Landscaping a walkway: A case study

A distant view of the place and gate showing the winding path, steps and sitting areasIn this case study, landscape architect Johan Østengen, explains the problem of adapting a city space and a heritage wall and gate on a sloping site into a pleasant place to walk, and to have informal get-togethers. The height difference of seven metres was the main challenge, but with some universal design thinking to drive the design they were able to come up with a successful inclusive and accessible design. For more of this story about this universally designed open space and the difficulties they had to overcome, go to the Inclusive Design Norway website for the article on the Schandorff Walkway. Several photos illustrate the final design. 

Editor’s Note: Norway has almost no flat land and is at the forefront of rolling out universal design everywhere. So the myth that you can’t do UD on sloping sites is put to bed.

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Out and About with Universal Design

Pedestrians are walking towards the camera. They are on a wide walkway. Some people are looking at their phones. They are dressed for warm weather. There are buildings on each side of the walkwayGetting out and about is part of staying active and connected within the community, but some people find that more difficult than others. Inner Sydney Voice has an article explaining the 8 Goals of Universal Design and how they can be applied in the urban environment. The examples given are not exhaustive, but do help with thinking about including everyone. The 8 Goals of Universal Design extend the concepts of the classic 7 Principles of Universal Design that are most often quoted in academic articles. You can download the PDF of the article.  

The 8 goals are: Body Fit, Comfort, Awareness, Understanding, Wellness, Social Integration, Personalisation, Cultural Appropriateness. They were devised by Steinfeld and Maisel (2012).

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Social Sustainability: Is it happening?

Front cover of the Property Council report. A child is doing cartwheels in a parkThe Property Council of Australia has released a report, A Common Language for Social Sustainability. It has five broad themes, one of which is mobility and access. The report goes on to give examples under each of the themes, showcasing what their members are doing. The examples under the access and mobility theme include Stockland rolling out LHA Silver Level features in their retirement villages (but unfortunately not in mainstream housing yet). Stockland has also supported inclusive play spaces through the Touched by Olivia Foundation. See the report for the examples in this section, most of which have yet to hit mainstream. But it is a good start.

A non-jargon version of social sustainability: Everyone can live, participate, and enjoy activities on an equal basis with others. If you want the jargon – the Property Council of Australia defines social sustainability as, “Social sustainability combines the design of the physical realm with design of the social world (including social infrastructure) to support social and cultural life, social amenities, systems for citizen engagement and spaces for people and places to evolve. Communities that are socially sustainable are equitable, diverse, connected and democratic – and they provide a good quality of life for all those who reside in them.”  

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Alternative age friendly handbook

Front cover of the handbook. Simple layout white with black textAlternative 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. 

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Hearing Loops – fixed or portable?

A woman with dark hair wearing a light blue shirt holds her right hand up to cup her ear to indicate she is trying to hear somethingMany 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. 

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Pedestrians First: A Walkability Tool

Front cover of the resource showing a wide footpath with people of all ages walking across the full width of the path.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!

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Getting out quick-smart and safely

Picture taken looking up a building where a man in striped pajamas is being helped onto a ladder by two firefightersNext 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.  
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Visiting historic buildings and places

Front cover of the guide shows a black and white close up of an older hand on a handrail.Historic buildings and places not only hold cultural heritage and national identity, people also work, live and enjoy everyday activities in these places. But how best to maintain them and make them accessible to everyone? Once again Ireland has come up with a resource to help: “Improving the accessibility of historic buildings and places”. The booklet is designed to guide those responsible for historic buildings on how best to maintain, repair and adapt their properties. The chapters provide practical advice including: improving access in and around buildings, providing accessible information, and the process of preparing to improve access. It begins with the principles of getting the balance right, universal design and architectural conservation. More information on related topics can be found on the NDA website.   

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Lifetime Neighbourhoods

brick paved footpath with planter boxes with flowers .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
empowerment
• access
• services and amenities
• built and natural environments
• social networks/well-being
• housing

This is a comprehensive document aimed at local government, but also good information for urban designers and planners.

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Hearing Augmentation Resources

an airport business lounge with two people sitting in arm chairs and two people standingIf 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. 

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