The term “Smart Cities” usually conjures up ideas of good urban planning and linking with Internet and communications technology. But how can it be smart if it is not also accessible to everyone by incorporating the principles of universal design? There is a plethora of apps to help with navigation and destination selection, but these don’t turn steps into ramps, or garbage bins into seating. Aimi Hamraie writes about a new breed of accessibility apps that can make life easier, but they can also make it more difficult. “Nothing About Us Without Us” is great for political purposes, but maybe not so good when it comes to mainstreaming goods and services. Much is covered in this comprehensive article.
Creating access maps using data collected from individuals is part of a Google Maps project. But there is more to this than just knowing how to get from one place to another when you are a wheelchair user. What does it say about architecture and how we value citizens? Codes for architectural compliance do not include the human perspective of how people actually use places and spaces and relate to each other. This point is made in a philosophical article by Aimi Hamraie, “Mapping Access: Digital Humanities, Disability Justice, and Sociospatial Practice“. She covers the history of access mapping and uses a university campus as a case study, and challenges notions that access mapping is just a database of directional information. Hamraie claims she has developed a methodological tool for “excavating the politics of design embedded in the most banal features of everyday built environments”. A good read for anyone involved in mapping, GIS projects and the architecture of digital inclusion.
Note: This article uses academic language and concepts, but is thorough in discussing all aspects if the issues.
The Australian Building Codes Board’s (ABCB) Options Paper on Accessible Housing is open for comment. The document is about including accessible features in the National Construction Code for new-build mainstream housing in the future to make them mandatory. Submissions close 30 November 2018. Visit the ABCB webpage to get an overview and download the Options Paper in either PDF or Word. Community forums will be held in capital cities between 15 October and 1 November. For more information see the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design Webpage and Facebook page.
Editor’s Comments: The term “accessible” is currently used in building legislation specifically for people with disability in the public domain. In my opinion, the same assumptions are underpinning this proposed review of housing – it is focused on people with disability. As a follow-on, it discusses the issues in terms of a problem that might or might not need to be resolved rather than a community need with benefits for everyone.
This approach makes the benefits for others invisible and consequently discounts them. This leaves it open to interpretations such as a the demands of a few outweighing the choices of the many. Considering the costs and benefits is an important part of the Options Paper. There are several research papers on this topic that have previously been ignored and this is an opportunity to put them before the ABCB. Please read the Options Paper carefully and consider the holistic view of accessible, universally designed housing for all when making a submission. Case studies are also welcome along with personal stories. Jane Bringolf, Editor.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has acknowledged that they have work to do on diversity and inclusion within their ranks and the people for whom they design solutions. While the focus of the Special Collection Announcement publication is about educating engineers, it is interesting to see that they are taking the matter seriously and introducing a new section to their Code of Ethics. At the end of the Announcement they lament that there were no articles submitted about disability or socio-economic status and that this needs to be addressed in the future so that all aspects of diversity are discussed. You can see all abstracts to papers in this collection by going to the journal’s library link.
Walkability is discussed as the solution to keeping people active and engaged in their community. I have heard it said by health enthusiasts that we “have to have steps and stairs because that is good exercise”. Well it might be for some, but not for others. A research study on stairs and older people concludes that the presence of stairs “may deter older persons (and others) from walking outdoors.” The study was a systematic review of the literature. The full article is available online from BMC Public Health. Or you can download the PDF. The title is “Examining the relationships between walkability and physical activity among older persons: what about stairs?” by Nancy Edwards and Joshun Dulai.
It seems the need for all councils in NSW to have a Disability Inclusion Action Plan is starting to have an effect. As part of the plan councils have to be informed by an access and inclusion committee made up of residents, usually with a disability. And now the message is getting through according to an article on the ABC website. Some councillors are taking to the streets in wheelchairs, and with glasses that mimic low vision. This moves council staff from the “tick the box” compliance list to better understanding why certain features and design details are needed. For example, why benches for sitting are no good unless they have backrests and armrests, and why footpaths need to be continuous and not just end suddenly so that you are left walking on grass. The other message from these committees is that accessibility is everyone’s business, not just the ageing and disability coordinator.
The concept of driverless cars excites some and terrifies others. But it is the technology and big business behind it that perhaps we should be concerned about. David Wilson writes in The Fifth Estate about this issue. He alerts us to the size and influence of tech giants and how they can utilise the data they can collect. He provides a table of vehicle enhancements and the time it took or is taking for the market to fully embrace them. The other factor is that vehicle components will change from the current 90% hardware and 10% software to 40% hardware, 40% software, and 20% app providers that link the two together. The article goes on to the important issue of governance. He concludes the article with, “The question is: will the loss of our familiar manual cars be a benefit for humanity, or are we heading towards an Orwellian future where a concentration of high-tech global “fangs” manipulate and control our lives, minimising government regulators to toothless tigers?” Worth a read because this is part of the AI revolution that we will all have to deal with sooner or later and we need to make sure it is inclusive.The title of the article is, Driverless cars: benefit to humanity or road to an Orwellian dystopia?
Last week, The Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) met in South Australia and one item on the agenda was providing minimum accessibility standards for housing in the National Construction Code. The BMF is part of COAG. This is the excerpt from the Communique:
“The BMF agreed the ABCB Accessible Housing Options Paper (Options Paper) be used for broad stakeholder consultations about options for the inclusion of minimum accessibility standards for housing in the NCC. The Options Paper is expected to be released in September 2018, with the expectation of commencing a Regulatory Impact Statement in the first quarter of 2019.”
Kieran O’Donnell from the Australian Building Codes Board will be presenting at the Universal Design Conference in Brisbane 4-5 September. If you want to get ahead of the curve it would be worthwhile attending.
Tthe Australian Network on Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) has been heavily lobbying the BMF to get this on the agenda. ANUHD will be calling on organisations and individuals to show some people-power and respond to the options paper when it comes out next month. See more in the Government News on this important topic.
Is it time to retire the word “retirement”? Does it have the same meaning now as it did 30-40 years ago? Ending paid work, especially if it wasn’t enjoyable, makes the idea of a permanent holiday a dream come true. But is it? For those who are not the retiring type, the notion of being on holiday for up to 40 years is not something they relish. They want to keep going past the nominated pensionable age. So this area has no one-size-fits-all solutions. But one thing common to all, is having the ability to get out and about and access everyday activities and be welcome everywhere, and to have a home that accommodates issues of ageing. That is, let’s have more universal design rolled out so we can have the choice to do what we want as we age. The BBC webpage has an interesting story about a 106 year old man who continues his medical work on a voluntary basis. Examples of centenarians still working include a barber, who has been cutting people’s hair for 95 years, and aYouTube star aged 107, who teaches her million followers how to cook dishes such as fried emu egg.
Hospitals can be distressing places at the best of times. If you have dementia or other cognitive condition it can be a frightening and disorienting place whether a patient or a visitor. Stressed patients stay longer and need more medication.Taking a universal design approach can provide a better experience. Academic research and consumer input underpins this comprehensive guide to designing dementia-friendly hospitals from a universal design approach. In Ireland, where the guide was developed, they estimate almost one third of patients have dementia and as the population ages this will increase. Of course, dementia friendly design using a UD approach is good and inclusive for everyone. The guidelines are available to read online using Issuu software.
Below is a short video that provides an overview of the design factors that need to be considered in creating a dementia friendly hospital.
There is also a media release that provides an overview of the development of the guidelines and the project partners.