Poorly designed spaces limit the number of people who can use them – they might look great, but that is not enough. Everyone should benefit from great civic space. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a great guide to Parks and Plazas. The online guide includes good case studies and easy to follow tips. Here are a few of the points covered. See the online guide for the rest.
Connections to the street: Parks and plazas should meet the street at grade, ensuring that anyone can enter the space. When a grade change must be addressed, integrated ramps and stairs create a unified experience regardless of ability. Safe materials that are, tactile, not slippery when wet, and provide high contrast should be chosen.
Clear identity:While maintaining a seamless entry from the street is important, creating a space separate from the street gives identity to the space. Trees can buffer noise and other sensory information from other areas.
Providing options: Public places serve many different groups of people, with differing needs. One solution is not going to accommodate everyone, but the scale of many public places creates room for spaces that give visitors different choices and opportunities.
Ease of access to restrooms: Bathrooms that are easy to locate allow families with children, people with disabilities, and older adults to readily use facilities that everyone needs. Placing bathrooms near streets and along major pathways of parks makes locating restrooms easier if the need arises. Restrooms should be clearly indicated on multi-sensory signage throughout parks and plazas.
A design guide for inclusive leisure facilities is an excellent resource for designers, policy makers and municipal authorities. Lots of drawings and graphics provide design guidance and highlight the key points. Using the principles of universal design means that it is not a standardised design template. Privacy and comfort for all users is one of the key elements. Mixed gender spaces for caregivers and parents with young children are also important. Local cultural customs also need to be considered. The classic gender segregation of space has already evolved into more universal space because of disability legislation.
The guideaddresses confusion over language and terminology, use of space and general design principles. The title of the guide is, Designing for Inclusivity: Strategies for Universal Washrooms and Change Rooms in Community and Recreation Facilities. It covers: inclusivity for families, people with disability, transgender and non-binary people, privacy, increased efficiency and forward thinking design. The principles are:
1. Strive for inclusivity and access for all 2. Use openness to enhance safety through activity and shared monitoring 3. Create privacy where most needed to enhance comfort 4. Welcome everyone with signage that emphasizes function and is clear, inclusive, and positive 5. Ensure supportive staff operations and communications
What does washroom and change room design have to do with social justice? Darryl Condon answers this question in a Pools and Leisure Magazine article. He has a good grasp of all the relevant design issues across the diversity and inclusion spectrum. The advice and information is transferable to any kind of public facility because it is explained with a universal design approach. Condon lists five design strategies that designers can take away. At the end of the article he advises that with any new facility, a diverse group of users should be consulted. A very thoughtful articlein this international magazine published via issuu. It has other articles of interest to designers and architects. You can find the article, Designing for Inclusivity: Strategies for universal washrooms and change rooms in community sport and recreation facilities, on page 48. Pictures and graphics are a nice addition.
The article begins: “What does washroom and change room design have to do with social justice? A great deal. As architects, we must consider the social impact resulting from all aspects of our work. Universal washrooms and change rooms are increasingly crucial in the design of recreation and sport facilities and are one element in our approach to more impactful design”.
Compliance with legal requirements in public spaces is rarely enough to guarantee access for everyone. A focus on technical aspects often results in spaces that are still challenging for many. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a Universal Design page where they list some of the disabilities and impairments regularly overlooked. For example, dementia, deafness, vision loss, and autism. The classic 7 Principles of Universal Design are re-jigged to suit landscape design:
According to a research paper on designing information kiosks, they should be designed based on the following five principles if people are going to use them: 1. Do not make me think. 2. Do not make me wait. 3. Do not allow me to feel annoyed. 4. Do not take control away from me. 5. Do not take advantage of me (do not be evil).
These principles of human–computer interface design serve as critical concepts in kiosk design. Height setting, tactile feedback, and text colour should also be considered.
In a paper from Taiwan, the authors use the seven principles of universal design for the design of kiosks in the context of tourism and user centred design. The results of the study show different preferences for different aspects of temples. For example, participants preferred interactive representations of gods, but textual and graphic content for temple carvings.
There is lots of statistical analysis to back up their claims. This study has much to offer those who design museum-type interactive kiosks for visitors. The main aim of the study was to maintain commercial development of tourism in general and visitation of temples. The title of the paper is, Cultural tourism and temples: Content construction and interactivity design.
Abstract: Cultural and creative industries have a crucial role in the post-industrial knowledge economy. However, our understanding of the importance of temples in connecting people with society is limited. To fill this gap, this study explores points of interest for tourists in Taiwan to analyse the design of cultural interest operation modes in temples’ interactive kiosk interfaces. We also examine three cultural levels related to the design of interactive kiosks in temples. Results reveal that participants’ levels of interest vary depending on temple complexity. Most participants prefer animated presentations of content related to two- and three-dimensional murals and the history and origins of temples. We illustrate how to develop a process for designing cultural and creative digital products. We construct a flowchart for guided temple tours and present an effective and suitable design method and its prototype product. Implications for the revitalisation of historic sites to create new value are discussed.
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.
The principles of universal design were used in Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo during upgrade and extension works. This case studycovers changes to the entrance, maps and information, transportation within the park, toilets, benches, tables, and exhibit design and enhancement. In addition, trained staff are on hand to provide additional help to visitors where needed. Each improvement is matched to one or more of the seven principles of universal design. The conference paper ends with, “By incorporating the Principles of Universal Design all visitors are offered equal experiences as they interact with the animal, exhibits and each other. Without even realizing barriers have been removed, everyone, regardless of their abilities, has a more enjoyable and inclusive experience.”
Some good advice from a Masters dissertation on how to create inclusive Historic House stories and exhibits. The emphasis is on overcoming the practice of relating the dominant white male narrative. The dissertation discusses issues of diversity of ethnicity, socio-economic status and belief systems. “One way historic house museums might address this issue of exclusive narratives is to purposely seek out and recognize stories of the forgotten or overlooked people who occupied the house. These stories often involve people of color, women, servants, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and to some extent, children.” Case studies highlight the value of recommendations:
Abstract: Historic house museums are one of the most common types of museums in the United States. These museums vary from large institutions with budgets of several million dollars to entirely volunteer-run organizations, but all these museums tell stories about their former inhabitants, their buildings, and their objects. While some of these museums excel at storytelling through programming and interpretation, many historic house museums still struggle to discover and implement recognized best practices. With limited resources, decreased visitation, and questions of sustainability, historic house museums have to learn to tell relevant and compelling stories to stay viable. Literature from the field suggests four best practices for relevant storytelling: 1) include diverse stories and narratives; 2) connect the past to the present; 3) build shared authority; and 4) make the human connection. This study surveys historic house museums across the United States to identify the institutional leaders of the field that are successfully utilizing storytelling best practices. Case studies of eight historic house museums led to a set of five recommendations for each best practice. These recommendations serve as a tool for practical implementation of best practices for telling relevant and compelling stories at all historic house museums.
Play is an essential part of a child’s development. The Touched by Olivia foundation conducted an online survey between August 2018 and January 2019. With 482 responses, the State of Play report provides a useful snapshot of play in Australia. It also lists the reasons people go to play spaces.
Touched by Olivia Foundation has a new playmate: Variety – The Children’s Charity. Together they will continue to promote and support inclusive playspaces across Australia. The aim of both charities was helped along last year by the NSW Government and their Everyone Can Play project. Universally designed play spaces welcome everyone no matter age or level of capability. They are places everyone can enjoy.
Editor’s Note: The report is published online with Issuu. Unfortunately, in full view, pop up advertisements make reading the report something of an obstacle course. There is no option for PDF download.
Early Bird quiet sessions are just one of the strategies museums can use to cater for children with autism. Many autistic children have learning difficulties. So thinking about displays and interpretation is their equivalent of accessibility. Autistic visitors can be loyal due to liking routine visits and having an intense interest in a particular subject. When they get older they can become a great asset as volunteers and staff members. You can read more about this topic and successful case studies on the Future of Museums blog, “As we work to increase diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility among museum audiences and in the workplace, we need to attend to the needs of neurodiverse visitors and employees”.
Claire Madge wrote the article. She founded Autism in Museums in UK to further understanding. Once again we are reminded that the noise of electric hand driers in the bathrooms can be scary. Answer – turn them off during Early Bird hours.