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Welcome

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.

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Let’s get physical at home

Lounge room with two white couches with blue cushions. A rocking chair with red cushions is also in the pictureIn the rush to get people walking and being “active travellers” we’ve forgotten a place that most of us walk everyday – our home. This becomes even more important for people who have difficulty getting out and about in the outdoor built environment. So what features should we be looking at in indoor environments to encourage physical activity?  Maureen C Ashe is interested in this question. Her book chapter, Indoor Environments and Promoting Physical Activity Among Older People, looks at the issues. You will need institutional access for a free read from SpringerLink.

Abstract: Our house, our homes, ourselves: who we are, and the places that we inhabit are indelibly interwoven. Data are fast accumulating on the significant role of the outdoor built environment and physical activity (and health). For populations such as older adults with (or without) mobility impairments, a poorly structured built environment can significantly restrict community engagement. Despite the fact that we spend most of our lives indoors, there is far less empirical evidence to discern features of the indoor environment that influence physical activity. There is a need to focus on buildings incorporating age-friendly designs to support “ageing in place,” to build homes (and communities) that nurture social interaction, and identify destinations and routines that encourage adoption of activity into daily life habits.

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Urban design for the not-so-average

Wide footpath in a shopping strip which has a veranda overhead. There are planter boxes and a seat.How fast can you get across a pedestrian crossing? The Department of Health says the average walking speed required is 1.2 metres per second, but the average speed of the older pedestrian is just 0.7 to 0.9 metres per second, according to an article in The Guardian. Cities are still being designed with a mythical average person in mind, but this so-called average is getting older. Have designers updated their data on this? The article goes on to discuss many issues that have been mentioned elsewhere: older people having problems getting outdoors; time to sit down; a bus driver who lets you sit before moving off; and of course, uneven pavements – or no pavements at all. Across the world 258 cities have signed up to the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age Friendly Cities. One has to ask “only 258?” A good article questioning the approaches of urban designers. It has links to other useful references. 

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Public transport and wheeled mobility

A woman is pushing a man in a wheelchair up a ramp into the train. The train guard looks on. Another woman in a wheelchair waits for her turn. A man with a stroller is also in the picture.Research on the real spatial requirements of wheeled mobility devices has been done several times in the past. But when it comes to developing standards to suit a wider user group, somehow those measurements get lost in translation. However, the world is moving on. The population is ageing (more mobility scooters) and people using wheelchairs of all sizes are able to get out and about more. Public transport has to keep up. To this end an interactive web tool has been developed to determine the dimensions of clear floor area to incorporate more users of wheeled mobility devices. The title of this important article explains the tool, Revisiting Clear Floor Area Requirements for Wheeled Mobility Device Users in Public Transportation. The article is not open source so needs institutional access (or purchase), but here is a section from the abstract:

“The web-based design tool is now available to practitioners who seek to accommodate a wider range of WhMD [wheeled mobility device] users than the minimum standards required by regulations. The design tool is also intended as a visual evidence base for regulatory activity and universal design practice with higher ambitions. The advent of driverless automated vehicles will increase the importance of accessibility and usability to accommodate the diversity of riders with disabilities. Clear floor space to enable independent ingress, interior circulation and egress among WhMD users will be a foremost concern. The transportation industry, standards developers, disability advocates, mobility device manufacturers and prescribers need to understand the limitations of current accessibility standards and work to address these limitations through updated vehicle design standards and policies. 

 

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Technology, Design and Dementia

Most people with dementia live at home and can often benefit from a range of technologies – but what are the best and when should they be used? In a PhD study, Tizneem Jiancaro of the University of Toronto has sought some answers. The thesis looks at three perspectives, developers, people with dementia, and the caregivers and significant others. Design factors were considered alongside emotional factors as well as usability. Not unexpectedly, “…empathy emerged as an important design approach, both as a way to address diversity and to access users’ emotional lives”. The title of the thesis is Exploring Technology, Design and Dementia. It can be downloaded from the University of Toronto.

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Environments in an Ageing Society

Front cover of the publication.White background with purple line graphics and textThis year the topic for the annual review of Gerontology and Geriatrics is Environments in an Ageing Society: Autobiographical Perspectives. The contributors have long-standing research careers – some are well known in Australia: Edward Steinfeld, Jon Pynoos, Laura Gitlin, Susanne Iwarsson, and Sheila Peace. The chapters cover home, neighbourhood, ageing in place, and social change. Each chapter is written from the researcher’s perspective providing reflections of their experience and learning. As an academic publication you will need institutional access for a free read, or you can purchase chapters separately. Here is the introduction:

Through the autobiographical perspectives of 16 preeminent researchers and scholars of Environmental Gerontology, this state-of-the-art Annual Review critically examines the broad range of topics that comprise this interdisciplinary field. The writings of these individuals, who have contributed to and shaped the growth of the field over the past three-plus decades, trace the growth and evolution of Environmental Gerontology and provide understanding of, and insights on, the role of environments for older adults and an aging society at multiple levels.    

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Captioning – how is it done?

Front page of the video - deep yellow background with white text and an Auslan interpreter is standing readyThe Australian Government has produced an interesting video showing how captioning is done. It is a behind the scenes look and captioners tell how they do it. You can see them at their desks in action. One point of interest is that programs made overseas often have captions, but they don’t always come with the program when a network buys it. Intellectual property rights become problematic and in the end it is often quicker and cheaper to re-do the captions here in Australia. So that might account for why SBS is more likely to have uncaptioned programs than some other networks – unless they are subtitled of course. It is worth noting in live captioning situations that the captioner has to be able to hear the speaker and manage the speed of their speech. Good reason to speak up, speak clearly and not talk too fast. Good for other listeners and lip readers too! There is a second video showing how to turn captions on.  Note: automatic captions by Google can’t interpret speech properly and there is no punctuation. Some people call this “craptioning”. 

 

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Inclusion in the chemistry lab

Two students look on while the teacher shows how to dissect an animal. They are wearing gloves and safety glassesThree articles were published in Accessibility in the Laboratory about creating inclusion in school and research laboratories. Good to see this topic discussed as it broadens our thinking about universal design and where it needs to be applied (that is, everywhere). The first is about accommodating students with disability in chemistry teaching laboratories. This is especially important now that the STEM subjects are being promoted and encouraged. The second is focused on the modifications that labs might need to undertake. They include people with reduced hand strength in their discussions. The third is about invisible, or not readily observable, disabilities that need to be considered. They discuss stigma and other challenges students face in the lab. Each chapter can be purchased separately if you don’t have institutional access for a free read. The book is published by the American Chemical Society. Here are the full titles:

Laboratory Safety for All: Accommodating Students with Disabilities in Chemistry Teaching Laboratories

Accommodating Persons with Physical Disability in the Lab

Hidden or invisible disabilities and Laboratory Accommodations  

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Abstracts close 30 April for TRANSED 2018

A train is stationary at the station platform. The train is painted in many different designsThe next TRANSED 2018 conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons is scheduled to be held in Taipei, Taiwan from 12-15 November, 2018. The theme is: “Mobility for All: Connecting the World with Accessible Transportation”. Abstract submissions close 30 April. Scholarships are being offered. More information is available on the conference website. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link TRANSED 2018 TAIPEI. Note the website and links are not easy to navigate. The conference languages will be Chinese and English.

Banner for the conference

 

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Pedestrians First: A Walkability Tool

Front cover of the resource showing a wide footpath with people of all ages walking across the full width of the path.Cities are expected to hold seventy percent of the the world’s population by 2050. In planning terms that is very soon. Encouraging walking is talked about as if it was just a matter of persuading us to do it. However, planners and urban designers need to focus more on pedestrian needs and find out what the barriers are to getting out and about on foot and with wheels. The Institute for Transportation and Development has a new tool, Pedestrians First: Tools for a Walkable City. Joe Chestnut, author, says, “but walkability is not just a sidewalk, it’s a whole system of design and infrastructure”. The tool aims to create a better understanding of walkability and ways to measure features. Their interpretation of walkability also includes people with disability. Best practice examples from around the world are provided.  But note – an even footpath or sidewalk is still required!

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Festivals and markets for everyone

Delegates sitting at tables waiting for the 2014 UD conference to start. Sydney Town Hall (Lower)Lee Wilson makes a plea to organisers of festivals and markets for more inclusive thinking in his recent post on Linked In. He gives an overview of things to think about and that includes emergency procedures. Sometimes an accessible portaloo is installed, but no-one has thought about the grass or gravel leading up to it. Information should also be accessible, particularly to people who do not read English well, or have low vision. Auslan interpreters and audio describers make festivals and events enjoyable for people who are deaf or blind. There are several good resources on making events inclusive:

Accessible Events Checklist from the WA Government

Accessible Events Guide from Meetings and Events Australia

Event Accessibility Checklist from Australian Network on Disability (AND)

Vivid Sydney – example of a website with a section on the access and inclusion features of the event.  

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