The Singapore Government’s Universal Design Guidelines for commercial buildings has been well thought out and is presented clearly with many illustrations and drawings. This is a comprehensive guide that goes beyond basic accessibility requirements of previous guidelines. Access consultants might wish to compare this document with the Australian Access to Premises Standard, and the guidelines which can be downloaded from the Human Rights Commission website.
Singapore is keen to progress universal design and has a Universal Design Department within the Building and Construction Authority.
The IDeA Center at Buffalo is a research institute set within the Architecture faculty. It has a good website with publications and other resources. Here are just four of the books. They can be purchased online. Go to the IDeA website for details of books and where to purchase.
Inclusive Design: Implementation and Evaluation.
The book focuses on the direct application of universal design concepts with technical information. Good for designers, contractors, builders, and building owners.
||Accessible Public Transportation: Designing Service for Riders with Disabilities
This book is about public transit systems with a focus on inclusive solutions for people with disability and older people. Includes best practice examples.
||Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments
Readers are introduced to the principles and practice of designing for all people. Includes best practice examples.
||Inclusive Housing: A Pattern Book
A book for designing homes with everyone in mind. Includes disability specific information.
What if mothers and age pensioners were designers? asks Christine Murray in the UK edition of The Guardian. She laments the low number of females in architecture, “they are all male and pale” also alluding to the lack of ethnic diversity as well. She analyses the built environment and transport systems from the perspective of a mother with small children and a pram, and includes lack of toilets for good measure. While this article is based on Murray’s experiences in London, I hope that there are some things we do better in Australian cities. However, we are still a long way from meeting policy commitments on accessible public transport and train stations. In Sydney I regularly see people dragging suitcases up steps at train stations as well as strollers. At least it can be done albeit with effort. But what if you can’t do steps?
Michael Small’s Churchill Fellowship report tracks and compares discrimination laws and industry practice in relation to public buildings. He questions whether the control of the Access to Premises Standard is falling more into the hands of industry as Human Rights Commission resources are becoming increasingly constrained. Three of his recommendations are: that more training is needed for industry to help them understand the standards; more flexibility is needed for building upgrades; and better systems are needed for compliance enforcement and auditing. The title of his report is, Ensuring the best possible access for people with disability to existing buildings that are being upgraded or extended. The countries visited and compared are Canada, United States of America, Ireland and United Kingdom.
Placement and design of signs are things we don’t notice until we can’t find them or find them misleading or indecipherable. In some cases they can cause serious accidents, let alone wasted time or just plain confusion and inconvenience. One problem seems to be that the people who erect signs actually know where they are and have no thought for newcomers to the area or building. They just know they have to put certain signs on particular things, for example toilets. But putting them on the door alone only tells you that you have found them, not how to find them. Fortunately wayfinding and signage design has become a skill in its own right and specialist consultants are being used more frequently. The Slate Website link to The Secret Language of Signs tells the story of how a bus was misdirected and the result was seven people killed. It also links to the other articles on signs and signage, including Legible London, and the Japanese designer who is responsible for beginning the trend to icons that can be understood regardless of language.
The Wayfinding Systems and Audit checklist provides guidance for designing wayfinding systems. Included is the application of tactile ground surface indicators (TGSI), signage and graphic communication, auditory communication, maps and more. Although it was published in 2007, most of the information still holds. New thoughts are entering discussions for improvements, for example, how dappled shade in outdoor areas may be confusing for some people. However, it is a good guide for getting started in this area which entails a mix of Australian Standards, thoughtful design, and end user convenience. Wayfinding is often an afterthought applied to designs instead of being integragted into the design process in the early stages. (The cognitive equivalent of the tacked on ramp?).
The Wayfinding Design Guidelines handbook is also available and provides more detailed information.
Published by the CRC for Construction Innovation, supported by the Queensland Government. The CRC came to an end in 2009.