Design tool for dementia-friendly public buildings

A basic floor plan showing a meeting room, toilets, reception and lobby area.The online tool for Dementia Enabling Environments has a section on public buildings. A click on the Public Buildings picture takes you to a page with a floor plan. Clicking on a room in the floor plan brings up a 3D view of the room. Hovering the mouse over questions marks in the room brings up more detailed information about design ideas that are good for people with dementia. Of course, these designs are usable for almost anyone else who is ambulatory, including people with other cognitive conditions.

This is an excellent resource that takes accessibility beyond the access codes which don’t cover this level of design. The Dementia Enabling Environments tool also covers homes, care settings, and gardens and nature. There are links to other resources as well.

This website has lots of other information about dementia design. You can use the search facility on the menu, or to get you going here are eight references

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Remembering to be dementia-friendly

A yellow notepad with the word Remember. Here are some good resources for considering people with dementia in designs. The topic of dementia can also include people with acquired brain injury and other cognitive conditions at any age. They’ve been collected from this website for ready reference.Too many good publications are soon forgotten after their launch.

Dementia Friendly Homes – an app from Dementia Australia.

Designing Homes with Dementia in Mind – research from Aalborg University.

Dementia Friendly Assessment Tool – a community assessment tool.

Dementia Friendly Home Design – this one from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland – very well researched.

Dementia friendly hospitals from a universal design approach – another from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland.

Exploring Technology, Design and Dementia – PhD thesis from Canada 

Improving the lives of people with dementia through urban design – case studies from UK and published in the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health.

Enlighten: Lighting for older people and people with dementia – from a lighting specialist.

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Invisible and Ubiquitous: UD at its best

The entry to Stortinget metro in Olso showing the uncluttered design with easy access for everyone.Universal design can be embedded in refurbishments and upgrades without anyone noticing. Using a case study of a train station in Norway, Richard Duncan explains how it was done. Norway is a global leader in implementing UD strategies. Their landmark document, Norway Universally Designed by 2025, focuses on inclusive policies where everyone is made responsible. Two surveys from 2018 reveal a gradual change in attitude about universal design. More people understand the concept and agree with the principle of, “Universal design is necessary for some and useful for many”. 

Duncan’s article, Right Under Your Nose: Universal Design in Norway is an easy to read article and is based on Olav Rand Bringa’s work. There is more on this website about the work of Bringa that traces the history of universal design in Norway.

Universal Design and Visitability: From accessibility to zoning.  

Progress on Universal Design in Norway: A review 

Universal Design as a Technical Norm and Juridical Term – A Factor of Development or Recession? Bringa discusses the importance of language in the quest for inclusion.  

Photo by Olav Rand Bringa showing the improved and uncluttered entrance to the station.

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Time to prototype building designs?

A man stands in a workshop with lots of tools around him. He is looking at something small in his hands.Almost all designs go through a prototype process before the final product is produced. The one thing that isn’t tested prior to final design is buildings. Bryan Boyer explores the issues in an easy to read article. He says that digital designers wouldn’t dream of taking a wild guess that their design will hit the mark for all users and ignore user testing. Building designs have an impact on people whether they are users or not. How would a user prototype work for a building? And How do we make it cheap and easy to quantitatively analyse the effect that buildings have on humans? These, and other questions are posed and discussed in this thought provoking article. While universal design isn’t specifically mentioned, it’s implied because Human Centred Design is focused on users, and not on the designer.

The title of the article is, Who Wants to Pay for a Building Twice

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Access Insight newsletter

Front cover of magazine showing the ferris wheel at luna park.The latest edition of the access consultants association newsletter has three articles worth a mention. Andrew Stewart gives the low-down on the Basics of Hearing Augmentation; Bruce Bromley goes into specific detail about stairway nosing strips; and Michael Small discusses international best practice for access to buildings for people with disability. As an association newsletter there are in-house articles and information as well. This includes the upcoming conference ACESSS 2019 to be held at Luna Park in Sydney in August.

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Creating inclusive environments with UD

Ed Steinfeld holding his book next to his face.Published in 2012, Steinfeld and Maisel’s book, Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments, is still relevant today as a standard text. It introduces designers to the principles and practice of designing for all people. it covers the full range from the foundations of accessibility to the practice of inclusive design. Topics include interiors, products, housing and transportation systems. Best practice examples demonstrate the value of universal design as both a survey of the field and reference for researchers. Trove has a copy, otherwise it is available for purchase through Google Books or Wiley publishing.  Steinfeld and Maisel have published numerous books and articles and you can find these on the IDeA website

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“I don’t need a microphone.” But yes, you do

Picture of an ear with sound wavesThere are three types of hearing augmentation systems – but which one to use? The system preferred by most users is a “hearing loop”. It is connected to the sound system in a meeting room or auditorium. People wearing a hearing device with a telecoil, have the sound sent directly to the device. It screens out all the background noise and gives definition to the speech. However, a microphone must be used all the time. So no more “I’ve got a loud voice, I don’t need a microphone” because it won’t be transmitted. Hearing Connections website gives an explanation of this system, FM and Infra-red systems. A system with an ambient microphone that picks up all the sound in the room amplifies all the sounds – so background noise is included with the speech. It can defeat the object. Also, the system should be turned on automatically – no-one should need to ask for it – that’s the point. Building designers, owners and managers have a legal obligation to incorporate the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Editor’s comment: I’ve been given lots of different reasons why the hearing system isn’t working. I’ve been told that permission is needed from  security to turn it on, as well as being told it can’t be switched on because people outside the room might hear confidential information. Clearly, having the system installed and connected is one thing, and training people about its use and purpose is another. 

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Buildings for Everyone NZ style

Front cover of the resourceThe New Zealand Government has a new guide to support their building code, Buildings for everyone: Designing for access and usability.  It’s a good practice guide which goes into fine detail. For example, for entrances it gives reasons why revolving doors are not a good idea, problems with sudden changes in light levels, issues with highly patterned flooring, and how wheelchair users might inadvertently damage doorways or tiling. The guide also links to features to the relevant sections of the Building Code. The main contents are:

  1. Builder user activity
  2. Surrounding area and transport
  3. Pedestrian circulation
  4. Vehicle circulation and parking
  5. Building entrances
  6. Internal circulation
  7. Interior space
  8. Fixtures and fittings
  9. Building types
  10. Means of escape 
  11. Building management

This guide explains the “why” of the specific designs. So there should be no more thinking, “near enough is good enough because a little change here and there won’t matter”. It does matter. The publication is from the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

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Creating Gender Inclusive Bathrooms: A guide

Front cover of Creating Bathroom Accessibility & Gender Inclusive Society.The Creating Bathroom Access & Gender Inclusive Society bathroom guide illustrates how gender inclusive restrooms are also good for other groups of people who are often neglected in the assignment of sanitary facilities. Prevailing social attitudes are probably the biggest barrier to gender inclusive public bathrooms for people who identify as transgender. It therefore calls into question whether the historic binary idea of toilets (men and women) is necessary these days. Issues and solutions are provided in this guide.

“Bathroom access has played a key role in discrimination faced by many other minority groups, with sex segregation posing a particular challenge to enabling restroom inclusion for diverse gender identities. Research by scholars from the Haas Institute LGBTQ Citizenship research cluster highlights the ways gender inclusive bathrooms also benefit other populations including disabled and elderly people who may have attendants of another gender and parents caring for children.”

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Town planning and mental health: a personal perspective

five lane city highway full of cars.Jason Barr is an urban planner who lives with several mental health diagnoses. He has a unique perspective to share when it comes to mental health and urban planning/design. His article focuses on his personal experiences in different built environments, and how those experiences impacted his mental well-being. He emphasises the need to design for people and not cars, and to minimise urban sprawl, and why this is important. As we understand more about mental health and well-being, and how many people live with mental illness, this is a useful perspective to read.

He concludes: ” As planners, we all know one size does not fit all when it comes to built environments and how we experience them. Being able to live within a community built for people and not cars becomes even more crucial than the literature already tells us it is. Its real life. I hope my story can be a reminder to planners and designers everywhere that physical health is not the only dimension of our well-being that we need to pay attention to. Equally important is the consideration of how our cities and towns impact those with mental illnesses. I hope my story “drives” that home. Real consequences on real lives. It is my sincere hope that those who are reading this see that, and take these words into consideration as they craft their local neighborhoods, municipalities, and regions.”

The title of the article is: The impact of town planning on my own mental health as a town planner.   Published in the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health.

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