueNorway’s planning policies are underpinned by the principles of universal design. With a focus on policy, not design detail, this means everyone has to think about inclusion and accessibility in everything they do. Olav Rand Bringa, author of the early reports and papers on universal design in Norway, writes a review of progress with Einar Lund.

In the introduction, they discuss the work and writings of British architect Selwyn Goldsmith that go back to 1963. The review asks the questions, What did we learn? and What did we Gain? In short, new buildings, outdoor environments, websites and more are all designed according to universal design. However, there is much left to do with the existing environment. The paper Picture of the front cover of the Norwegian Action Planconcludes with, “And Universal Design, will it remain a particular design-concept in the future or will it simply be what everyone associates with good design? We should have good reasons to expect the latter.”  Also of interest is the Nordic Charter for Universal Design initiated in 2011, and the main policy document, Norway Universally Designed 2025 that was updated in 2016.

Abstract: The national policy in Norway have since the last part of the 1990s been organized in programs that erected actions including national authorities, municipalities, regional authorities and private enterprises. What have we gained by our national activities to mainstream inclusive and accessibility policy for persons with reduced capability through the principles of Universal Design? Have we made society accessible to everyone and prevented discrimination. Are the results visible? We can measure results on several sectors, inter alia public buildings, outdoor areas, central communication hubs, public transport and the occurrence plans for Universal Design in municipalities and regions. Through several programs and action plans the Norwegian government has developed a sectoral approach for including persons with disabilities in the society. The majority of ministries have participated in these plans. Local initiatives, local councils for disabled people, and later on municipalities and county administrations were supported by national authorities as complements to regulations and laws. In addition, guidelines and assisting funds were used. The main objective was to redefine the national policy, using better defined national goals and introducing Universal Design to replace accessibility as the basic tool. The mainstreaming of the accessibility policy, where Universal Design was included in relevant sectors and activities, was a crucial part of the strategy. The national policy was organized in programs that erected actions focusing on how to reach, inspire and include municipalities and regional authorities in their own struggle for Universal Design. Through the mainstream approach ministries have both earmarked economic transfers to their own agencies and used steering documents guide to these agencies how to implement Universal Design in their advisory services, in practicing laws and regulations and in their own planning and building activities.

The full title of the paper is, From Visions to Practical Policy: The Universal Design Journey in Norway. What Did We Learn? What Did We Gain? What Now? 

Accessibility toolkit from Ireland

Foyer of a public building looking towards the front entrance. A reception desk is in the foregroundThe National Disability Authority, which funds the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland, has produced an online Accessibility Toolkit that is targeted towards services, both public and business. The home page has a list of items that you can look at individually. They are listed and linked below. The home page also has a 16 minute video briefly outlining each of the items. Each of the links below has links to further resources.

Commit to providing accessible services

Provide disability equality training to staff

Consult customers with disabilities

Develop an Equal Status Policy

Consider accessibility when procuring

Include accessibility in a Customer Charter

Appoint an Access Officer and Access Team

Make your services more accessible

Make your buildings more accessible

Plan safe evacuation for all customers and staff

Make your information more accessible

Make your websites more accessible

Accessibility Statement Template

 

Barclays debunk five myths

Five red balloons in a row with the title 5 common myths about accessibilityNeat video by Barclays Bank that debunks common myths about customer complaints, costs of being accessible, access being someone else’s job, it’s too small a market for all that time and effort, and accessible design is boring design. Towards the end there is a great statement, “accessible design should work well for those who need it, and be invisible to those who don’t”. A really useful video for anyone promoting accessible customer service in our digital world, and for others wondering if it really is worth the effort. The video is captioned. You can find out more about Barclays work in this area. They also have a Twitter feed.

Automation and universal design

Wall-e robot. Yellow cube body with eyes mounted on top and robot arms and wheelsAs technology races ahead we need to be thinking quickly about policy development, and ethical questions related to artificial intelligence and the level to which it can affect our lives for good and perhaps not so good. Monash University has produced an 11 minute video in which several speakers have their say on the topic of automation and artificial intelligence. Good points are made from both an ethical perspective and a practical perspective. One point not mentioned is whether all such technology will be inclusive for all users.

Digital Inclusion: Lessons from Australia

shows corner of a laptop and a smartphone on a deskProfessor Gerard Goggin’s latest publication about internet accessibility covers some history of digital inclusion in Australia as well as related social policy. He and his co-authors discuss how the legal action taken against the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games set a new standard in providing information in accessible formats. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) cites this case as how not to do web accessibility in “A Cautionary Tale of Inaccessibility: Sydney Olympics Website” (W3C, 2009).

However, little progress has been made since the Olympic Games in 2000 as any reporting on web accessibility compliance within the Australian government appears absent. In the United States, legislation is pushing the boundaries, but no such legislation exists in Australia. The article, Internet accessibility and disability policy: lessons for digital inclusion and equality from Australia, also discusses the nexus with the National Broadband Network, the NDIS, and other aspects of social policy. The article concludes, “As the Australian case shows, all these broader social aspects are important coordinates, when it comes to internet policy for digital inclusion to people with disabilities”.

Professor Goggin was a Keynote speaker at the 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference in 2016. You can download an edited transcript.

Time for the inclusive revolution

book cover showing outline drawing of an older couple with an iPad tabletThe sub title from the e-book “Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility: Time for a revolution!” says it all. The book includes chapters from UK, Denmark, USA, Slovenia and Norway. The theme is the digital age and how to include everyone. It covers the economic case, putting people at the centre of the design, keeping it simple, and user testing.

In the foreword CEO of BT Retail, Gavin Patterson, says, “The experts interviewed for this book have given all who are involved in developing technology food for thought. It sets out the opportunities, challenges and impacts that communication solutions present to users, to help ensure that what we develop in the future does not end up excluding people whose lives we actually set out to improve. “

Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility is published by the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge and is free to download. Several well known authors are featured, including Valerie Fletcher, Roger Coleman, Ger Craddock, Hua Dong, and Baroness Sally Greengross.

Closed captions help all students

YouTube logo and Closed Captions logoWith tertiary education institutions turning to online learning and creating videos of lectures, the need to caption these videos could be more important for all students than first realised. The findings of this study show the need for more work in this area, but early results show that captioning benefits most students, with or without disability. This finding could transfer to the general community. 

“When queried whether captions were helpful, 99% of students reported they were helpful (5% slightly, 10% moderately, 35% very, 49% extremely). We were unable to determine differences among students with and without disabilities, as we did not track individual survey responses.” Interestingly, in this study 13% of respondents indicated having a disability, but only 6% were registered as such.

young female at a desk with laptop, coffee cup and notebookVarious reasons were given for the benefits of closed captioning – noise in their listening environment, unclear speech in the video, spelling of new or unfamiliar words, and being able to take notes just by stopping the video and not needing to rewind to listen again. Students with English as a second language also benefitted. Although these results show the need for more research, they found there was a 7% increase in student results compared to the previous year’s students who did not have captioning. The article also discusses the cost of captioning and other options, such as speech recognition. The title of the article is, Closed Captioning Matters: Examining the Value of Closed Captions for All Students, and is published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 2016.

Editor’s note: Anyone who has seen the results of “automatic” online Google captioning will know that the results are very haphazard. It is good to see how captioning is now being seen within the scope of universal design and could be more widely applied.

Website accessibility – is it worth the hassle?

picture shows a tablet in a person's hand with a computer screen in the backgroundThis article from the Prototyping blog site uses its own advice in the presentation of this useful information for anyone involved in website design and content. They acknowledge that designing a website is already a hassle with so many things to think about that it seems too hard to think about accessibility as well. Find out why you should consider it. At the end of the article the give sources for the article – Why designing an accessible website benefits your company and all its users. Below are a couple of snippets from the article.

There are four guiding principles for accessibility, acronymed as POUR:

  • Perceivable: content must be perceivable in multiple ways;
  • Operable: content can be navigated through multiple means; the structure makes it easy to find what user is looking for;
  • Understandable: interface behaves in a predictable way;
  • Robust: content works well with mobile devices and assistive technology.

Links that inspired the article:

Media Accessibility Guide

Front cover of service providers accessibility guideMedia Access Australia has produced a comprehensive quick reference guide for accessible communications.  Although the target audience is service providers that deliver support to NDIS participants, it is useful for all organisations that want to make their information accessible. The contents include information on how people with disability access online information, producing and distributing messages, publishing content online, accessible emails, and engaging with social media. Examples of where this Guide may provide useful information include:

    • Setting up a new computer for a person with a disability.
    • Formatting internal documents in an accessible way to help employees with a disability.
    • Creating an accessible website.
    • Ensuring that people with disabilities can access important social media messages from a service provider.

The original guide was funded by Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in 2013.

Choosing an IT system and designer

computer screenThe Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a comprehensive IT Procurement Toolkit. It takes potential purchasers of IT systems through the process of procurement, including assessing potential suppliers, and overseeing the successful implementation of accessibility features. It also shows how to build the skills required to manage the accessibility of the system and user interfaces once the set-up phase is complete. This means ensuring that documents staff produce for uploading to the website also meet the accessibility criteria. Each section of the Toolkit is provided separately. It includes: 

    • Writing Request for Tender
    • Assessing Candidates and Tenders
    • Development and Implementation
    • Evaluating Deliverables
    • Maintaining Accessibility.