Are we achieving inclusive design?

Front cover of inclusive designer book. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) asked Julie Fleck to write a book about inclusive design, which was published recently. Fleck was asked by Tourism for All whether she thought we are doing a good job with inclusive design. She said the UK has made huge progress since the 1980s when access became a town planning matter. Improved building regulation, including housing, have had a significant impact on the accessibility of the built environment.

The book also provided an opportunity for Fleck to look at what still needs to be done. She discusses the need to challenge perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. These are the factors that exclude and discriminate – often unintentionally. The book also looks at the London “Square Mile” and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It has case studies and lots of pictures. The title of the book is, Are you an inclusive designer?  

Overview: Despite improvements in the last 20 years we still have a long way to go before all of our buildings, places and spaces are easy and comfortable for all of us to use. This book puts forward a powerful case for a totally new attitude towards inclusivity and accessibility. Exploring both the social and the business cases for striving for better, this book will empower architects to have more enlightened discussions with their clients about why we should be striving for better than the bare minimum, and challenging the notion that inclusive design should be thought of reductively as simply a list of “special features” to be added to a final design, or that inclusivity is only about wheelchair access. The ultimate aim of this book will be to help make inclusive design business as usual rather than something that is added on to address legislation at the end of the development process. Accessible and engaging, this book will be an invaluable resource for students as well as practicing architects, richly illustrated with case studies showing both good and bad examples of inclusive design, and celebrating inclusion. Rather than a dry manual, this book combines a powerful, thought-provoking polemic arguing for a step change in attitude, a guide for practitioners on how to have constructive conversations with clients around ID, and a learning resource for students and architects on how to adopt inclusive design and inclusive environment approaches in their work Offers an engaging challenge to widespread assumptions around what constitutes good, accessible design Provides practical advice, illustrated with case studies, for inclusive design principles The book will also act as a guide for practitioners on how to have more enlightened discussions with their clients around inclusivity

Cross cultural hospital design

Entrance to the emergency section of a hospital.Designing with Indigenous Australians in mind is good for everyone. We know that having level access into a building is essential for some but good for all. It’s the same for many types of design. For example, smartphone apps designed for people who are blind have advantages for everyone. When it comes to designing hospitals, Indigenous Australians are often left out of the picture. 

An article in The Conversation draws our attention to the need to have separate waiting rooms, specifically designed for indigenous patients. This is because they often leave emergency rooms without receiving treatment. But does that mean non-indigenous patients feel comfortable in waiting rooms? Probably not – we all feel uncomfortable and anxious in hospitals. And that’s not good for our health! The article explains design features to improve hospital design. The research is by Timothy O’Rourke and Daphne Nash from University of Queensland. 

The title of the article is, Making space: how designing hospitals for Indigenous people might benefit everyone. Although this article doesn’t mention universal design per se, cross cultural awareness to create inclusive spaces and places is synonymous with UD. 

There are more links in The Conversation article on designing hospitals too, This topic has been covered a few times on this website, but it is good to see it reaching the media.  

Designing hospitals with dementia in mind

A long wide corridor with lots of confusing lines.Most of us feel vulnerable in hospital environments, usually because of their size, lots of people, corridors and signs. For people with dementia and other cognitive conditions, this can be extra scary. A team of researchers in Ireland gathered together the research on hospital design for people with dementia and similar cognitive conditions. They’ve come up with key design themes which are expanded upon in their article:

    • Support engagement and participation
    • Provide a People-centred environment
    • Support patient safety, wellbeing, and health
    • Balance sensory stimulation
    • Support legibility, orientation and navigation’
    • Adequate space to support the particular needs of a person with a cognitive impairment. 
    • Space and supports for accompanying persons and staff

The title of the Cochrane Review article is, Hospital design for older people with cognitive impairment including dementia and delirium: supporting inpatients and accompanying persons

You can find more on this topic in a search under “hospital” on this website. For example, Hospital design and dementia, and Dementia Friendly Hospitals: An in-depth study

Abstract:

Primary objective: To assess the effects of various built environment interventions, in the form of hospital planning and design approaches and features, on the health and wellbeing of older inpatients with cognitive impairment including dementia and delirium.

Secondary objectives: To assess the effects of built environment interventions on accompanying persons. These interventions consist of any design feature that supports an accompanying person as they assist or accompany the patient in the hospital. To assess the effects of built environment interventions on staff within inpatient wards who are providing care to older patients with cognitive impairment.  To identify gaps in the evidence and outline topics for future research.

Placemaking or Making Place?

A blue picture with swirling shapes as if under water.It’s time to move away from the word “placemaking” to “making place” and “making space”. This concept is discussed from an Indigenous Australian context in a book chapter titled, There’s No Place Like (Without) Country. Making place and making space allows for a view of spatial histories, claiming and reclaiming sites, and to uncover stories that are often overlooked in urban design practice. This is an academic text in,  Placemaking Fundamentals for the Built Environment, and you will need institutional access for a free read. It includes an example of the authors’ experience at the Sydney Olympic Park site. Sydney Olympic Park has documented some of the local Indigenous history.

Introduction: “In this chapter, we critique traditional placemaking approaches to site, through the Indigenous Australian concept of Country. We contest that a move away from the word ‘placemaking’ is overdue. We instead propose a practice of ‘making place’, and further ‘making space’ (i) that allows overlooked spatial (hi)stories to reclaim sites that they have always occupied, and (ii) for the very occupants and stories that are ordinarily overlooked in urban and spatial design practice. To do so is to accept that we must look to those marginal occupants, practices and writings that challenge the gendered, heteronormative, white, neuro-typical and colonising discourses that dominate architecture. Placemaking practices employ community consultation, privileging local stories and quotidian ways-of-being in response. It is our position, that even these ‘community-engaged’ processes perpetuate erasure and marginalisation precisely through their conceptualisations of ‘Site’ and what constitutes community. We present a model for an Indigenous/non-Indigenous collaboration that offers methods of spatially encountering site within a colonial context. We share our experiences of a project that we collaboratively produced in the Badu Mangroves at Sydney Olympic Park, to share the overlooked spatial histories and cultures of countless millennia. We have woven together Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies and axiologies, and design-as-research methodology.

See also Introduction: making Indigenous place in the Australian city from Post Colonial Studies journal.

DeafSpace Architecture

Two men are walking on a path between two buildings. People with reduced mobility and vision are considered most often in articles related to articles on inclusive design. More recently people with neurodiverse conditions are taking headlines. But what about people who are deaf? Including captioning and Auslan interpreters at events and on screens is more commonplace, so what else do they need? The Washington Post has an interesting feature on Deaf Architecture.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Dougherty gave me an example of spatial awareness differences between the hearing and the deaf. He mentioned how, to him, a hearing dinner seems so formal, with people firmly stationed at square tables. By contrast, during a deaf dinner, people are continually in motion, switching seats to touch one another or communicate directly with someone across the table. “For me,” Dougherty signed, “a deaf space is a multisensory experience. It’s not just what does it look like at face value. What is the experience of being deaf once I go through the door? What is the experience of me getting through the foyer? To the staircase? What’s the lighting like? What’s the material being used in the building?”  An interesting a readable article with nice pics.

Articles on the same topic:

Designing for dementia using personas

An older woman sits at a table in a room with a tv behind her.Asking users directly is the best way to find out which designs work best.  But when that is not feasible, perhaps personas can help. That’s the claim by a group of researchers who want to help architects and designers to create meaningful public places and spaces inclusive of people with dementia. The process of developing personas proved to be complex and difficult. This is not surprising because dementia affects different people in different ways. The full chapter is via Springer and requires institutional access for a free read. However, it’s possible to get a copy via the ResearchGate route.

The title of the paper is, Developing Dementia Personas for User Centered Architectural Design Considerations in Non-specialized Contexts

Abstract: This paper is concerned with dementia persona development as a research and design tool to help architects and designers to uncover important information towards design processes and decisions in practice. Architects design spaces for specific functions, but do they truly consider integrating these objectives with a focus on creating meaningful spaces for people with dementia while designing and if so, on what grounds. The reason for using dementia personas and not directly approaching people with dementia is due to the fact that it can be very hard to understand the needs of dementia care as people with dementia are dependent on caregivers and family members, in addition to this many designers and architects do not have ethical clearance to work with people living with dementia; as a consequence of their designation. A literature analysis and participatory workshops were used to develop the dementia personas discussed in this paper. The process of developing dementia personas posed many challenges; iterative revisions had to be made to make the personas relatable and concrete enough to be used as a successful design tool. The complex context of the case requires more personas to represent the diversity of persons with dementia in the service provision on different levels and this is the start of the persona development process. The findings are reported herein.

Building health and wellness

A woman strikes a yoga pose alone in a city square with tall buildings around.We need healthy architecture – that is, architecture that supports human health and wellness. Louis Rice claims that human illness is related to the design of the built environment. Key issues are discussed in a book chapter that covers social, mental and physical health and “restorative” design. He proposes a “healthy architecture map” based on materials, environments, agency and behaviours. The title of the chapter is A health map for architecture: The determinants of health and wellbeing in buildings. Abstract is below.

There is more useful information and research in the book including a chapter from Matthew Hutchinson, The Australian dream or a roof over my head. An ecological view of housing for an ageing Australian population.  

The World Health Organization also links health and the built environment in the WHO Housing and Health Guidelines. It includes a chapter on accessible housing.

Abstract: The health crisis facing society, whereby most humans suffer illness, is related to the design of the built environment. The chapter identifies key issues for built environment design professionals to improve the health of architectural environments. The chapter reviews existing medical and public health research to establish evidence-based interrelationships between health and architecture and to define ‘healthy architecture’. ‘Healthy architecture’ goes beyond the relatively narrow focus of physical health, safety regulations or environmental health legislation of much contemporary architectural research. The proposed conceptualisation of ‘healthy architecture’ requires consideration of social, mental and physical health, particularly wellbeing and restorative design. A conceptual framework is generated as a ‘healthy architecture map’ by considering the four principal domains of architectural design related health and wellbeing: materials, environments, agency and behaviours. The ‘healthy architecture map’ can be used by built environment experts, architects, planners, engineers, clients, user groups, public health professionals to inform and improve the design of the built environments to promote and facilitate health and wellbeing.

Liveability plus lovability

Open area with trees and people seated at tables in an outdoor cafe. Liveability usually refers to physical conveniences associated with city life. But how do they make us feel? Are our places lovable as well? A study from 26 neighbourhoods in the United States found that liveablity and lovability are not correlated. Intangible aspects of place aren’t just nice to have – they are critical for improving economic performance. But how do you measure lovability? Lucinda Hartley of University of Melbourne explains more about the research and how socialisation of places also increases economic activity. A place needs to be inclusive with Access-ability to make it lovable by all, of course. The title of the article is, Lovability versus Liveability: What big data tells us about our neighbourhoods. Includes nice pictures and links to other references.

Designing for autism

Floor Plan, Blueprint, House, HomeWell designed buildings support people with physical impairment, but what about people with other sensory issues or cognitive impairment? Shelly Dival argues that we can do more in the built environment to support people on the autism spectrum in educational, work, and home environments.

As a Churchill Fellow, Shelly travelled around the globe in 2018 to gather international knowledge and raise awareness in Australia of how people with autism can benefit from more positive interactions with the built environment. Her report outlines building features requiring further research, including design theories, methods and outcomes. Her findings are also featured in an architecture magazine.

One of her insights was the crossover between autism and other neurological conditions including dementia. Designing for neurodiversity rather than specific conditions may be an effective future-proofing strategy that supports everyone. That’s similar to the approach adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in their forthcoming Guidelines on cognitive accessibility, based on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.  

Learning through experience

A scene of the station showing people near the ticket barrier gates. Claremont College students from different disciplines joined the EnviroLab Asia 2019 Clinic Trip to Japan. A short video shows them checking out accessibility at Umeda train station and Ogimachi Park. The trip included time with Osaka Institute of Technology’s Robotics Department working on a project. They explored robotic technologies and universal design and created a model high tech recreational space for older people. The students conclude that barrier free places are not just for people with disability – it’s about including everyone. 

Abstract:  Studying Accessibility in Japan shows the research project led by Professor Angelina Chin (history, Pomona) with students who studied universal design and accessibility in Japan during the EnviroLab Asia 2019 Clinic Trip. The group also worked with the Osaka Institute of Technology’s Robotics Department.

Editor’s note: This is a video only publication – I couldn’t find any written material other than the abstract. The download button takes you to a high definition of the video, not a document. It is a very large file.