Spaces for all Ages: Policies for an inclusive Australia

Urban landscape with shade trees and lots of casual seating with people sitting.This report by Emily Millane for percapita addresses the issues of an ageing Australia. Population, participation and productivity are the three P’s that feature in the Intergenerational Reports. However, she argues that there is a paucity of government policy proposals to respond to this demographic trend. The paper proposes three policy ideas that seek to create spaces for all ages and changing attitudes is a central plank of creating a more inclusive Australia.  I very readable report that spells out the key issues and sets out some proposals for improvements.

Download a PDF of the report here. 

People at the centre of the design process

Front Cover of the Routledge Companion bookValerie Fletcher is a well known campaigner for inclusive/universal design in the built environment. Her chapter in The Routledge Companion for Architecture Design and Practice is an excellent primer on universal design. After setting the social context of ageing populations and a new view of disability, Fletcher traces the evolution of universal design in both the United States and United Kingdom.

She discusses legislation, accessibility standards, and that universal design evolves from accessibility. Fletcher says that universal design “builds from a floor of accessibility” with fixed standards that are similar across nations. This is a key point at which many people become confused – there is a perception that accessibility IS universal design. She explains the difference.

The contributions by Selwyn Goldsmith (UK) and Ron Mace (US) are discussed, and more recently the contributions by Hubert Froyen (Belgium). Brazilian architect Marcel Pinto Guimarães also gets mention. Of particular interest is the work being done in Singapore to go beyond accessibility codes and to promote universal design.

Valerie Fletcher presents an informative and compelling case for universal design in the 21st Century. 

Promoting UD in architectural education

university college cork.While the principles of universal design resonate with many, it still has its detractors. The authors of this article quote art critic Brian Sewell as saying “Had the disabled of the past been as noisy as the disabled of the present, none of the temples of ancient Greece and Rome would have been built… I am convinced no worthy building of the past should be altered to ease the passage of the rare disabled visitor, nor any of the present be designed specifically to accommodate the wheelchair.” (Sewell, 1997). This view is shared by many who would give precedence to heritage or other design values over inclusion.

Such antagonism for inclusion might stem from high profile examples which are ugly either because of poor design or because they were tacked on as an afterthought. However the authors, Jim Harrison, Kevin Busby, and Linda Horgan, argue there are some design tutors who perpetuate such attitudes and hence influence their students.

This paper provides an interesting and comprehensive discussion on ways in which architecture and design schools can include universal design into their curricula, and how they can work with other professionals such as occupational therapists who can explain the functionality of designs.


A wheelchair user’s perspective on building a new home

Mike’s Story

living room udI interviewed four wheelchair users who had recently built a home as part of my PhD research project. I was interested in the process and the interaction with house-building professionals. In coming newsletters I will feature the other three interviews. This week it is Mike’s Story. He tells how he engaged an architect because he had little confidence in a project home builder understanding what he wanted. However, this did not result in plain sailing.

Download Mike’s story

Jane Bringolf, Website Editor

UD in Architectural Education

buffalo uniBeth Tauke, Megan Basnak, and Sue Weidermann from the University at Buffalo presented their research on the incorporation or otherwise of universal design in architectural education at the 3rd International Conference on Design Education Researchers. The paper can be downloaded from ResearchGate.

Abstract: The World Health Organization estimates that over one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability. Despite changing demographics and an aging world population, it seems that architecture programs in U.S. universities have been slow to incorporate universal design (UD) into their curricula. In an effort to gain a better understanding of the current state of UD content in architecture curricula, researchers distributed an online survey to architectural educators and administrators in 120 U.S. institutions with accredited degree programs. The study, sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), consisted of qualitative and quantitative questions that sought information related to the understanding, attitudes, and incorporation of UD into each participant’s curriculum. Reponses were obtained from 463 participants representing 104 of the 120 surveyed schools. Quantitative analyses found relationships between perceived attitudes of administrators, faculty, and students and the effectiveness of UD components. Results also showed great variability across schools in terms of how, when (course level), and the degree to which UD aspects were incorporated into programs. Qualitative findings revealed valuable insight into potential ways to increase the relevancy of UD in architecture curricula.

“Universal Design in Architectural Education: A U.S. Study” was published in The Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference for Design Education Research Vol 2, which has many other articles on the topic of design education.

Attractive assistive device design reduces stigma

IMGP1385While this book chapter is about assistive technology (social acceptance of walking aids and devices) it focuses on the importance of acceptable design so that they will be more universally acceptable to both the user and others. Walking aids are essential for keeping people on their feet safely and comfortably. However, the stigma attached to these usually unattractive object prevents people from using them. Assistive technology intersects with universal design – in some cases both are needed – the walking aid as well as the step free entrance for full access and ability to participate. Andrew Mcneill and Lynne Coventry explored the issues and the solutions. The chapter can be dowloaded from Research Gate.

Zoo signage everyone can understand

do not feedMichael D W Richards presents an interesting article on the need to standardize zoo signage, particularly DO NOT FEED signs. He concludes, “To achieve this goal they should utilise a design which is reliant on both imagery and text to convey a message, with imagery at the forefront of the design. A human hand, an item of food and an image of an animal should be displayed. … When imagery and text is displayed on feeding restriction signs, all visitors benefit. This form of provision should not be seen as excessively catering for the needs of marginal groups. Rather it should be viewed as an approach that represents a heterogeneous society, increasing access to information and enjoyment for all, through engaging signage.” This article is a part of a series about zoo accessibility.

Inclusion and efficiency in home renovations

logo-uhasselt_0_0This well designed Poster presentation is from Hasselt University in Belgium. Merging Inclusive Design and Energy Efficiency as a disruptive approach to housing renovation takes the position that comfort can be a unifying way of looking at both energy efficiency and inclusive design. The authors conclude: “When the concept of comfort is expanded to include the a full range of spatial, usability, and cognitive aspects, the merging of ID and EE can offer inhabitants a more complete sense of comfort, and by doing so increasing adoption of both types of measures, in line with wider governmental and societal goals.”

Abstract. There is a pressing need for housing renovations that both accommodate lifelong living and significantly increase energy efficiency. Much research has been done on both Inclusive design (ID), particularly in the context of accessibility, and energy efficiency (EE). However, they are treated independently and faced with limited adoption. A simultaneous renovation for ID and EE might lead to renovation concepts that better fulfil the residents’ desire for comfort in addition to savings in money and time. Comfort is an important driver for both types of renovations. As a result when the concept of comfort is expanded to include also spatial/usability, social, cognitive and cultural aspects, the merging of ID and EE can offer residents a more complete sense of comfort, thereby increasing the adoption of both ID and EE.


Achieving full participation through UD

Achieving participation thru UD front coverThis European report sets the scene for promoting universal design and setting an action plan in motion. Universal design is viewed as a strategy to ensure equal and democratic rights in society for all individuals. It covers participation in: political and public life; cultural life; information and communication; education; employment; the built environment; transport; community living; legal protection; research and development; and awareness raising. Examples of good practice are also included. It links well with the eight domains of life outlined in the WHO Age Friendly Cities and Communities program.