Shopping is a common human activity. It gets us out of the house and mobilising. It helps connect us to our neighbourhood. But the shopping experience of people with vision impairment is another matter. They are limited to familiar places where they can confidently and independently purchase what they need. This means there are no spontaneous shopping choices. So is this good for retail business and the private market?
The “blind district” of Lithuania is a place created during Soviet rule. It provides fertile ground for research on this topic. It also allows comparison with other parts of the city and the differences in shopping experiences by people with vision impairment. An article published in the Journal of Public Space covers the history of the blind district, disability rights, participation in the market and urban accessibility. The second half of the article is where the research project appears. A novel approach to this topic.
The title of the articleis, When Accessibility of Public Space Excludes: Shopping experience of people with vision impairments. by Ieva Eskyté, University of Leeds.
Abstract The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) recognises access to consumer goods and services in the mainstream private market as essential for full participation in society. Nevertheless, people with impairments rarely enjoy the same rights and consumer experience as non-disabled individuals. This paper argues that (in)accessibility of public space is an important factor shaping how accessible the private market is for people who do not ‘fit’ conventional norms and standards. It demonstrates how category-driven accessibility provisions in some geographical areas and not in others segregate disabled people within certain providers, create social and consumer isolation, and become a marker that accentuates difference and separation between disabled consumers who live in accessible districts, and the rest of the population. To illustrate the case, the paper uses empirical evidence from mystery shopping in retail outlets and qualitative interviews with people with vision impairments who live in the ‘Blind district’ in Lithuania. The district was developed by the Soviet Union (1949-1990) to boost people with vision impairments’ participation in the socialist labour market economy.
Supporters of universal design have long argued that it costs little, if any more, to make buildings inclusive and accessible. However, myths about cost remain and are perpetuated across the construction industry. A feasibility study by HCMA Architecture + Design for the Rick Hansen Foundation in Canada makes another attempt at the argument. In their report, they compare the Foundation’s certification features with Canada’s building code. Then they determine the cost increase by designing to the Foundation’s certification.
The key finding is similar to others. The average new construction cost increase is estimated to be an additional 1% of the construction in some cases. In others, there is no cost. But there is more to this research which reports on three certification levels and several design elements. The other key point is that the building code alone does not make buildings fully accessible.
There are lots of graphs and drawings and it looks very technical. There are case studies across public, commercial and residential properties. This is a major piece of work at 80 pages with another 200 pages for appendices. Bottom line: the Canadian and Ontario building codes do not meet the needs of people with disability, and accessibility can be achieved with minimal cost impact with thoughtful/universal design.
Age Friendly Cities has its founding concepts in healthy ageing. Well if it’s healthy for older people it’s healthy for everyone. These cities should be walkable, compact and have infrastructure that supports liveability. But planning laws haven’t adapted to this. They continue to address ageing in terms of age-segregated living arrangements.
The survey found that older people were still seen as a special-needs group rather than establishing inclusive policy solutions. The report makes some useful recommendations and the findings are applicable to any urban area in any location.
The graphic above depicts the 8 domains of life that need to be considered in making a community age-friendly: Housing, Transportation, Social Participation, Respect and Social Inclusion, Outdoor Spaces and Buildings, Community Support and Health Services, Communication and Information, and Civic Participation and Employment. An argument was made at the International Federation of Ageing Conference in 2016 that housing should be in the centre of the the petals as it is the central part of everyone’s life.
Some people are more sensitive to the feel of places than others, and this can have a negative impact on well-being. This is an aspect of universal design and inclusion. So, how does it feel when you walk into your local library, or hospital? Civic buildings are becoming industrial mega-structures, and designing the feel of the building is getting lost. That’s according to Professor Alan Pert. His article in The Conversation begins a discussion about the feel of architecture in a hospital setting. Then he moves onto other civic and public buildings.
The title of the article is Build me up: how architecture can affect emotions. There are links to other interesting articles. Libraries shouldn’t be just about books, and hospitals shouldn’t totally focus on sickness. They should at the very least, make us feel welcome and comfortable, and that includes being accessible and welcoming to everyone.
The noblest architecture can sometimes do less for us than a siesta or an aspirin … Even if we could spend the rest of our lives in the Villa Rotunda or the Glass House, we would still often be in a bad mood. – Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness.
The Design Council in the UK ran a workshop to ask participants to think about the future and their homes. They presented a series of scenarios based on experts ideas about our living arrangements. There was a call for human contact, and for the public and private outdoor spaces and gardens by the homes. The group also wanted to see whole neighbourhoods that were “self-sufficient, sustainable and communal”. Homes would be “safe, comfortable and warm, for all the family from the cradle to the grave”.
It is good to see that the concept of home does not end at the property boundary, but merges into the neighbourhood. It’s not clear who the participants were, how they were recruited, or what groups were represented. This is an ongoing project and it will be interesting to see if inclusive design gets a mention or whether getting older is outside the participants’ frame of reference. The title of the article is Our Home of 2030.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.