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 aim of universal design is to create a more inclusive world. It is being used internationally to change design thinking throughout the design process so that all people are considered regardless of age, capability, or background.
The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Cr Adrian Schrinner made two commitments to universal design in new housing built in Brisbane. In his budget speech he said that Council will, “deliver an infrastructure charges rebate of 33 per cent over the next three years to those who are building universal housing for multiple dwellings and residential care facilities if they meet the industry “Gold” standard for Livable Housing Design Guidelineswhen the building is constructed and certification is demonstrated.”
They will also look at introducing future City plans that will require Livable Housing Design Silver level as the new minimum standard for all new dwellings, “for a city where everyone feels they belong”.
The video below shows how accessibility in Brisbane is enjoyed by many. It includes an Auslan interpretation as well as closed captions.
Caroma – the bathroom people, and University of New South Wales got together to do some hands-on research on bathroom fittings with a group of older people. The resulting report covers the collaborative research methods as well as the attitudes and feelings of older people towards assistive fittings and designs. The title of the Caroma report is Ageing Joyfully.
Older people feel stigmatised by “special” designs. Some fittings, such as a small grab rail, could be included as standard in all bathrooms therefore avoiding the stigma. Then we would have safer bathrooms for all (universal design).
Here is a quote from the report that shows how stigma prevents some people from adapting their homes: “One member of a co-design group remembered the time her husband was prescribed grab rails “The shudders went through, it has come to this!” However, after having the rails for a long time she found herself using them more and more, said she wouldn’t be without them and thought they would benefit everyone. ‘If it were standard it would be normal’ and so would have no stigma of being associated only with the frail elderly.”
The report offers advice for designers, “For designers, working collaboratively with older people provides a rapid feedback on assumptions and design proposals. Older people have at least as varied aesthetic preferences as any other cohort, and they have a powerful connection between home and identity.”
Editor’s note: It is a pity the front cover picture is a stock item showing a young person in a carer uniform semi-embracing an older woman in a wheelchair. As we know, this is not indicative of the breadth of the older population. It was probably chosen by the designer contracted to layout the document.
Designing an accessible home on a narrow lot can be done. An architectural group in Melbourne were faced with this situation and were able to provide accessibility on the ground floor. The site was tight – approximately 11 metres by 19 metres. The article in Architecture and Designhas few details of the access features other than “spatial amenity”. However, it details the materials used and explains the design aesthetics. It was interesting to note that the local council was not supportive of the development in the early stages because of the look of the home. Good to see it featured in an architectural magazine. Perhaps next time the magazine will point out the accessible features – even if they are invisible to the casual observer. Nice pictures.
Note – home elevators are becoming more popular as a viable alternative to moving house. Designers should consider this as a potential later adaptation and make provision in the initial design.
The EinDfa IEA TC newsletter has three examples of digital technology for inclusive and enabling design. While these topics aren’t exactly UD, they interface with UD thinking and inclusive practice. The first is about audio sign language, the second is about aircraft seating, and the third is about our sense of touch. Below is a copy and paste from the newsletter:
Sign Language Ring is a device that detects sign language motion and “translates” that to voice by emitting audio through a speaker. Inspired by Buddhist prayer beads, according to its designers from Asia University, this wearable device includes a bracelet and set of detachable rings worn on select fingers. It can also translate voice to text, transcribing spoken language picked up by a microphone into text that’s displayed on the bracelet’s screen.
Currently in the prototype stage, Layer company has developed a smart textile for use in Airbus’ economy class seating, called Move, which would allow passengers to monitor and control their seat conditions using their phone. Digitally knitted from a polyester wool blend with an integrated conductive yarn, the smart seat cover is connected to a series of sensors that detect both the passenger’s body and the conditions of their chair, including temperature, seat tension, pressure and movement. The Move app analyses the data collected by the sensors and sends targeted messages to the passenger telling them how they can improve their comfort. Moreover, during the flight, the seat automatically adjusts itself based on the passenger’s weight, size and movement by passing a current through the conductive yarn to change the seat tension.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has recently developed an inexpensive sensor glove designed to enable artificial intelligence to figure out how humans identify objects by touch. Called Scalable TActile Glove (STAG), it uses 550 tiny pressure sensors to generate patterns that are used to create improved robotic manipulators and prosthetic hands. The MIT project is very suggestive, since researchers are intentioned to replicate human’s ability to figuring out what an object is just by touch. Using the STAG glove pressure sensors, the MIT is gathering as much touch information as possible for creating a large enough databases, to sustain a machine learning process that could bring to create a system able to perform analysis and deduce not only how a human hand can identify something, but also how it can estimate its weight, something robots and prosthetic limbs have trouble doing today.
Colour vision deficiency or colour blindness affects around 10 per cent of the population. But each person varies in what colours they can see, which is why it is not “colour blindness”. So what colours are best if you want all readers to enjoy colours on your website? Colour choice is not just a matter of making it look good – it can affect the readability of text and graphics as well.
A small qualitative study looked at two websites to assess their readability and usability by people who have colour vision deficiency. The researcher analysed body text, background and links and found they had an affect on the usability of the websites. The research included designing two websites and then testing them with survey participants. The results should be read in conjunction with the methodology otherwise it won’t make sense. The conclusion section does not provide the specific outcomes.
The title of the article is, The effects of color choice in web design on the usability for individuals with color-blindness. This is a Masters theses.
Design-for-All / Universal Design studies are often discussed from a theoretic point of view or from a user participation standpoint. Few studies look at the practical tools architects could use to help them apply the principles of inclusive design.
A literature review from Europe sought to identify how to transfer design information to architects so that they could do more than just comply with access standards. Four criteria for translating user needs into design strategies were found. These will be developed into a tool in the next stage of the research. See the full paper for the criteria which are also neatly shown in a graphic above.
Note that Design-for-All (DfA) is mostly used in Europe, Inclusive Design in UK, and Universal Design elsewhere. As they are all based around the same ideas, the terms are used interchangeably. The term universal design is in the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability. This Convention came into being after the other terms were well established.
National Sports Convention has a major strand on Diversity and Inclusion in Sport hosted by Sport and Recreation Victoria. To be held in Melbourne 23-25 July 2019. Convention theme is, “Re imagining Sport: More people active with greater participation”. Registrations are open. One ticket for multiple events within the Convention.
Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia 2019 State Conference, 6-8 November, Hunter Valley NSW. Theme: Unlocking the Value of Infrastructure. This conference is targeted to local government staff and planners, and other government departments.
Open Learning Conference 26-27 November 2019, Sydney. It would be good to see papers on Universal Design for Learning in this space.
Space International Conference 2019 on Housing: 29 November – 1 December, London, UK. Call for papers closes 19 August 2019. Aim: to discuss recent advances and research results in the fields of Housing as well as architecture, policy studies, education, interior architecture, city planning and urban studies, social sciences, and engineering.
Florida State University AMPS Conference: Experiential Design – Rethinking relations between people, objects and environments. 16-17 January 2020, in Tallahassee. Call for papers closes 20 November 2019 (round two).
Slips, Trips and Falls Conference 13-14 February 2020 Madrid. Call for Papers closes 31 July 2019. Topics include architectural design, ageing, ergonomics, footwear, and safety standards as well as falls prevention and analysing accidents. Website is in Spanish and English.
International Dementia Conference11-12 June 2020, Sydney. Call for Papers closes 8 November 2019. Main theme: Are we able to care in an age of outrage? There are many topics including built environment.
UD2020. The next Australian Universal Design Conference will be held 13-14 August 2020 in Melbourne. Save the Date! A call for papers will be made in September 2019.
Here is the latest news from Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) on the Australian Building Codes Board project:
“The Australian Building Codes Board is undertaking a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for potential minimum accessibility standards for housing, to be applied through the National Construction Code (NCC).
Research into the role of State/Territory and Local Government planning policies which may relate to housing accessibility is now complete.
The research, conducted by SGS Economics and Planning on behalf of the ABCB, has identified many instances where planning policies are relevant to housing accessibility. The research has also identified variations in stringency, application and technical standards adopted, consistent with many of the views put forward regarding planning policy in responses to the Options Paper. Technical development of draft NCC provisions is still underway.
This work is being done in-house by the ABCB.
The opentender process for the formal Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) has started and closes 29 July 2019.
Information is available on AusTender: All questions regarding the tender should be submitted though AusTender link. It is anticipated that the above work will be published in conjunction with the Consultation RIS.
ANUHD will continue to monitor the progress of this work. Stakeholders will be notified once the Consultation RIS is released.
The United Nations is planning to actively include people with disability at all levels of their operations. It’s one thing to have a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, but not a good look if the UN itself isn’t leading by example. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said, “Realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is a matter of justice as well as a common-sense investment in our common future”, but “we have a long way to go in changing mindsets, laws and policies to ensure these rights”. Global Accessibility News has more detail on this story. Better late than never.
The international Digital Accessibility Rights Evaluation Index (DARE) rates Australia as 71 points out of 100. Apparently this makes us 12th in global rankings with an implementation ranking of 10th. The index takes Australia’s laws and regulations, policies and programs, and capacity to implement inclusive technology into the scale. It seems Australia has full capacity to implement, but has only just passed the halfway mark in actual implementation.
G3ict has also produced a report with more detail. “The report gathers insights from the survey by Level Access in cooperation with G3ict on the current state of accessibility in organizations as undertaken by 550 professionals from organizations of all sectors. The high number of responses shows the considerable interest for trends in accessibility implementation. Readers are encouraged to go through the detailed results of the survey and compare them to their own experience to help advance their own endeavors and the accessibility profession at large.”