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.


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.


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.


Designing inclusively: Some examples

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsIt isn’t always easy to find examples of good practice in universal design, so it is good to see some on the the Design Council in the UK website. The video below has lots of examples of designing inclusively in the built environment. There are two key messages: get a diverse group of people together before you start designing, and think about all the extra people you can serve or sell to when you design with everyone in mind. While there are several videos around with a similar message, it is good to see the variety of environments covered – from transport to theatre. Rather than take an off-the-shelf ATM, Barclays Bank commissioned the design of their ATMs and came up with the idea of a niche to hang your walking stick – a key factor as if it falls to the ground, the owner may not be able to bend down to pick it up. The video is 8 minutes but worth the watch to the end.


New Urban Agenda

aerial view of a big city with skyscrapersCities are expanding across the globe and dictating how we live our lives. So the way they are designed is becoming increasingly important. Cities take up about 2% of the land mass but make up 70% of the economy, 60% of the global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste. The development of the UN New Urban Agenda has taken many years and there is a raft of documentation. The 5 page New Urban Agenda Explainer gives a more digestible overview. While the document does not mention universal design specifically, inclusion of all people to access the benefits of cities is a key theme. It also recommends a bottom up approach so that marginalised groups can participate in designing and developing urban areas. 

The New Urban Agenda was adopted by the United Nations at the end of 2016, and, “… represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future – one in which all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities that cities can offer, and in which the international community reconsiders the urban systems and physical form of our urban spaces to achieve this.”



Age and Dementia Streetscapes Toolkit

front cover of the toolkit showing a streetscapeThe City of Moonee Valley in Victoria commissioned AJA Architects to devise a resource to guide councils and local authorities designers to create more age and dementia friendly communities. The toolkit is the result of much community consultation with local communities.

The Age n Dem Toolkit has been developed to “provide practical guidance for the design of inclusive, accessible streetscapes for all. Based on the best available local and international evidence, it identifies elements that yellow background with a black call-out box with Age n Dem in itsupport inclusive built environment outcomes for older people generally as well as for people living with dementia.”

Guy Luscombe made a presentation at the 2016 Australian Universal Design Conference about the toolkit while it was being developed.


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.