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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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Accessibility by another name – does it work?

picture of a modern building Norway Opera HouseNorway uses the term accessible to signify solutions specifically for people with disability when not required generally in the population. An interesting distinction by Olav Rand Bringa using his 20 years of experience working in the field of universal design. In his paper says succinctly, “The term accessibility for people with disabilities does not broadcast an understanding of qualities beyond the targeted user group”.  Consequently other terms try to compensate for this. However, it is difficult to move away from this term because it is perpetuated in legal and other statutory documents. Bringa writes thoughtfully and incisively about the issues of getting language right in order to get inclusion right. An important contribution to the quest for inclusive societies. The title of the article is, Universal Design as a Technical Norm and Juridical Term – A Factor of Development or Recession? it’s open access. The picture is of the Oslo Opera House.

Abstract: Universal design was introduced as an ideological and technical concept in Norway in 1996 and was introduced in the first law in 2003. Since then universal design has replaced accessibility for people with disabilities in national policies, laws, regulations, standards, projects and everyday language. Accessibility is now used to characterize solutions made more exclusively for people with disabilities or when a high, general quality is not required. Few countries have made this extensive use of the concept of universal design and the concept has faced several challenges from lawmakers, architects, economists, user organizations, entrepreneurs and debaters. This paper reflects on some aspects of more than 20 years of extensive use of the concept of universal design and try to answer the question: Is universal design an academic invention with little extra positive impact compared to accessibility for people with disability, or does the concept defend its supposed role as a step towards a society with equal opportunities for all?

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.  

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Museum has UD integrated throughout

A distant aerial view of the huge arch and the park and landscapingIntegrating universal design was a priority in the redesigning of the Gateway Arch Museum in St Louis. A gently sloping plaza, architecturally integrated ramps, and engaging exhibitions. An article in the St Louis online news gives a good run-down of the features. The touchable exhibits have been a great success with everyone. The universal design concepts allow people to interact with exhibits rather than just look at them. There are other enhancements for people with disability too. The arch and the park are now easier to access by foot or bike as well. The Archinet website features a brief overview by the architects, and pictures of the museum. The timelapse video of the construction is interesting because of the landscaping of the parkland around it. 

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UD in customer communication: A toolkit

Front cover of the toolkit.The “Universal Design for Customer Engagement Toolkit” is a good resource for getting the best results when communicating with customers. The toolkit is in four sections. It provides practical information on how to take a universal design approach to engaging more productively with all customers. The toolkit is on the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (Ireland) website. It includes video examples:

Note these PDF documents are large due to the number of informative graphics they contain.

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Inclusive Tourism: Global Report

Front cover of the report showing a yellow two storey building with blue doors and shutters. A man sits in a tuk tuk outside.Inclusive tourism has two outcomes: individuals and their families can benefit from participating in tourism activity, and it can help with sustainable development and the reduction of poverty. The Global Report on Inclusive Tourism Destinations is a large document by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. It has practical advice and success stories from across the globe. Good resource for anyone interested in following the Sustainable Development Goals as well as inclusive tourism in general. In developed countries the same holds true – more participation equals more customers.

“The report highlights the need to foster discussion on and examine new approaches to inclusive tourism in order to drive long-term sustainability in the sector. The Model for inclusive tourism destinations presented in this Global Report is a formula for practical and realistic public action that can be applied to different types of destinations. It is a path towards inclusion that is adaptable, modular and scalable, and facilitates the transformation of tourism models towards socially and economically inclusive models.” 

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My Home or Care Home?

Queenie Tran stands in front of the large display screen, The words are Home is Home and Everything else is not home. That's the way the world is constructed.What kind of home do you want to live in? The comfortable and familiar home you have now? Or an institutional care home? Queenie Tran in a TEDx Talk, Designing the Castle – challenges the architecture and design professions to think about what designing for “the majority” really means. Who makes up this majority? The ABS statistics tell us that over one third of households have at least one occupant with a permanent disability. Not the majority, but not so much a minority either, and with an ageing population this will only increase. Time for architects and building designers to re-think what their majority really is and start designing for more than just two thirds of the population. They can make a big difference in our lives. The difference between being forced into an institution either in our later years, or by accident – just because our homes don’t fit us any more. 

Note: If you don’t have time to watch the full 10 minutes, skip to the 5 minute mark for the take home messages.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Fixture is UD but placement isn’t

A drinking fountain sits on a small concrete apron in the middle of the grassHere are two pictures showing the difference between of access compliance and universal design. The drinking fountain with dog bowl is designed for children, adults and wheelchair users in mind. But it was placed away from the footpath on sandy soil that bogs down in wet weather. And the concrete apron was too small to allow approach from either side. Once the council were informed, they came back and made the concrete apron larger and connected it to the footpath. It may have been the council’s intention to have this in the first place, but perhaps the Drinking fountain has a larger concrete surround and is connected to the footpath.contractors thought they could save money on materials.

The first photo shows the drinking fountain on a small square of concrete in the middle of the grass. The second photo shows a larger concrete apron connected to the footpath. It is now accessible to all. Thanks to John Evernden for this item and the photos. Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

UD and public health

Nordic School Pub HealthEvastina Bjork from the Nordic School of Public Health discusses the concept of UD from the perspective of health and wellness in this article. She traces the work done in Norway that precedes the landmark document, Norway Universally Designed 2025” and how it relates to health benefits. Training courses in applying the concepts of UD for professionals were devised and continue to be revised and adapted to keep pace with new learning and updated evidence. Although an academic paper, the discussion about education and training, and application of UD in the health and wellness field is a refreshing perspective.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

UD principles for Australia’s aid program

DFAT UD guidelinesThe Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stipulates that all overseas aid programs must follow the Principles of Universal Design. They have produced a comprehensive guide to all types of development projects including water, health, education and the built environment. It is useful to see how thinking universally about design can produce such a clear guide to inclusive practice and accessibility. This document was updated with a 2016 brochure with ten tips for promoting universal design in aid projects. There is also the companion document Development for All: 2015-2020 Strategy.  Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

WHO Housing, Health & Accessibility

Multi coloured graphic depicting the key elements in the guidelines "How housing can improve health and well-being".The WHO latest guidelines on housing and health have five key areas and accessibility is one of them. The “strong recommendation” is, “Based on current and projected national prevalence of populations with functional impairments and taking into account trends of ageing, an adequate proportion of the housing stock should be accessible to people with functional impairments.” In the remarks it argues that living in an accessible home improves both independence and health outcomes. Although the guidelines argue for a proportion of housing stock it has put the issue on the agenda. It shows it is as important as all other factors. However, the notion of proportion can lead some agencies to think that means specialised and segregated housing. It is worth noting that the lead author of this section is an Australian, Prof Peter Phibbs. The other key areas are crowding, indoor cold, indoor heat, and home safety. For more detail there is an additional document showing method and results of the systematic review that underpinned this section of the Guidelines – Web Annex F. and includes interventions such as home modifications and assistive technology. Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Designing parks that people use

A young woman and man are walking their dog in an urban park.Public parks can work their magic only if they give what people they need. People use green spaces in cities in different ways depending on their community’s historical experience and cultural standards. Access to parks is strongly linked with better health outcomes so it is important to design them in context. But the mere existence of a park does not ensure a community benefits from it. In an article for The Conversation, Thaisa Way covers the history of parks, importance of easy access and cultural relevance.  Lots of links to research papers within the article titled: “Parks work for cities, but only if people use them”. And that is a question of design. Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail