Upgrading existing buildings

Front cover of the handbook with a purple background and pictures of buildings in a narrow band across the front.The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has produced a new handbook, Upgrading Existing Buildings Handbook. The Preface introduces the document as “one of a series produced by the ABCB … in response to comments and concerns expressed by government, industry and the community that relate to the built environment…on areas of existing regulation or relate to topics which have, for a variety of reasons, been deemed inappropriate for regulation. The aim of the Handbooks is to provide construction industry participants with non-mandatory advice and guidance on specific topics, specifically, buildings classified as Class 2 to 9 in Part A3 of NCC, Volume One”. This is a 47 page document.

Importantly, this handbook outlines a five-step process for scoping proposed new work in existing buildings, with a very strong emphasis at step four to determine whether potential deficiencies are actual deficiencies – i.e. the building does not meet a performance requirement of the National Construction Code. The takeaway message is that Performance Solutions may be the only practical solution to address actual deficiencies, and this is where a Universal Design approach will be most beneficial.

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Easy English – learn how to do it

Black and white logo for easy read, has a tick and a open bookCathy Basterfield is very active in this field, and has made a comprehensive submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Social Welfare System. Centrelink has many clients with low literacy skills and this is a major issue. Cathy’s submission is very informative and has lots of examples of the ways in which people are excluded in all aspects of life and the steps organisations and writers can take to be more inclusive. Her submission is number 116

A good example of Easy English is the companion document to the Willing to Work report.

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UN survey on adequate housing

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing invites organisations to complete her survey. Governments, human rights institutions, organisations and networks, including organisations of persons with disability, and other relevant stakeholders, are encouraged to share contributions and inputs for her report. She welcomes information on innovative approaches and successful programmatic and legislative initiatives as well. The survey questionnaire can be accessed in English, French and Spanish by going to the webpage to download in Word or PDF.

There does not seem to be an Easy English version. There are 8 questions – below are the first three:

  1. Please explain how the right to housing of persons with disabilities is guaranteed in domestic law, including constitutional provisions and human rights legislation.
  2. Please provide any useful statistical indicators, analysis or reports regarding housing condition of persons with disabilities, the extent of homelessness and discrimination, (including failure to provide reasonable accommodation) in the private or public sectors. Please also provide references to any documentation (written, visual or otherwise) of the lived experiences of the housing conditions of people with disabilities.
  3. Please provide data on the number of persons with disabilities living in residential institutions and relevant information on the progress towards developing or implementing deinstitutionalisation strategies to facilitate a sustained transition from institutions to community based living arrangements.

 

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Ask Me: Inclusive research methods

Picture of a hand holding a pen and filling in boxes on a survey formWhen researching the topic of disability, how can researchers know if their methods are the right ones? Do all the standard academically accepted methods used in research projects suit this topic? Researchers with the lived experience of disability are few and far between, and then they are often schooled in the mainstream methods. So how can research methods be tested to show that they are doing the right job? Simple answer: involve people with disability from the start with the design of the research and again in the analysis. It’s one thing to do the job right (accepted methods), but it another to be doing the right job (the job that needs to be done).

The title of this academic paper indicates a very academic approach to the subject, but further into the article, the writing becomes more accessible: Problematizing Reflexivity, Validity, and Disclosure: Research by People with Disabilities About Disability, by James Sheldon, University of Arizona. The paper also discusses the LGBTQ community as another disenfranchised group when it comes to research.

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What’s homelessness got to do with design?

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsUser-led design is one of the central tenets of universal design. Adur and Worthing Council in the UK needed to address issues of rough sleeping and general anti social behaviour which was costing local businesses. They needed something more cost effective than enforcement. The Design Council, a charitable organisation, came to the rescue. Using co-design methods they involved all stakeholders to “think like designers”. Through the process they were able to identify opportunities to improve challenging situations. One of the many ideas generated was to set up a market stall in Worthing town centre where seven or eight rough sleepers were invited to volunteer to run the stall, source goods and test different types of products to sell. The stall changed relationships and perceptions from antagonistic to positive. You can read more on this interesting and award winning project by going to the Design Council website. The methods used are being replicated elsewhere.

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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.

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Get me out of here!

Green emergency egress signs showing running figure and wheelchair figureEmergency evacuations are tricky at the best of times, but when you find steps and stairs difficult or just impossible, what do you do? According to Lee Wilson in Sourceable magazine, Australian building legislation has generally steered clear of promoting the use of refuge areas in commercial buildings. The preferred method of evacuation for people with mobility difficulties is a fire rated evacuation lift. However, this is a costly solution and therefore not widely adopted. But the refuge area hasn’t been properly adopted either. Read Lee Wilson’s article for the Australian regulatory situation, and how Australia fares with other nations and their accessible means of access. Also go to the link at the end of the article about individual workplace PEEPs (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans). They play an essential role in emergency situations.

Photo credit to Loughborough University  

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