Books on fighting inequality with design

A pile of 8 books on a table with the spines on the left hand side so you can only see the bottoms.The FastCoDesign website has an article featuring books on using design to fight inequality. Urban designers, architects, professors, and activists share their essential reads. The article begins, “Design has afforded us more convenience, more connectivity, and more beauty. But at the same time, it’s also threatening our civil libertiesmanipulating our decisions, and spreading bias.  Here are a few to start with. The rest can be found on the website.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, by Cathy O’Neil.

Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation discusses the importance of co-creation, by Esio Manzini.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America– is about seeking justice in the built environment, by Ibrim X Kenzi.

The Endless City and Living in the Endless City – a critical analysis about the workings of cities from detail and nuance, edited by Burdett and Sudjic. 

Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity. A study of the intersection of race, and architecture. through a deep probing of the aesthetics of blackness, spatial inequality, museum culture, and queer space, by Mario Gooden.

And then there isFastCoDesign’s Thirty five books every designer should read.  

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Digital world still scary to some

A close up of an ATM with a person holding their hand over the pin keyboard to hide their numbersOlder adults are still suspicious of digital transactions. This is one of the conclusions from a study in Ireland. It would be interesting to see if we would get similar results in Australia. With institutions such as Centrelink and Medicare going digital, it is important that we don’t leave people behind. This report, “A Social Policy Report of Older People’s Everyday Experiences of Banking and Telecommunication Providers in County Roscommon” gives some good insights into older people’s behaviours in this digital world. Using ATMs was not popular mainly due to concerns over safety, so there is still a preference to physically visit the bank. Online banking and telephone banking was not favoured either, in spite of many people having a smart phone and a computer. At least visiting the bank means an outing and some exercise for people who spend most of their time at home. Perhaps this should be factored into policies as well. The report lists the key findings at the front of the document. The Economist posted an article on a similar theme. Would be good to see an Australian study.

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Liveable Communities by COTA TAS

graphic showing the 9 domains of the WHO liveability: outdoor spaces and building, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community and health servicesA great resource from COTA Tasmania. Using the World Health Organization’s Age Friendly Cities and Communities framework they have created an online toolkit aimed at local government. Of course, being age friendly, it really means all ages. However, the focus is on an ageing population – Tasmania having the largest proportion of any state. While it is designed with local government in mind, the information about the 8 domains is relevant to a range of disciplines. Elements of the toolkit include some statistics, 10 easy ways and 5 large scale ways to improve your community, digital technology, resources, and how to become a liveable community. It also has a very useful PowerPoint slide show (9MB) with lots of graphics. 

toolkit banner in burnt orange with white text

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Very low pay is a form of exclusion

A man wearing denim shorts holds out the inners of his pockets to show they are empty.If we apply the underpinning principles of universal design to all aspects of our daily lives and embrace the concept of inclusion, where do very low paid workers fit into the scheme of things? Willow Aliento discusses in Fifth Estate the “key worker” issue using a barista as an example of how low paid workers can’t even consider a home and family. So how does that fit with notions of equity? And for older workers who might have their own home, maintaining an existence becomes a daily challenge. She argues that property development policies need to factor stable employment into the mix along with being age and ability inclusive. A good article well written.

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e-Learning for everyone

Shane Hogan is speking at a seminar. He dressed in a grey shirt and tieE-learning is taking off in this new digital age. Shane Hogan from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design based in Ireland shows how to make sure the maximum number of people can access and participate in e-learning programs. Using the example of creating e-learning for the public sector on disability equality training, Shane explains the steps they took in the development, and the ways in which content was presented. For anyone involved in e-learning, the 18 minute video is well worth watching to the end. He also addresses employee industrial issues and concerns over privacy and successful course completion.

 

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Measuring the benefits of UD

A yellow caution sign is taped to the ground with red tape. The doorway entrance has a step below the door with yellow and red tape on it.Dr David Bonnett writes in an opinion piece for the Design Council, that health professionals need to step up to show the benefits (cost savings) of designing inclusively. He argues that inclusive design contributes to our health and wellbeing, but these benefits don’t get measured. In the UK new buildings, both public infrastructure and private homes, must incorporate basic access features. But older buildings are not under the same regulation. There are costs for refurbishing older buildings, but by now we should be calculating that cost more effectively. Bonnett says, “The considerable cost of improving these will be borne by local authorities who will in turn need to justify the benefits of their proposals to Government and other funding agencies.” He adds, “Design professionals, highways engineers included, are open to influence, and access consultants and others can tell them what to do. But first, health professional must assist in devising a method for demonstrating the benefits of inclusive design in order to make the case. Concerns for health succeeded in a ban on smoking in public building almost overnight. Inclusive design – already fifty years in the making – has got some catching up to do.” 

We sometimes hear mention of the cost of bed days for falls, for example, and other conditions that are brought about by poorly designed environments, but as Bonnett says, it is time for the health profession to get on board.

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Age? What’s that got to do with it?

a picture of people waling in different directions but blurredA new report by Per Capita about employment and older people advises that stereotyping, even if positive, is still stereotyping and not helpful for employers. Indeed, the report reminds us that ageism can be applied to any age group, but more recently it has been captured in policy agendas as a term belonging older people. The research for the report, “What’s Age Got to Do With It?“, was carried out by Philip Taylor* and Warwick Smith. The report challenges some of the notions in the Willing to Work report by the Human Rights Commission. It also suggests that ageing advocates might like to rethink some of their messages.

per capita logo in orange and blue with fighting inequality in Australia“Age-based stereotypes (such as loyal, reliable, wise) are often used by older people’s advocates but recent research has shown that these stereotypes may be reinforcing already existing negative views of older workers among employers because these are not the traits they are primarily looking for in employees. This has potentially important implications for efforts to overcome age discrimination by employers. Not only are older workers being promoted in terms of qualities that employers are already more likely to ascribe to them, such qualities are given a lower weighting in terms of employment decisions that take account of productivity.”

The New Daily and Crikey posted articles based on the report. The full report can be downloaded from the Per Capita website.

*Professor Philip Taylor is a Director of CUDA 

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