Alternative to what? you might ask. An Alternative Age-Friendly Handbook, with acknowledgement to the WHO’s work on age-friendly cities, takes a different approach to creating age-friendly urban places and spaces. Focusing on small scale age-friendly urban actions the handbook takes the reader through some useful thinking processes. First, it avoids the language of “apocalyptic demography” where an ageing population is described in terms of disaster and catastrophe. Then it moves on to the participatory approaches that have evolved over the last ten years. “This handbook is, thus, intended for these ‘Other’ urban practitioners who have not, as yet, necessarily engaged with the ‘urban ageing agenda’ and is offered here less as a prescriptive guidance (a how-to on Age-friendliness) and more as a portable reference to inspire critical reflection, action and possible intervention.”
A refreshing presentation of a handbook – not the classic “how to” format. Rather a creative “think about…” While this is from the perspective of older people, much of the thinking and many of the processes apply to all age groups. It looks like a long document, but that is because it is in large print. An easy and engaging read. Published by the University of Manchester Library.
Many people have heard of hearing loops, but few understand the options and how they work. Ideas for Ears in the UK tweeted a blog article with some explanations of the differences. Some systems are suited for face to face customer service, others are suited for large auditoriums. Then there are others that are portable. Knowing which one to use and when is critical for people who need them. Yes, a reminder that one in six people have hearing loss. For an Australian look at these systems, ClearaSound has some good fact sheets that explain the systems really well. However, even when the equipment is installed, the sound professionals or other responsible staff do not check to see if it is working at all times. Also, most systems only work in conjunction with the speaker using a microphone. “Can everyone hear me – I don’t need a microphone?” is not what people want to hear. You might also like to look at the Better Hearing Australia website.
Cities are expected to hold seventy percent of the the world’s population by 2050. In planning terms that is very soon. Encouraging walking is talked about as if it was just a matter of persuading us to do it. However, planners and urban designers need to focus more on pedestrian needs and find out what the barriers are to getting out and about on foot and with wheels. The Institute for Transportation and Development has a new tool, Pedestrians First: Tools for a Walkable City. Joe Chestnut, author, says, “but walkability is not just a sidewalk, it’s a whole system of design and infrastructure”. The tool aims to create a better understanding of walkability and ways to measure features. Their interpretation of walkability also includes people with disability. Best practice examples from around the world are provided. But note – an even footpath or sidewalk is still required!
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 UK department for local government has published a guide to Lifetime Neighbourhoods. It draws on the work in the WHO Age Friendly Cities and Communities information, but presents it in a easy to follow format. Local neighbourhoods have an important role in keeping people well and independent as we grow older. It is closely associated with the concept of home and a sense of security. The key components of a lifetime neighbourhood are listed as:
• supporting residents to develop lifetime neighbourhoods – especially resident
• services and amenities
• built and natural environments
• social networks/well-being
This is a comprehensive document aimed at local government, but also good information for urban designers and planners.
If you want to get up to speed with hearing augmentation, the ClearaSound website has several good resources that can be downloaded. The Hearing Augmentation Systems Comparison is probably the most important fact sheet for explaining the different systems. Follow this up with a fact sheet on which technology is still relevant – this is one area where the basic system-type hasn’t changed over the years even if the details of the technology have improved. There are other fact sheets and a checklist, and some information about live captioning and why it isn’t the perfect answer for everyone.
A hearing loop system is preferred by people with hearing aids and easier for venue owners to service in most cases. Where a hearing loop system cannot be installed due to ceiling heights or other building construction issues, an FM system is required. An infrared system is mostly applied where confidentiality is required for security reasons.
Clearasound is the new name for Printacall.
The Guide to the Healthy Streets Indicators from the UK provides information and checklists in an easy to use format. While it focuses on walkability without the express inclusion of people using wheeled mobility, it alludes to these users: “The design and management of streets should ensure they are open to everyone and that no one is excluded from walking or spending time on them.” The guide covers feelings of safety, places to stop and rest, not too noisy, shade and shelter, easy to cross roads, and pedestrians from all walks of life. Lots of good photos add to the ease of the read.
How much design thought goes into roads and highway? Is it just left to engineers, or are other designers involved? Seems times are changing and a bit more thought is going into roads in the UK. The Design Council has an article that lists the ten principles of good road design that include words such as inclusive and sustainable. The principles were adopted at the recommendation of the Highways England Strategic Design Panel and follow the themes of people, places and processes:
- makes roads safe and useful
- is inclusive
- makes roads understandable
- fits in context
- is restrained
- is environmentally sustainable
- is thorough
- is innovative
- is collaborative
- is long-lasting
Highways England espouses lofty ideals: “We aim to put people at the heart of our work by designing an inclusive, resilient and sustainable road network; appreciated for its usefulness but also its elegance, reflecting in its design the beauty of the natural, built and historic environment through which it passes, and enhancing it where possible.”
The article outlines a method for assessing accessibility and useability of environments. Apart from the method, the results support many other papers on this topic. Top of the list is footpaths followed by seating for resting. Concerns over the mix of cyclists and pedestrians and good lighting also feature. Text is illustrated with several photos. The title of the paper is, The Methodology for Evaluating Accessibility as a Tool for Increasing Social Responsiveness or Urban Landscapes in Singapore.
Editor’s note: It still comes back to the basic five key features, footpaths, seating, lighting, wayfinding and toilets that I identified while working for COTA NSW. Not sure how much evidence needs to be collected before urban planners get the message.