The aim of universal design is to create a more inclusive world. The concept of universal design is being used internationally to change design thinking throughout the design process so that all people are considered regardless of age, capability, background, or beliefs. It is about being inclusive and designing for all.
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The principles of universal design can be applied to everything that is designed: products, buildings and open space, transportation, tourism, sport, as well as learning programs, polices and plans. Our newsletter covers as many design fields as possible.
The Australian Building Codes Board has released the long-awaited Consultation Regulation Impact Statement(RIS) on accessible housing. Bottom line of this complex document? The costs outweigh the benefits. But how did they measure both the costs and the benefits?
Have your say. Personal stories and case studies are highly relevant to this consultation. What does it cost not to have accessible features, and what it has cost to have the family home modified? And it is not just dollars – it’s also about quality of life, and ability to do ordinary things. Don’t have a story? There is an online survey you can do which poses questions about the RIS to see if you agree. Submissions are open until 31 August.
Case studies that show the actual costs in practice are also very useful, particularly if they are less than those shown in the RIS. They calculated Gold level features to cost more than $21,000 per dwelling, and $3,400 for Silver.
The Australian Network on Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) also has a webpage with relevant information. This RIS is preliminary information. So there is time to submit useful information to help decision-makers. CUDA and ANUHD will be drafting responses for sharing, so watch this space.
For an overview of what housing policy and including universal design features have a look at the easy and quick to do online course Home Coming? It’s free and has a lot of good information and statistics to help your submission.
People with disability are often stereotyped and considered “the others” in plans, policies and products. This means we haven’t found the right terminology to cover this diverse group. So we have gradually invented words and phrases as we go. Some terms are OK such as universal access. Others are demeaning or patronising, for example, “differently abled”. Making something accessible also has many variations. It could be a building complying to government regulations. Or it could be something designed with the broadest range of potential users in mind. But saying universal access or something is fully accessible is vague.
Carrie-Ann Lightley discusses this issue in a blog post. When a website or brochure says “fully accessible” – fully accessible to whom? “Wheelchair Friendly” doesn’t help either. As Carrie-Ann says, “you just really like wheelchairs?” In the context of travel and tourism she repeats the message about information. That is, information that helps everyone decide if they can visit and get around in a place. Sweeping statements and wheelchair icons don’t cut it. Similarly, websites that ask people to call to confirm their needs. Information is power.
From the editor – other terms to avoid are “all abilities” or any word where “ability” has been captured in a way to make it sound inclusive. It doesn’t. Special words are still special and segregating and label the group you are thinking of as separate.
Getting out and about on public transport can be daunting, especially when travelling a route for the first time. With no control over the system it can give rise to worries about arriving at the right place and at the right time. This stress is just one of the worries people with autism experience when using public transport. Stress can impact on their ability to access employment, education and leisure activities. So what to do?
An in-depth study of young adults with autism found there were three main factors affecting participants. Dealing with uncertainty, a general level of anxiety, and the impact of sensory processing, such as crowds and noise. The research report is based on a qualitative study and the voices of the participants are included. People with and without autism will relate to many of their concerns about using public transport.
The researchers suggest a smart phone app that gives information to help reduce anxiety during trip planning and on the trip itself. Knowing about service disruptions and getting guidance at other times of uncertainty is important. However, no app can overcome worries about getting close to other passengers or the level of noise at train stations. But if can reduce anxiety.
As is often the case with solutions for people with specific conditions, this kind of app would be good for many other people. We all like to avoid travel stress if we can.
Most academic writing about inclusion, disability and urban design is based on Western culture and traditions. Building the Inclusive City, an open access book, covers a recent history of disability in city planning and the cultural context of a middle eastern approach. It brings together social sciences, politics and disability studies for an integrated approach to policy.
There are three underpinning themes in the book: disability research needs to be placed in context, access and inclusion is both local and global, and planning education should apply a disability lens to the field.
Understanding Disability in Theory, Justice and Planning
What makes a City Accessible and Inclusive?
The Evolving Transformations of Disability in Dubai Between 1980 and 2012
Exploring Functionings and Freedoms in Dubai
Laws, Rights, and Norms
Laws are Not Enough: Unlocking Capabilities Through Innovations in Governance
Charting Access and Inclusion in Future Cities
The full title of the book by by Victor Santiago Pineda is,Building the Inclusive City Governance, Access, and the Urban Transformation of Dubai.
The website’s introduction to the book:
“This Open Access book is an anthropological urban study of the Emirate of Dubai, its institutions, and their evolution. It provides a contemporary history of disability in city planning from a non-Western perspective and explores the cultural context for its positioning. Three insights inform the author’s approach. First, disability research, much like other urban or social issues, must be situated in a particular place. Second, access and inclusion forms a key part of both local and global planning issues. Third, a 21st century planning education should take access and inclusion into consideration by applying a disability lens to the empirical, methodological, and theoretical advances of the field. By bridging theory and practice, this book provides new insights on inclusive city planning and comparative urban theory. This book should be read as part of a larger struggle to define and assert access; it’s a story of how equity and justice are central themes in building the cities of the future and of today.”
Editor’s note: I travelled to Dubai in 2015 and found much of the new infrastructure very accessible. I was impressed with the air conditioned bus stop shelters.
Participation of older people in the workforce is the topic of ongoing policy debate. Working longer seems a simple answer to population ageing. However, stories abound about employers discriminating against people over the age of 50 years. But is this the only group to face workplace discrimination and exclusion?
Rethinking Advocacy on Ageing and Workchallenges the notion that only older people experience discrimination in the workplace. Philip Taylor highlights the policy contradictions about work across the age spectrum. He asks whether working longer is a reasonable proposition for both employees and employers. He also critiques the Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work report as too narrowly focused. After all, ageism doesn’t just apply to older Australians. A longer version of this paperwas published by Per Capita.
From jobless to job ready outlines a collaborative model of preparing people for work. Case studies illustrate that tailored education programs and collaborating with local industries achieves productive outcomes. This is especially important where poverty is a factor.
Breaking Through Barriers to Assist Young People who are Blind or have Low vision has micro case studies to illustrate Vision Australia’s project. It gives an overview of how employment barriers were overcome so that participants achieved their goals.
Enhancing Inclusivity at Work Through Mindfulness takes the discussion beyond gender, culture, age or sexual preference. It asks us to think about the every day judgements we make about other people. It’s these judgements that make true inclusion a huge challenge.
Designers are carers, but they might not see themselves this way. Everything they design has the potential to enhance the wellbeing of others. The book, Care and Design: Bodies, Buildings, Cities takes this perspective.
Imrie and Kullman (editors) are interested in the intersection of design and care and the ways caring is expressed through design practice. They suggest that care should be considered from a societal perspective. It’s not something to be considered separately. Hence designers, among others, are potential carers in the broader sense.They discuss what makes good urban form and how easy it is to create “misfits that limit the caring potential of everyday environments”.
Their chapter, Designing with Care and Caring with Designis available on ResearchGate. The book is published by Wiley. Understanding the notion of care from this broader perspective is another way of understanding universal design. It shows how universal design is an attitudinal concept and more than just resolving inclusion issues in the design process.
Table of Contents
Designing with care and caring with design. Rob Imrie and Kim Kullman
Age-inclusive design: a challenge for kitchen living. Sheila Peace
Curating space, choreographing care: the efficacy of the everyday. Daryl Martin
‘I don’t care about places’: the whereabouts of design in mental health care. Ola Söderström
The sensory city: autism, design and care. Joyce Davidson and Victoria L. Henderson
Configuring the caring city: ownership, healing, openness. Charlotte Bates, Rob Imrie, and Kim Kullman
‘Looking after things’: caring for sites of trauma in post-earthquake Christchurch, New Zealand. Jacky Bowring
Empathy, design and care – intention, knowledge and intuition: the example of Alvar Aalto. Juhani Pallasmaa
Architecture, place and the ‘care-full’ design of everyday life. Jos Boys
Ageing, Care and the Practice of Urban Curating. Sophie Handler
Caring through design: En torno a la silla and the ‘joint problem-making’ of technical aids. Tomás Sánchez Criado and Israel Rodriguez-Giralt
Design and the art of care: engaging the more than human and less than inhuman. Michael Schillmeier
Afterword: caring urban futures. Charlotte Bates and Kim Kullman
The UK’s Network Rail organisation commissioned a project to find out what communities want from transport hubs. The Design Council ran eleven ThinkStation workshops with 320 participants who generated 35,000 Post-It notes. The aim is to embed the priorities into a design competition brief and evaluation framework.
Participants consistently identified “community” as a key theme, especially for smaller stations. They said stations should be linked to the community and offer spaces for other activities and local businesses. Community meeting places, green spaces and well designed landscapes were also important. The Design Council report is comprehensive and explains the workshop process and the outcomes. While it is focused on the UK, there are many ideas that are applicable in other countries.
The nine priorities that will guide the future design, development and procurement of local stations are:
Support existing and new communities in their local area.
Reflect and embody local character and heritage.
Provide consistent quality of space and service.
Establish connections with and between the town centre and/or the high street.
Celebrate, improve the quality of and/or provide access to green and open spaces.
Be welcoming and facilitate inclusive travel.
Support and better integrate cross modal transport.
Help to address climate change.
Ensure longevity by accommodating changes of use, capacity and trends.
You can read the full reportor the overview on the Design Council website. It’s also a good example of running a community engagement process.
This week, we take a look at using Universal Design for Learning to support migrants and refugees in English language learning in higher education.
A reader recently requested more information and references for using UDL on this topic. A great request! It is one that helps to highlight the flexibility and possibilities of UDL for making learning accessible to all.
All learners bring their own unique variability to their learning. Migrants and refugees may bring a learning profile with additional complexities. This may be due to their history, or priorities and experiences in becoming established in a new country. UDL principles provide a particularly appropriate design model, with their emphasis on design practices that cater for diversity. There’s more on this in a previous post.
An article by Katherine Danaherexplores how to meet the learning needs of refugees and migrants. Her specific focus is in tertiary blended online English courses. With many tertiary providers moving to online courses during the coronavirus pandemic, this is of particular relevance.
A key feature of UDL is to consider barriers to learning prior to designing the course or lesson. Danaher explains the potential barriers of refugees and migrants in her paper. She highlights some of these barriers as being literacy, lack of prior experience, cultural factors and age.
Perhaps the most useful information in the paper is gleaned from the ‘Course Design’ section in the article. Specific pedagogies and frameworks are highlighted as being beneficial in teaching these learner groups in higher education. Flexible design, individualisation, a constructivist inquiry approach and UDL are all recommended.
Danaher quotes the National Center on Universal Design for Learning in explaining that the research-based principles of UDL are particularly appropriate for refugee and migrant learners, providing “. . . a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone – not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.” She argues that by using UDL the diverse needs of refugees and migrants with differing educational backgrounds, expectations and goals, can be catered for.
Other links to UDL for migrant and refugee learners include:
A guide to taking a universal design approach to urban planning covers just about everything. The aim of the guide is to deliver sustainable solutions and to create inclusive places. Here are some of the reasons planners should take a UD approach:
It avoids the need for wasteful and inefficient retro-fitting of solutions
It informs genuinely integrated strategies for land-use, transportation and urban design
It creates greater efficiencies for public infrastructure investment
It widens the audience and market for development projects enhancing commercial viability
It helps provide an environment in which people can age and retain their independence
Although this guide is based on planning laws in Ireland, there are many similarities to other jurisdictions. It covers, consultation, neighbourhoods, community facilities, lifetime homes, travel chain analysis, street design, car parking, economic development, wayfinding, heritage and more. There are also sample policy statements for each section.
While these designs are great for wheelchair users, there are others who might find these designs tricky to use. A case in point is a cantilevered sink against a glass wall. Maybe in real life it doesn’t trick the eye as much. However, I wouldn’t classify these designs as universal design. Anyone with perception problems would be confused with the sink.Have a look and see what you think.
What the pictures clearly show is that accessible and universally designed bathrooms can look good. There is no limit to creative design. Of course, a custom design for your own home should work for you if not others.
This newsletter also has a picture of a man who got a tattoo of a cochlear implant on his head to make his daughter feel more comfortable with hers.
Todd also has a magazine. He is based in New York.