Ever wondered what the long term effects of a home modification are? A longitudinal study from the UK shows that household improvements in social housing can reduce risk of hospital stays, particularly in older people. While the study picks up major improvements in chest and heart health, it also found that falls and burns were reduced too. Over the ten years of the study, they found that homes that were modified and upgraded correlated with reduced hospital events. That means savings in the health budget or beds freed up for other patients. Obviously it is better for occupants too. It is not clear how poor the condition of the housing was prior to the upgrade or modification relative to Australian housing. This is an academic paper outlining the methods and comparing to other studies, but the discussion and conclusions give you the take-home message – health and the quality and design of housing quality are related and should be integrated in policy-making and planning.
One key finding was: “Using up to a decade of household improvements linked to individual level data, we found that social housing quality improvements were associated with substantial reductions in emergency hospital admissions for cardiovascular conditions, respiratory conditions, and fall and burn injuries.”
The title of the study is, “Emergency hospital admissions associated with a non-randomised housing intervention meeting national housing quality standards: a longitudinal data linkage study”. Sarah Rodgers et al. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
How do you know if your action plan for accessibility and universal design is actually being implemented? The Norwegian Government’s action plan to be universally designed by 2025 now has a tool to monitor progress to see how it is working. A standardised method to collect and measure data nationally has been trialled. The first results show that Norway still “faces many challenges to meet the government’s goals for Universal Design”. Data were collected on buildings and major facilities such as transport hubs, walkways, cycleways and car parks. Different techniques were used and discussed in the article, “Mapping Norway – a Method to Register and Survey the Status of Accessibility“. The authors conclude that while their system is not perfect due to the need to fully standardise and simplify complex data, they believe it will be valuable to municipal and recreational planners and developers. The article and others can be found in the Proceedings of the International Cartographic Association.
The WHO posted an article in 2014 about Oslo’s Common Principles of Universal Design 2014 based on Norway’s 2025 action plan.
If you want to know what people think about accessible housing, the findings from a recent survey will give you a good idea. With the prospect of a Regulatory Impact Assessment of accessible housing on the horizon this is a timely report. There are four narratives that frame the report: the housing industry view; the government view; prospective buyers’ view; and the perspective of people who need mainstream accessible housing. The survey was initiated by Australian Network on Universal Housing Design and the data were collated, analysed and discussed by Courtney Wright and Jacinta Colley from Griffith University. It is a lengthy but detailed report. Essential reading for anyone interested in this topic and/or who wants to know the history behind the universal design in housing campaign that goes back nearly 20 years. Dr Courtney Wright will be presenting the findings at the 3rd Australian Universal Design Conference in Brisbane 4-5 September.
Comprehensive Universal Design is a concept from India. It refers to the classic principles of universal design, concepts of sustainability, and culture, that is, a “country-centric approach which considers poverty, caste, class, religion, background both rural and urban”. A Conceptual Framework for Barrier Free Hotels in Smart Cities covers most of the basics written in many other papers about universal design, links it to the hotel and tourism industry and all the economic benefits that can bring. Weaving in cultural aspects such as poverty and religion takes universal design thinking another inclusive step forward. The article proposes a conceptual framework to explain.
Abstract: Cities are key for business, Job creation, and the growth of society. The Government of India planned to develop smart cities which are sustainable, inclusive and act as a reference for other aspiring cities. Smart cities in India will work on four principles such as wellbeing of habitants, equity, foresight and efficiency. Existing laws and design principles can act as a hurdle in achieving the four principles laid down. The principles of Universal Design (UD) are user centric, work on the social goals of inclusion, equality and independence. Universal Design India Principle (UDIP) is a set of design principles that focus on a country centric approach which considers culture, caste, poverty, class, and religion. There is an overwhelming need for environmentally sustainable designs for hospitality services. Considering the current requirements, a conceptual framework ‘Comprehensive Universal Design (CUD)’ has been proposed which includes principles of UD, UDIP and environmental sustainability. Adopting comprehensive universal design principles in the hotels in smart city will help the planners to realise equity, quality of life, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.
The article is by Partho Pratim Seal *, P. Senthil Kumaran
Emily Steel has written a thoughtful piece about how the thrust of Australia’s National Disability Strategy is languishing while everyone focuses on one small part of it – the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). She argues that the NDIS runs the risk of further marginalising people because it is still treating people with disability as needing special (that is, separate non-mainstream) treatment. This is where the concepts of universal design come to the fore. Yes, some people will need specialised equipment as part of experiencing inclusion, but that equipment doesn’t make for inclusion unless the person can use the equipment to merge into the mainstream. For example, a person with paraplegia needs both a wheelchair and a step-free entry to buildings. One is no good without the other. The good thing is that a step-free entry is good for everyone – inclusive universal design. Only a small percentage of people with disability will qualify for the NDIS and this is also why we need universal design – for everyone, including people with and without NDIS packages. See Emily’s article for some good points on this issue. Emily will be speaking at the 3rd Australian Universal Design Conference. She is Senior Lecturer, School of Health & Wellbeing at University of Southern Queensland.
An opinion piece on the Design Council website gives an overview of the study they did with Social Change UK. More than 600 built environment practitioners across the UK completed the survey. They found that healthy placemaking often sits outside mainstream housing, public health and placemaking policy. It is seen as a cost rather than an investment and consequently often gets overlooked. The article explains the economic benefits of healthy placemaking. The Design Council defines healthy placemaking as, “tackling preventable disease by shaping the built environment so that healthy activities and experiences are integral to people’s everyday lives.” Improved physical and mental health can be supported by designing neighbourhoods that enable:
- Physical activity: To increase walkability in buildings and neighbourhoods and encourage healthy modes of transport
- Healthy food: To improve access to healthier foods
- Social contact: To design well-connected housing and neighbourhoods that provide access to facilities and amenities to reduce social isolation and loneliness,
- Contact with nature: To provide access to the natural environment, including parks
- Pollution: Reducing exposure to air and noise pollution.
This all adds up to compact, mixed-use, walkable and wheelable neighbourhoods with leafy streets and great parks.
Hobsons Bay City Council is situated south-west of Melbourne with a significant stretch of coastal area. As with many local councils in Victoria they are keen to embrace the principles of universal design in their planning policies. As part of their access and inclusion strategy they plan to implement UD principles in new buildings, buildings with significant upgrades, retrofits of existing buildings, features and public open space. The policy statement includes a table where the 7 classic principles of universal design are translated into specific guidelines for council staff. The policy statement discusses the myths, regulatory framework and how to implement universal design, and how to go beyond compliance.
Next time you have a fire drill and have to evacuate a building, take a moment to consider if there is anyone around you that is, or could be, experiencing difficulty getting out – or maybe even you. If you are a Fire Warden even more reason to read the guide on Safe Evacuation for All from the National Disability Authority in Ireland. It can be downloaded in sections or read online. The aims of this publication are:
- to encourage anyone preparing an evacuation plan to consider the needs of people of all ages, sizes, abilities and disabilities in those plans;
- to help those responsible for buildings to recognise and understand the evacuation features relevant for people with disabilities;
- to give guidance on providing safe evacuation for people of all ages, sizes abilities and disabilities; and
- to identify good practice in providing safe evacuation for everybody.
The Conversation has an interesting article about being lonely in the city. It discusses the notion of “third places” – places that are in the public domain that encourage informal and casual social interaction. The “first place” is home, and the “second place” is where significant time is spent in a formal sense such as the workplace. Community gardens and town squares are an example of a “third” place. This bring into focus the idea of creating spaces with the human scale in mind. Loneliness is a growing concern and spoken of as the “new smoking”. Time for urban designers to ensure social interaction is encouraged for everyone – yes, it’s universal design. The article, Many people feel lonely in the city but perhaps third places can help with that has links to relevant papers.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) embrace the concept of “leave no-one behind”, but we hear little of the SDG in Australia. Perhaps because the focus of the SDG are on developing countries. But some of the aims and ideas could be applied at home as well as elsewhere. A report from the University of Birmingham in the UK reviews ways in which “different groups of people might be unintentionally excluded .. in infrastructure projects.” While the SDG are broad ranging to cover many aspects of exclusion, this report has a focus on people with disability, people of all ages and women. Large scale infrastructure projects can have negative effects for people who are largely invisible to investors, designers, and deliverers of such projects. The report covers transport, water and electricity, discusses tools and approaches, participatory planning processes, social equity audits and universal design. Case studies are provided throughout. Again, although this report is written with developing countries in mind, there are still learnings to be had for developed countries. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a booklet promoting universal design in aid projects funded by the government.