No More Missed Business

Front cover of the Missed Business guide showing an empty car park and an empty accessible car spaceThe Missed Business booklet originally devised by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Marrickville Council has been updated by the NSW Business Chamber. On the positive, it gives key messages in simple sentences and information is presented on three pages with lots of graphics. The layout is designed for two page spread so font is small for online reading. Nevertheless it is good to see this publication appear again. It is aimed at small businesses. There are links to additional documents. You can access the guide online or by downloading the PDF document directly. Lane Cove Council, and Macarthur, have developed their own similar guides with a little more information. Check you local council too. For more on customer service and digital access, see the Human Rights Commission’s additional booklet, Access for all: Improving accessibility for consumers with disability (2016).

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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

 

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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.

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What’s it called? Terminology and universal design

Picture of the back of a house that is being built. The ground is just dirt. Overlaid are words in different colours: Adaptable, Universal, Visitable, Usable, Accessible, Disabled, FlexibleUniversal, inclusive, accessible, design-for-all – are they all the same? Some would argue there are some differences, but the goals are very much the same – inclusion of everyone. Different disciplines, different practitioners, and different countries tend to favour one over the others. Academics find this problematic as it makes it difficult to build an international body of research on a topic where terminology can vary so much. Regulations and codes have not helped the cause: Web accessibility standards, Adaptable Housing standard, Access to Premises Standard, and then there is “universal access” which tends to relate to the built environment. Not having an agreed language or terms is discussed in the Journal of Universal Access in the Information Society. The article  has a long title: Universal design, inclusive design, accessible design, design for all: different concepts—one goal? On the concept of accessibility—historical, methodological and philosophical aspects. This is a very useful paper to get a grasp of how we have come to this position and where we need to go. You will need institutional access for a free read, or it can be purchased.

Abstract: Accessibility and equal opportunities for all in the digital age have become increasingly important over the last decade. In one form or another, the concept of accessibility is being considered to a greater or smaller extent in most projects that develop interactive systems. However, the concept varies among different professions, cultures and interest groups. Design for all, universal access and inclusive design are all different names of approaches that largely focus on increasing the accessibility of the interactive system for the widest possible range of use. But, in what way do all these concepts differ and what is the underlying philosophy in all of these concepts? This paper aims at investigating the various concepts used for accessibility, its methodological and historical development and some philosophical aspects of the concept. It can be concluded that there is little or no consensus regarding the definition and use of the concept, and consequently, there is a risk of bringing less accessibility to the target audience. Particularly in international standardization the lack of consensus is striking. Based on this discussion, the authors argue for a much more thorough definition of the concept and discuss what effects it may have on measurability, conformance with standards and the overall usability for the widest possible range of target users.

Editor’s note: I also wrote on this thorny topic in 2009: Calling a Spade a Shovel: Universal, accessible, adaptable, disabled – aren’t they all the same? Or you can get the quick version from the PowerPoint presentation.

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Why do they keep designing stuff like that?

Woman with a baby stroller using the platform lift to get onto the raised bus stop platform .The bus stop is a tube shaped shelterThe Universalising Design website has an interesting article, Negotiating Place: The Challenge of Inclusive Design. The article highlights the concept of place as being unequal – many places are designed in ways that keep certain people out. It begins with a quote from an access consultant, “In my more miserable moments I think we’ll never get it right, and people just ignore it, and building control officers don’t implement it, and we still see buildings where somebody says it’s accessible, and it’s not accessible at all. We’re still designing public spaces with cobbles, brand new public spaces with cobbles and seats that have got no arms or backrests, and they don’t understand that an older person can’t get up off a concrete stone bench. Why do they keep designing stuff like that?” 

The author, Charlotte Bates, makes good points, including the one that many of us know: even when you design something to be inclusive, it is overridden by contractors who focus on time and money. So there is no guarantee the end result will be accessible. Very readable article.

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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.

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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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