Changing Places or Lift and Change?

changing places toilet showing a large change table and hoistThe topic of universal design vs specialised design and Changing Places toilets has received more attention. George Xinos has written an article on this topic in Sourceable. His key point is that there is enough confusion within the industry on anything to do with access and disability without adding to it. However, this is not the whole story. In an effort to get more adult change facilities built, the NSW Government recently made funds available to assist local councils to build an adult change facility or to retrofit a suitable space. This meant that although the facility is fully functional with the essential change table, lifting gear and toilet, they might not meet the Changing Places best design practice and consequently could not be accredited as such and use the logo. Hence the additional term, Lift and Change. The aim has been to find a flexible way to get some functional adult change facilities built as quickly as possible whether they meet the standards of Changing Places or the Master Checklist for Lift and Change faciltiies, which have been published by Local Government NSW. Access Consultant John Evernden made a presentation at the 2017 Inaugural Disability Inclusion Access Awards which explains things in greater detail with case studies of success stories.

Changing Places facilities are not meant to replace or substitute for standard unisex accessible toilets. The same applies to NSW Lift and Change facilities. 


Liveable Streets the Dutch way

picture of a living street with front doors facing the paved and tree lined streetA Woonerf is an inclusive and liveable street and has its origins in the Netherlands. Living streets are known elsewhere by other names. In his article,  provides four key principles of a Woonerf: visible entrances, physical barriers (to slow traffic), shared and paved space, and landscaping and street furniture. While all this sounds wonderful there is a downside of cost. It requires extra engineering and ongoing maintenance. However, Steinberg argues this cost is offset by other factors. See the article for more and for a list of references on street design.


Design for Humans

picture shows a man and woman wearing white hard hats. the white text on red background says The go to guide for designing and building and developing in AucklandAuckland is one of the most liveable cities in the world and it is about to get better with universal design. The Auckland Design Manual and the accompanying Universal Design Tools puts people at the centre of the design. The OurAukland website says, “All people will have some kind of universal design moment in their lives where they find themselves potentially disadvantaged by their environment.” This is the basis of all design thinking in this excellent manual. Case studies, tools for planners and designers, and other resources are all included in this extensive free to download guide.

Auckland Design Manual logoEditor’s note: The progress made by Auckland City has been made possible by having a universal design expert on staff to educate and advise on a daily basis. Every local council should have such a person.


No go for platform lifts

open platform lift at the bottom of a stairwayIn the video below, a nice explanation of why stairway platform lifts are not the preferred option for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. While these devices provide access in buildings where passenger lifts are not an option, they are best limited to retrofits of existing buildings. There should be no reason for designing these costly and awkward devices into new buildings. From a universal design perspective it usually means some critical thinking got lost at the design concept stage. These devices provide access in a technical sense, but they don’t provide equity of access, particularly as they need to call someone in the building to come and unlock and operate the device. So generally they will be avoided where possible. That might mean not using the building at all. Think of the potential commercial and social consequences of that. The video below from CERTIS Learning shows how these devices work and why they should be avoided.


Equitable Emergency Evacuation

Thanks to the Office of Access and Functional Needs Library in California, we can all download a free version of Lee Wilson‘s very useful publication, Evacuation of People with Disability and Emergent Limitations. Lee is an access consultant who is very active in Australia on this topic. Clearly, the focus on providing access into buildings now has to be matched with being able to get out in the event of a fire or other emergency. The guide takes you through many scenarios – it has lots of technical information within its 189 pages.

Editor’s noShows the running man icon illuminated in green with both Chinese characters and Englishte: I recently returned from travelling the Silk Road from Western China to Shanghai where emergency exit signs in all hotels were placed 30 cm above the floor level and many were photo-illuminated, so they don’t rely on electricity to stay illuminated in a fire. The running man symbol was used in each case, as pictured left, but I did not see any with the international access symbol as shown above. Also each room picture of two fire escape masks in bright yellow and redhad “fire escape masks” for wearing during evacuation as shown in the picture below. As an aside, I posted the above picture on Linked In – at the time of posting, it received more than 3,600 views, so it is obviously a topic of interest.



Design guide for public spaces

Cover of the Guide with lots of little pictures of place in small squares like a chequerboardThe Illustrated Technical Guide to the Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces published in 2014 by GAATES (Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments) is comprehensive. GAATES is based in Canada and refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act for standards, but they also include best practice features and design considerations. This means the guide is applicable almost anywhere. 

The guide is available as a 75MB document to download or you can view it online. The Table of Contents lists: Paths of Travel, Recreational Trails, Beach Access Routes, Outdoor Public Use Eating Areas, Outdoor Play Spaces, Accessible Parking, Obtaining Service in Public Spaces, and Maintaining Accessible Public Spaces.


Shared space or contested space?

front cover of the report. black background with a collage of pictures and the title in white letteringPolicy makers are concerned about growing motor vehicle usage, pollution, and poor health outcomes due to lack of exercise. So, the transport and planning experts are keen to get people out of their cars an onto bikes and public transport. Creating pedestrian malls is looking like a policy favourite too. But this often means that pedestrians have to mingle with slow moving traffic, light rail, and cyclists. Alright for some, but not for everyone. Older poeple in particular do not like to share walkways and footpaths with cyclists. And for many older people, the car is their mobility device.

Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has done some research on this topic which is titled, Shared Space, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones from a Universal Design Approach for the Urban Environment in Ireland . It comes as two documents, a short executive summary, and the full document. The study explored “contemporary national and international practices and thinking on Shared Spaces, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones and to investigate these concepts from a Universal Design approach in the Irish urban environment. This report sets out key evidence based findings and provides key recommendations in relation to the implementation of Shared Spaces, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones in Ireland”.