Visual artforms for everyone

Two pars of hands touch a head and shoulders statueA nice article about access to the displays and contents of art galleries and museums for people who are blind or have low vision. Audio description is one way of providing access, tactile representations are another. The Beyond Disability webpage article shows how art is becoming more accessible for blind and low-vision communities around the world.

3D printing has changed many things and 3D representations of prints are now possible. Braille can also be introduced into visual art. See the article to find out the interesting and creative ways that art and other exhibits can be made accessible. Indeed, these methods are an art form in their own right.

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Transgender, recreation and inclusion

10 balloons of different colours float on the surface of a swimming poolPeople who identify as transgender are often concerned about their safety in public recreation situations. Dreaming About Access: The Experiences of Transgender Individuals in Public Recreation is a report of the qualitative research undertaken by Linda Oakleaf and Laurel P. Richmond. Designing universally for inclusion of people who identify as transgender is not just about participation, it also affirms their worth and dignity. At the end of the executive summary they say,

“Practitioners who wish to translate data from this study into policy should focus on two areas: removing barriers to access, and affirmatively encouraging participation. The barriers discussed most often by participants related to public/private spaces such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers. Practitioners should ensure that all locker rooms, bathrooms, and showers allow for privacy. As is frequently the case with  niversal design, this will benefit many users who are not transgender. While the best practice would be to provide gender neutral spaces, at a minimum there should be at least one stall with a door in each bathroom and curtains or other barriers in all showers. Policies and procedures should affirmatively include participants across the gender spectrum and should be aimed at increasing participation.”

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Access to natural waterfront landscapes

Timber planked pier leading to the oceanNatural landscapes generally receive less attention than landscape architecture. So it is good to see that three Hungarian researchers have taken a serious look at the issues. Their study took the perspective of tourism and looked at tourist habits, and list some of the factors that need to be specifically considered for accessible waterfront landscapes, including beaches. The list of factors covers mobility, vision, and hearing. Parking and approach, jetties, pontoons, bathing, and fishing are all discussed. Several photographs show good examples of accessibility.

The authors conclude that waterfront landscapes are popular tourist destinations for everyone. As these are sensitive ecosystems, minimal interventions should be applied when providing access. Small adaptations and just careful design can ensure good access for everyone. “If inclusive design and nature conservation principles are taken into consideration from the very beginning of the whole design process, access to waterfront landscapes can be spreaded [sic], and the natural values of the landscape remain existing and provide the experience of nature for the human race.

The title of the article is “Access to Waterfront Landscapes for Tourists Living with Disabilities by Gabriella Szaszák , Albert Fekete and Tibor Kecskés

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Performances for everyone

The Sydney Opera House is keen to be inclusive with their performances, and activities.  Accessibility Program Manager, Jenny Spinak, has spearheaded much of the progress in creating an inclusive program. The Accessibility page of their website has more than just information on how to access the building and parking. With the upcoming winter lights festival, Vivid Sydney, the Opera House is staging several accessible performances with audio description and Auslan interpreters. 

Previously the Sydney Opera House included an autism-friendly performance of the musical The King and I. You can see more in the video link below.

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Growing trend in Intergenerational Play Spaces

Aerial photo of Lillydale Lake PlayspaceWhat should play spaces look like for all ages? Inspired by a 10-year old resident from Lilydale, Melbourne, Yarra Ranges Council committed a $1.4million upgrade to the Lilydale Lake playground in 2014.

The recently completed project was developed in consultation with local primary school children. The Council found that the two main priorities for the children were:

  • Emphasis on nature over plastic materials; and
  • Play areas for all ages.

“They actually wanted a space where their parents will play with them,” Ms Robyn Mansfield, the Council’s manager of built and active spaces. “Where their older siblings will want to play with them, where their grandparents will want to play with them.”

More information on the Park can be found on the ABC website and the Yarra Ranges Council website.

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Art and You: A planning guide

cover page of the guide. Light brown background with a black and white charcoal drawing of a woman dancing. the title is written over her in black letteringThis guide was written for individuals interested in, or already making art. It is designed to help individuals plan how they want to be involved in the arts. It includes information about rights and gives tools to help people to make art in the way that they want, no matter what else is going on in their life. The guide is particularly suitable for people with mental health issues, and includes people with disability as well. It takes a self-advocacy approach and is written in a clear and concise way.

The Art and You guide is published by Arts Access Victoria and can be used in conjunction with other planning processes such as the NDIS and other community services. An encouraging quote “But no-one can tell you you’re not an artist. If people don’t understand what you are trying to tell them, then try again or find someone to help you explain.”

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Inclusive Meetings and Events

front cover of Accessible Events guide. purple with white writingMany event managers and venues have yet to get their head around their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act. While many public buildings may have access through the front door and accessible toilet, this does not make for an inclusive event. Did anyone think about a handrail on the steps to the podium, a lower lectern for a seated speaker, or what to do with the guide dog?

Venue owners and managers, caterers and equipment suppliers are yet to get up to speed with what is required. Meetings and Events Australia have a comprehensive handbook on accessible events which was written in consultation with the Human Rights Commission in 2012. However, it appears only to be available to members of the Association and is not visible on their web home page. Nevertheless, a Google search will also find the Accessible Events Guide.  The Guide also has a checklist at the end. 

front cover access events vic gov.Free to access guides include the Victorian Government guide and checklist. This one uses easy access English as well, so the guide itself is accessible, and covers the role of MC and speakers. Also the West Australian Government checklist is available.

Factors that many organisers might not think about are, a drinking bowl for an assistance dog, the way the event or meeting is promoted, and ensuring there is lighting on the face of speakers for lip readers.

Editor’s Note: While trying to think of everything to make the 2014 Universal Design Conference inclusive, we found the suppliers of the staging equipment did not have a handrail for the steps and the wheelchair ramp was too steep to climb without help. The one-size fits all lectern is also a problem. Rarely is there a lectern that a seated person or person of short stature can use. 

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