Get me out of here!

A man in a red pullover, and a woman with a white jacket stand in front of a door that has a way out sign on it.How useful is a “way out” sign? It depends on where you are and what your spatial abilities are at the time. For people with dementia it can be a real issue in places where toilets are placed down corridors away from the shopping mall or supermarket. This issue was highlighted earlier this year when a man with dementia died in a stairwell because he lost his way. Due to auto door locks in the stairwell he couldn’t get out. Sainsbury’s supermarkets in the UK have toilets within the store. They are now installing “way out” signs to guide people back to the store. They are also making them more friendly for people with a stoma. Having a toilet within the store is also good for all customers. If you need to go quickly you don’t have to abandon your trolley. We could do with more in-store toilets in Australia, especially when they are not within a larger shopping mall.

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Kids Play: A new standard

The NSW Government has announced it will be developing a set of guidelines for all councils to follow when it comes to kids’ play spaces. The aim is to ensure everyone can enjoy playgrounds and play spaces within five years. Funding will be provided to NSW councils to assist with retrofitting existing parks. They are to be assessed against universal design principles. The Touched by Olivia Foundation (Livvi’s Place) has been leading the charge on this topic for some time. It is good to see their efforts being supported by the Government in this way. There will be consultations with stakeholders in the process of developing the guidelines which will be launched next year. There are two press releases on this topic: Liberal Party media release, and a NSW Government media release. It also go picked up by Global Accessibility News.  

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Poorly designed building wins award

A larege campus building with lots of glass and angled pillars and lots of steps.How can a building that compromises safety win an architectural award? Answer: by avoiding any reference to accessibility. A public building in Canada won an award, but the building is not user friendly for all. The video below shows how designing for designers or awards instead of users can produce hazardous results. A blind user demonstrates the hazards whether using steps, the ramp, or even the elevator! It is easy to see how some users would think this thoughtless design. This is a great educational video on why handrails and ramps need to be done in a particular way. Universally accessible design is clever design, but this building is not clever. You can also read the article in the star.com

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Simple Steps for better neighbourhood design

A street scene in Leichhardt, Sydney. It shows a heratig building on the left, a wide paved footpath and a large tree on the right. In the distance you can see a person walking and in the mid ground in a footpath inset is a person sitting on a seat.What does “Liveable” mean when people talk of Liveable Cities? That depends on who is living there. Most upcoming older people are not looking for segregated places in which to grow old – they want to stay home and in their familiar neighbourhood. But can our neighbourhood designs suit the trend to ageing in place? Indeed, can people age all over the place? An article published in The Conversation highlights 8 things to help people grow older safely and to stay active. Not surprisingly, footpaths head the list followed by pedestrian networks, slowed traffic, street crossings, accessible public transport, seating, shade and lighting. The article has many links to more detail and the research behind each of the features. It is easy to see that these factors are good for all ages.

Editor’s note: This is a similar list to one I devised when working with COTA NSW, which I turned into a Basic Age Friendly ChecklistJane Bringolf

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Transport design and mental health

Street scene showing level footpath, shade treas, shade umbrella and lots of seatingHow does transport design affect mental health?  With more emphasis on mental health issues, this is a timely question. Delegates at recent international conference in Barcelona participated in a workshop that provided some useful insights into transport related factors that could impact public mental health. While there are many factors that influence mental health, urban design can provide protective factors. Walking is classed as active transport so something as simple as shade trees and space to encourage social interaction can make a difference. However, many other transportation factors were identified by workshop participants and are included in the article in a themed and tabulated form. Some very useful ideas to add to the universal design melting pot. All workshop participants are attributed as authors. The title of the article is Scoping assessment of transport design target to improve public mental health.

More papers from this conference can be found on the journal website.

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ABCB Practitioners’ Resource Kit

Front cover of the resource kit. Blue background with white text. Four pictures: tactile markers, toilet sign, colour contrast on step nosings, and a doorwayThe Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has released a resource kit for meeting disability access requirements. While this is not about universal design in concept, accessibility forms part of universal design solutions. The kit is extensive (12MB file) and the website has instructions on how to use it. The kit, Disability Access: What Practitioners Need to Know, should be read in conjunction with the National Construction Code. Free access is available to this document.

Editor’s Note: While disability access features are not yet mandated within a private home, the adoption of level entries, wider doorways and hobless showers are useable by all and good for ageing in place. If features such as these are beneficial for everyone in the public environment they should be good for homes as well.

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Age Friendly Checklist

four women using wheelie walkers are crossing the road in single file.While working on the Liveable Communities project at COTA NSW, I analysed several guides on creating liveable and healthy places and spaces. I also checked out the WHO Age Friendly Cities and Communities publications. The aim of the analysis was to find features of particular value to older Australians and distill these into a consumable take-home format for local government staff. The result came down to five key points: footpaths, seating, lighting, wayfinding and toilets. To keep it simple, each of the points were explained in a handout – what to do and what to avoid. 

You can read more about this project on the COTA NSW website and download other documents that relate to the workshop kit for local government. The kit can be downloaded in one document or in sections.  Jane Bringolf, Editor.

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