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.
Australian Building Codes Board, which produces the National Construction Code (NCC) has released its 2017-2018 Business Plan. Within the work program list is Accessible Housing. The task is to produce a “Research report on the provision of minimum requirements for accessible housing in the NCC”. However, in a letter to Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD), the Executive Officer of the ABCB, Mr Neil Savery, indicates that any change, should that be decided, would not happen until the 2022 edition of the NCC. Nevertheless, Mr Savery encourages ANUHD and others to gather evidence in support of a change, particularly in relation to economic arguments. ANUHD will campaign for the process to be expedited.
ANUHD submitted a proposal for change to the NCC last year but to no avail. It is a detailed document addressing all the criteria for the change to be considered. You can find out more about ANUHD’s actions by going to their website. Anyone is welcome to join ANUHD, join the monthly teleconferences, and keep up to date with progress. ANUHD Convenor, Margaret Ward, recently attended a hearing of the inquiry into outcomes of the National Disability Strategy and spoke about the issues in Australian housing and why regulation is needed.
Also included in the business plan is, Access for Adults with Profound Disability – Sanitary Facilities. The task is to produce a “Research report and regulation impact analysis for the provision of accessible change facilities for adults with profound disability.” This relates to a previous post, Changing Places or Lift and Change?
Cities are expanding across the globe and dictating how we live our lives. So the way they are designed is becoming increasingly important. Cities take up about 2% of the land mass but make up 70% of the economy, 60% of the global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste. The development of the UN New Urban Agenda has taken many years and there is a raft of documentation. The 5 page New Urban Agenda Explainer gives a more digestible overview. While the document does not mention universal design specifically, inclusion of all people to access the benefits of cities is a key theme. It also recommends a bottom up approach so that marginalised groups can participate in designing and developing urban areas.
The New Urban Agenda was adopted by the United Nations at the end of 2016, and, “… represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future – one in which all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities that cities can offer, and in which the international community reconsiders the urban systems and physical form of our urban spaces to achieve this.”
Connected and automated vehicles are being trialled across the world, but will their use and facility be universally designed? The arrival of the driverless car could be life-changing for people who have been unable to own and/or drive a car. In their article, Towards Life-Long Mobility: Accessible Transportation with Automation, the authors explore some of the challenges and opportunities for automated vehicles for people usually excluded from driving. They conclude that the future of automated vehicles for currently excluded people seems to be promising.
Despite the prevalent discussions on automated vehicles, little research has been conducted with a focus on inclusiveness of traditionally excluded populations from driving. Even though we may envision a future where everyone can drive with perfect automation, the problem will not be that simple. As with any other problem domains, we need to scrutinize all the design considerations – not only each population’s characteristics (capabilities and limitations), but also the entire system, technological limitations, and task environments. To this end, the present paper explores challenges and opportunities of automated vehicles for multiple populations, including people with various difficulties/disabilities, older adults, and children. This paper brings up some controversial points and is expected to promote lively discussions at the conference.
People who identify as transgender are often concerned about their safety in public recreation situations. Dreaming About Access: The Experiences of Transgender Individuals in Public Recreation is a report of the qualitative research undertaken by Linda Oakleaf and Laurel P. Richmond. Designing universally for inclusion of people who identify as transgender is not just about participation, it also affirms their worth and dignity. At the end of the executive summary they say,
“Practitioners who wish to translate data from this study into policy should focus on two areas: removing barriers to access, and affirmatively encouraging participation. The barriers discussed most often by participants related to public/private spaces such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers. Practitioners should ensure that all locker rooms, bathrooms, and showers allow for privacy. As is frequently the case with niversal design, this will benefit many users who are not transgender. While the best practice would be to provide gender neutral spaces, at a minimum there should be at least one stall with a door in each bathroom and curtains or other barriers in all showers. Policies and procedures should affirmatively include participants across the gender spectrum and should be aimed at increasing participation.”
From the Editor: One of our members raised an interesting point with me this week about Changing Places toilets and whether they meet the principles of Universal Design. This is one of those situations where it isn’t easy to distinguish where UD ends and specialised design begins.
The European perspective is that inclusion is a continuum – a chain of inclusive thinking. At one end of the continuum are universally designed products, services and environments that almost anyone can use. At the other end are specialised assistive technologies and devices such as prosthetic limbs and speech synthesisers. Somewhere in the middle the two intersect. Some people need both specialised and universally designed products and environments.
A simple example is ramps and level entries go together with mobility devices – a wheelchair user depends on both for achieving entry to a building. So where does that leave us with Changing Places (CP) toilets?
The Changing Places website says their toilets are designed to “meet the needs of people with severe and profound disabilities”. It also says, “It is required that accredited Changing Places facilities be built in addition to and separate from required Unisex Accessible Toilets (see picture of signage). This is to ensure that the needs of both groups of toilet users are met without compromise”. This clearly puts Changing Places toilets at the assistive technology end of the continuum as as a specialised design for particular users. The toilet is therefore not universally designed because not everyone can use it due to the way it is designed. But CP toilets support universal design because in conjunction with other toilet types in the vicinity they provide equitable access for everyone to the surrounding environment. Consequently, everyone gets the benefits – everyone is included.
However, there are concerns that where funds are limited, it would be easy for the uninitiated to assume the CP toilet would work for all wheelchair users. In that case, there would be problems with the drop-down grab bars, particularly for people with MS, Parkinson’s and others with balance problems. The accreditation for these facilities should be through the Changing Places organisation without reference to the public accessible toilet standard (AS1428.1). The term “Lift and Change” toilets is being used in New South Wales and leaves it open to misinterpretation of what the CP toilet is supposed to achieve and who it is for.
Australian Standard for accessible public toilets (AS1428.1) does not cover CP facilities. And not all adult lift and change toilets are accredited by the Changing Places organisation. Hence this leaves it open for a non-accredited Changing Places/ lift and change toilet to be installed without a companion accessible toilet nearby.
CP toilets give families a new freedom to participate in activities, both outdoor and indoor. In this respect these toilets facilitate greater participation and inclusion for individuals and families – and this is a principle that universal design fully supports.
Jane Bringolf, Editor