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.
Dr Phillippa Carnemolla is in the news for her work on home modifications and how it can improve the quality of life for older people and people with disability. In the UNSW Newsroom article, she says, “I want it to be much easier for people to have houses that they can live their entire lives in with autonomy and mobility and freedom.” As an industrial designer, she has a passion for design and human rights.
Phillippa’s PhD study showed that “improving people’s home environments not only impacted the amount of care received in the home – it almost halved the amount of care – but it changed relationships.” She goes on to say, “Inclusive design is design that enables people to have that quality of life that we’re talking about – so to participate, to be as independent as possible, to be autonomous and to live in the world without having to ask permission. It’s about how we include people in the research and design process so that they’re a participant in that decision making and that what we get in the end works for as many people as possible.”
Read the full article by going to the UNSW Newsroom website. You can also read one of Phillippa’s conference papers. She is currently working on a project providing supported accommodation for people at the highest level of need; people who require assistance to be available 24-hours a day.
Dr Carnemolla is a Director of Centre for Universal Design Australia.
Three presentations focused on universally designed and accessible housing and discuss the need for regulation in the building code.
Margaret Ward tells the story from the perspective of Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) and their advocacy and lobbying for regulation. Universal design in all new housing: Keeping COAG to account (PDF 13MB). Transcript of the presentation in Word.
Courtney Wright reports on a survey about accessible housing and attitudes to regulation, costs and benefits to Australian society. Building all new homes to an agreed universal design standard: Understanding the perceived costs and benefits to Australian society. (PDF 500kb). Transcript of the presentation in Word.
Penny Galbraith gives a policy perspective and links it to Population, Participation and Productivity. She provides some interesting facts and figures including how costs can be designed out. Home Coming? A story of reassurance, opportunity and hope. (PDF 1MB). Transcript of the presentation in Word.
All presentations were converted to PDF before being provided to CUDA. If you are unable to access the content of the documents please email email@example.com.
With more than 120 attendees, five countries present and five Australian states represented, it was a very successful Australian Universal Design Conference. The atmosphere was abuzz with like-minded colleagues catching up and new friendships forming. We were welcomed by Meaghan Scanlon, Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development, and Neroli Holmes, Acting Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. The conference opened with Nicki Hutley, who gave us the benefit of her years of research and declared that everyone benefits from inclusion both economically and socially. Lots to think about when it comes to self driving cars and Amy Child covered some of the many aspects to consider. Here are some of the slides from concurrent session speakers on day one – more to come next newsletter:
Thea Kurdi from Canada – Living in Place:Who are we designing for?
Lorraine Guthrie from New Zealand – Accessibility Charter for Canterbury: Collaborating to go beyone compliance
Michael Small – Developing the conditions to support a universal design approach
Emily Steel – Universal Design in social policy: Addressing the paradox of equality
Tom Bevan – Case Study: Accessible beaches for all.
Elise Copeland from New Zealand – A universal design tool for mixed use buildings. Slideshow was too big to upload but the transcript is provided plus the video below. You can go to the Auckland website to see the UD Design Tool.
Richard Duncan reminds us of design features that we never think of as having a specific design label such as “accessible”. For example, how would supermarket shoppers manage without automatic doors? These doors are everywhere and we don’t think twice about it. But more to the point, we probably do notice any door that doesn’t open automatically when our hands are full or we are pushing a trolley or stroller. That’s when universal design becomes visible – when it’s not there. When it comes to doors, the worst offenders are revolving doors and that is why many building codes require a separate door for people who cannot navigate the revolving contraption. Other devices we don’t think about are beeping noises at traffic lights. As more people have their heads down looking at their phones, this device designed for people who are blind has become good for many more. Lever handles and taps are now the norm because they are useable by everyone and probably more hygienic. Video captioning has also become a favourite for everyone watching social media on smart phones. Richard Duncan’s article, Hidden Universal Design: Commercial doors, is on his Linked In page.
Which name or label to use when talking accessibility, universality and inclusion in design? This is a question in an article on the Adobe Blog site. Is it just semantics? Maybe. But they are intertwined and in the context of ICT and websites it might make a difference to some. Matt May writes that “Accessibility is the goal to ensure that products support each individual user’s needs and preferences. “Universal design is for everyone, literally, and inclusive design expands with your audience as new design ideas emerge. He cites the definition of inclusive design from the Inclusive Design Research Centre in Toronto: “design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference”. Is this not how universal design is explained? Better to accept that universal design is about diversity and therefore we can expect a diversity of explanations. As long as the aim is for social and economic inclusion for all then the meaning is in the doing and the outcomes. It’s worth noting that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities uses the term “Universal Design” and interprets it as an iterative approach to achieving equity and inclusion.
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?
Patricia Moore is well-known to those who have followed the fortunes of universal design for some time. She was the researcher who dressed and behaved as an 80 year old woman and found first hand the discriminatory treatment older people face every day in the built environment and socially. Her latest article with Jörn Bühring asks designers and business leaders to use social and emotional intelligence in their designs. They claim the philosophic challenge is to ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?”
“Designers don’t speak of limitations, instead they tend to focus on possibilities. The emergence of ’inclusivity’ in design supports the conviction that where there is a ’deficit’, we will present a solution. “Where there is ignorance, we will strive for enlightenment. Where there is a roadblock, we will create a pathway”.
Cite paper as: Bühring, J., Moore, P., (2018). Emotional and Social Intelligence as ’Magic Key’ in Innovation: A Designer’s call toward inclusivity for all – Letter From Academia, Journal of Innovation Management, www.openjim.org,
The next International Association for Universal Design Conference will be held in Bankok, Thailand 5-6 March 2019. It is not clear from the website whether the call for submissions closes 31 August 2018 or 30 November, which is definitely the date for full paper submissions. You can find out more from the conference website. Topics are wide-ranging. This is usually a large international affair. IAUD is based in Japan and was originaly initiated by product manufacturers recognising that the population was ageing. Not the most intuitively designed conference website, but the information is there and also links to previous conference papers that could be of interest. .
Most people think of universal design as being something for the built environment, but it is much more than that. Service design is an important factor in access and inclusion. There have been major disruptions in how we shop, get take-away food, share our accommodation and our cars. Universal design thinking processes have a major role to play in service design. This is the thinking of Airbnb and other similar platforms. The article in FastCompany lists a few things to think about. Here are the headings:
- Let a user do what they set out to do
- Be easy to find
- Clearly explain its purpose
- Set the expectations a user has of it
- Be agnostic of organizational structures
- Require as few steps as possible to complete a task
- Be consistent
- Have no dead ends
- Be usable by everyone, equally
- Work in a way that is familiar
- Make it easy to get human assistance
- Require no prior knowledge to use
Some of these aspects could be applied in other situations too.