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Welcome to Centre for  Universal Design Australia website

The aim of universalising design is to create a more inclusive world. Universal Design, as an endeavour in its own right, is being used internationally as a vehicle for bringing about wholesale change in design thinking throughout the design process so that all people are considered regardless of age, capability, or background.

Universal design is a design concept not a design product. The principles of universal design can be applied to concrete things like products, buildings and open spaces, to intellectual activities such as designing learning programs, and to conceptual things such as policies and practices.


Disability Data: Does it add value to the cause of inclusion?

hundreds of lego people, white bodies with yellow heads are lined up like soldiers on paradeHigh values are placed on statistics and economics. So when it comes to the topic of people with disability questions are asked such as, “So how many people are there with disability anyway?” and “Should we bother about a few people when there are so many other things to think about?”  What more could statistics add (or detract) from the inclusion agenda? What kind of statistics might matter most? Who is the subject of such data and how is it collected? Who is best placed to collect such data? And who decides on the questions to be asked?

Deborah Rhodes addresses some of these issues in a thoughtful discussion paper “Monitoring and Evaluation in Disability-Inclusive Development: Ensuring data ABOUT disability-inclusive development contributes TO inclusion”. Elements of this discussion paper provide food for thought for both development projects and policy development here at home in Australia. There are some key questions at the end of the paper that should be asked as there are many unspoken assumptions that all data are good data:

  1. What is the most important purpose for collecting data?
  2. Who is determining the reason for the data collection?
  3. What are other purposes for collecting data (that may or may not need to be prioritised)?
  4. How can we ensure that the data we collect is relevant to the policy, programming and attitudinal changes that people in the specific context seek to achieve?
  5. What information will tell us about the specific changes involved?
  6. Who will actually benefit from the information generated?
  7. What is the opportunity cost associated with data collection, i.e. would funds needed for the survey be better spent on raising awareness or responding to local priorities for inclusion?
  8. Will the data help to raise awareness of the costs of exclusion?

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) oversees the funding of Australian Aid projects and has has produced guidelines on universal design for all Australian aid projects.


Seasons Greetings

Jane Bringolf wearing a blue jacket and holding a glass of champagneDear Members and Subscribers
As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to take a quick look back. One of the highlights for CUDA was achieving charity status. This now allows us to seek funds from both governments and philanthropic trusts. Another was launching our first online e-learning course, Introduction to Universal Design. We have more in the pipeline for 2018. Along with other supporters of universal design, CUDA Directors will continue to promote universal design and inclusive practice by participating in working parties, committees, and advisory panels. Thank you for your support in 2017 – I look forward to continuing our work in 2018.

I wish you, your family and friends a safe and happy Christmas holiday! I will be back again in January.  Jane Bringolf, Chair, Centre for Universal Design Australia

Banner of fir tree branches with red and white baubles



9 Big Design Trends for 2018

An abstract pattern of muted blue and orange squares of different sizes.Mark Wilson has posted an article on the FastCoDesign website about the role of design and designers going forward. He says that 2017 has felt like a year where people in positions of power have been revealed “to be a total dirt bag”. Also, data was stolen from everywhere and that is no good for designers either. So what can designer do differently for 2018? Wilson has asked designers for their thoughts: political-oriented design will emerge, inclusivity will go mainstream, AI will take off, digital will no longer be the centrepiece of a brand, and what consumers value will change. And there is more. It’s a long read, but very thought provoking.


I wish I’d thought of that before..

A picture of an older woman with the words: My kitchen will be all white. I love this trend. Followed by, That what she said when chose her home decor. Now her mother can't find the light switches.The link to the Lifemark webpage, Choose Universal Design has some good short messages with nice pics about universal design – from the perspective of, “it seemed like a good idea at the time!” The one pictured here says, “My kitchen will be all white, I love this trend. This is what she said when she chose her home decor. Now her mother can’t see the light switches and turn the light on! CHOOSE UNIVERSAL DESIGN”



Blind man catches out his dog

Man wearing a yellow t shirt sits in an arm chair and has is black guide dog sitting between his legsThe advances in digital technology are opening up all kinds of opportunities and conveniences for everyone. Keeping up with advances is now the challenge, not what it can do. In the Rica video, three people discuss three mainstream connected products: Apple Watch, Amazon Echo and some Hive home automation products. They explain how it works for them and how it has improved their everyday living. That includes finding out what your guide dog is up to when you are asleep! Note that in the UK, they prefer the term “disabled people” rather than person with disability. 

Rica is the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs focused on consumer research for older people and people with disability. They have a resource-rich website. Read more user experience with the Apple Watch. 



Kitchen remodel with universal design

Picture of a large kitchen with lots of storage and an island bench at two heights. There is a second sink lowered and with access underneathWhile the design and build remodel blog site is a commercial venture, it provides some good tips for things to think about when fitting a new kitchen. Learn the Characteristics of a Universal Design Kitchen Remodel emphasises both functionality for the whole family and aesthetics. Space, Layout, Doors, Traffic Patterns, Workstations, and well designed fittings are all covered – that includes lighting. There are links to three more blog pages. Thanks to Lifemark NZ for this one. 


A rose by any other name…

Desert Rose house showing solar panels on the roof, plain pale yellow walls with out windows but with fenestrated pattersLiveable, Livable, Lifetime, Accessible, Universal – no matter what you call it, all homes need to be designed to suit people across their lifetime and across generations, and that means catering for diversity. A team at University of Wollongong have come up with another name, Desert Rose. But this home is designed to include people with dementia. It is based on research carried out jointly by students from University of Wollongong Australia-Dubai and TAFE NSW. A three minute video gives an overview of the design. It is not clear if the aim of the project is for one-off specialised homes, or designs that can be incorporated into mainstream housing. If all new homes were accessible/universal/liveable now, adding dementia-friendly features, such as colour contrast wouldn’t be a major drama. You can read more in the Aged Care Insite article.

Editor’s Note: It is a pity to see a ramp – perhaps it is just for the prototype. Many people don’t like to signal that their house has a person with disability. Unless or until ramps become commonplace, this will cause people to shun the design. In terms of aesthetics, it would be good to landscape a grade to the entrance so it doesn’t need rails. Alternatively, landscape the rails so they are not so prominent. In any case, the walkway to the entry should be the shortest route possible from a car drop off or parking space.