Underground movement and wayfinding

Station in Singapore showing complexity of design with escalators and shiny surfaces.A complex underground interchange station is a good subject for studying wayfinding. Legibility of the environment is more than just signage. In a short paper, the researchers from Singapore focus on different materials used to see if it makes a difference. They looked mainly at colour contrast and glare from lighting. Legibility of the environment helps people who cannot read signs as well as helping to quickly orientate people who can.The article looks to be a translation to English but the content is understandable.

Abstract: Getting lost and disoriented due to the lack of legibility of the space are common problems found in underground stations. Wayfinding inside underground stations is often thought as being solely supported by the presence of signage and directory maps as the tools that help users to understand their orientation and route better. However, the influence of materials on wayfinding in underground stations is often overlooked. Hence this paper presents a comprehensive examination of literature studies and an analysis on Dhoby Ghaut Station in Singapore as case studies. This station serves three interchange MRT lines and complex routes, which renders wayfinding issues even more urgent. The goal of this paper is to examine the
potential of contrasting the material application for effective wayfinding inside the underground station. To identify aspects regarding the impact of selection and placement of materials applied (on floors, walls, and ceilings of underground stations), literature and case study are carried out. The results indicate that the materials used in underground station influences wayfinding in varying degrees.

The title of the paper isInfluence of material application to wayfinding issue in
underground station design.  


Towards a more inclusive Melbourne

Front cover of the report.Consulting stakeholders, public transport, footpaths and supportive legislation are key factors for making Melbourne more inclusive. This was the result of a recent research project involving University of Melbourne, City of Melbourne staff and other stakeholders, including people with disability. The 18 page report is sufficiently detailed without being long-winded. 

“Ideas that were considered to be both important and feasible were those relating to: consulting people with disability during planning, educating employers about inclusion and equal opportunity, increasing access to a diversity of employment opportunities, providing accessible government forms, advocating to the state government on the needs of people with disability, ensuring that the City of Melbourne is a visibly inclusive organisation, providing Easy English information about people’s entitlements, and training policy officers and local compliance officers about diversity of disabilities.”

The title of the report is, Making the City of Melbourne more inclusive for people with disability. It is published by University of Melbourne (2019). 

Design-for-All: Transferring knowledge

Graphic of four criteria based on How, What, Why, Where.Design-for-All / Universal Design studies are often discussed from a theoretic point of view or from a user participation standpoint. Few studies look at the practical tools architects could use to help them apply the principles of inclusive design. 

A literature review from Europe sought to identify how to transfer design information to architects so that they could do more than just comply with access standards. Four criteria for translating user needs into design strategies were found. These will be developed into a tool in the next stage of the research.  See the full paper for the criteria which are also neatly shown in a graphic above.

The title of the paper is, Inspiring architects in the application of Design-for-All: Knowledge transfer methods and tools. The research team is E. Mosca, J. Herssens, A. Rebecchi and S. Capolongo.  
Note that Design-for-All (DfA) is mostly used in Europe, Inclusive Design in UK, and Universal Design elsewhere. As they are all based around the same ideas, the terms are used interchangeably. The term universal design is in the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability. This Convention came into being after the other terms were well established.

Evaluating universal design: can it be done?

People walking on a wide pedestrian crossing. They are blurred as if they are walking quickly.The intention of the principles of universal design is to give an overview of designing inclusively. But what does universal design mean and how do you measure it? What if there was an assessment tool for access and inclusion? Would this change the attitudes of designers to think about the diversity of the population in their designs?  If an assessment tool helps designers to think universally then this will be a step forward. The risk is that this type of research ends with yet another checklist and a “tick the box” approach by designers.

Researchers from Italy have tried their hand at finding a method for evaluating universal design in the built environment. Their research paper concludes that two methods are needed: the involvement of users, and the use of indirect methods such as checklists. They aim to continue their research into developing a tool for assessment of inclusion, and to “stimulate the continuous and lasting improvement of inclusion from a UD perspective through the application of shared and measurable data”.

The title of their paper is, Towards a Universal Design Evaluation for Assessing the Performance of the Built Environment, by Erica Isa Mosca and Stefano Capolongo

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

Universal Design and the Politics of Disability

Book cover showing anthropometric diagrams of a wheelchair userBook reviews can reveal good information in their own right. One such case is the review of Aimi Hamraie’s book, Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability. The book traces the history of universal design from the 1950s in the United States to current ideas. Hamraie discusses issues from both a design and a disability perspective. This is an academic text that would be of value to both design and disability studies. Other articles about Hamraie posted previously are:

UD: Social justice or just marketing? 

The evolution of UD and accessibility

Mapping Access: People, Place and Justice  

Dementia Friendly Hospitals: An in-depth study

A hosptial room with three empty beds. It looks very clinical.People with dementia find new places and routines challenging. So when it comes to going to hospital they often experience increased anxiety and disorientation. The design of the hospital environment can have an effect on this group. That’s the finding of some new research carried out in hospitals where they interviewed patients and family members. “The voices of patients, particularly persons with dementia and their APs, are a crucial element in helping hospitals to fulfill their role as caregiving and healing facilities”.

The title of the article is, Dementia Friendly Hospital Design: Key Issues for Patients and Accompanying Persons in an Irish Acute Care Public Hospital  You will need institutional access for a free read. This is further work from Ireland on their guide to dementia friendly hospitals

Objectives: Research was conducted to investigate the impact of the hospital environment on older people including patients with dementia and their accompanying persons (APs). The article presents key research findings in the case study hospital.

Background: For many patients, the hospital is challenging due to the busy, unfamiliar, and stressful nature of the environment. For a person with dementia, the hospital experience can be exacerbated by cognitive impairment and behavioral or psychological symptoms and can therefore prove to be a frightening, distressing, and disorientating place.

Method: The findings are based on a stakeholder engagement process where the research team spent approximately 150 hr observing within the hospital, administered 95 questionnaires to patients and/or APs, and conducted 12 structured interviews with patients and APs. A thematic analysis was employed to analyze and generate key themes emerging from the process.

Results: Themes were grouped into overarching issues and design issues across spatial scales.

Conclusion: This research confirms the negative impact of the acute hospital setting on older people with cognitive impairments including dementia and delirium. The multiple perspectives captured in this study, including most importantly people with dementia, ensure that stakeholder needs can be used to inform the design of the hospital environment. The research points to the value of understanding the lived experience of the person with dementia and APs. The voices of patients, particularly persons with dementia and their APs, are a crucial element in helping hospitals to fulfill their role as caregiving and healing facilities. 

100-Year Life: People, Planning and Housing

Four women using wheelie walkers crossing the roadThe longevity revolution is here, but we haven’t prepared for it. The way cities are planned and homes are designed hasn’t really changed since mid 1900s. This lack of foresight is having a significant effect on people over 65 years who are not getting any younger. This is a common problem for most developed nations. The Design Council in UK tackled this topic in “The 100-year life: the role of housing, planning and design“. Their article contains some small scale but effective case studies, showing various ways to address the issues with inclusive thinking. It includes home modifications, ways to finance home and community upgrades, transportation, and the application of the WHO Guidelines for Age Friendly Communities. Educating designers and planners is of course paramount as well as involving citizens in the design and development processes. The article ends with a summary of recommendations. Their conclusions resonate with the principles of universal design:

“If we are going to be successful in creating homes and places which meets both fast rising demand, and the diverse and individual needs of older people, our thinking needs to be much broader. We need to consider how we help people afford better housing and plan their finances; how we develop long-term special plans and a workforce with the right skills; and how we use existing policy levers, such as expansion of personal budgets, to best effect. We need a whole-population, whole-place approach to planning for our future health, care, housing and support system at both the national and local levels.”   

The Design Council has a free online CPD course on inclusive environments designed to suit built environment professionals. It takes about an hour.

Putting a value on universal design

A Westpac bank branch in NSW country town. It is a large old two storey house with steps to the entranceBuilding regulations stipulate certain access requirements, but what do people value most and will they be high cost, particularly in retrofits? Using Stated Preferences analysis and cost-benefit data, researchers found that some features suited a wide group, while others suited only a few. The question then is, if the feature for the few costs the most, should it be included or ignored in a retrofit? 

The authors commented that by, “using the projects results and calculation tool in prioritising, more emphasis will be put on measures that improve the buildings’ quality for a wide audience. Such measures may easily be forgotten if one only focusses on the most obvious deficits.” Among high benefit features, were good lighting, visual and tactile markings, and stair handrails.

An interesting study that reveals the preferences of building users and the value they place on certain features and the related costs. This can be compared with features set down in access standards where the value for users is not assessed, nor the costs.

The title of the article is, Upgrading Existing Buildings to Universal Design. What Cost-Benefit Analyses Can Tell Us.  It is open source from IOS Press. 

Shopping with universal design

A long view of the Family Mall - one of those in the study. It looks like any other western style mall.In most countries new shopping complexes  must comply with current disability access standards. However, that doesn’t guarantee a comfortable, safe or convenient shopping experience for everyone. An article published in Sustainability discusses the adaptation of the classic principles of universal design to suit shopping environments. Usability, safety and comfort were seen as the key design elements. The article includes a literature review and a study of six shopping malls. Although the study was carried out in a developing country, Iraqi Kurdistan, the model and survey results are applicable anywhere. However, it provides useful information for those designing buildings in this context. It is good to see a detailed review of shopping complex design, and a model for design criteria. 

The title of the article is an indicator that it contains some technical data, but most of the article is readable: “Using Structural Equation Modeling to Propose a Model for Shopping Complex Design Based on Universal Design Concept”. A very useful document for designers of all public buildings.

The picture is of the Family Mall, one of those included in the study.

Children like it green

A group of children are walking along a path in a nature park.It’s amazing what can be done when GPS data is linked to population data. The Danish study used satellite data to show a link between growing up near green space and issues with mental health in adulthood. They found that children under 10 years who had greater access to green space may grow up to be happier adults. The FastCo article goes on to say that data was correlated between the child’s proximity to green space during childhood and that same person’s mental health later in life. The more green space they had access to, the less likely they were to have mental health issues later.

The title of this interesting article is “Kids surrounded by greenery may grow up to be happier adults“.

The study was conducted by researchers at Aarhus University.