The 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.
In 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.
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 note: 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 had “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.
The 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.
Policy 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”.