Universal Design, Architects and CPD

young people sit at a table which has a large sheet of paper and writing implements. They appear to be discussing something.Taking a universal design approach to architectural practice requires a change in attitudes in architectural education. Continuing professional development (CPD) is one way to achieve this. A joint project by the University of Limerick and the IDeA Center at Buffalo resulted in some recommendations and guidelines to help.

Recommendations were derived from engagement with Irish and international professionals, educators and client bodies. A key finding was the need for new CPD in universal design that goes beyond regulations. It can have a broader value by providing information and resources to assist more creative and inclusive designs. 

The title of the article is, A Review of Universal Design in Professional Architectural Education: Recommendations and Guidelines“. The article is open access.

From the abstract

There is a growing understanding of the widespread societal benefits of a universal design (UD). To achieve these benefits, architectural professionals must have the knowledge and skills to implement UD in practice. This paper investigates UD in the context of recent architectural education. It traces changing attitudes in the culture of architectural education, and the evolving perception of UD as an important aspect of architectural practice. Specifically, continuous professional development (CPD) can advance knowledge of UD within a human-centred design paradigm.

Architecture students’ attitudes to universal design

architecture blueprint with rule and pencilThe attitudes of architecture students to universal design is the focus of a Deakin University study. It builds on previous work (Design 4 Diversity) in 2010 on inter-professional learning for architecture and occupational therapy students. The findings of this latest study show that while architecture students viewed access to public environments favourably, there was a mixed response in relation to private homes.

Reasons not to include universal design features in homes included cost, client desires and restrictions on creativity. For example, “Legislation restricts design, resulting in negative impacts the ‘requirements’ did not intend”. These reasons are not referenced in evidence and indicate an attitudinal bias.

The study used a quantitative approach and applied statistical techniques to the data. The first part of the document covers the history of universal design, and there is an extended section on methods and statistics. For followers of UD, the Discussion section is of most interest. 

The authors of Students’ Attitudes to Universal Design in Architecture Education, are Helen Larkin, Kelsey Dell, and Danielle Hitch. Journal of Social Inclusion, 2016.

Similar papers

See also Hitch, Dell and Larkin from Deakin University, who also review some of the related literature. The title of the article is, Does Universal Design Education Impact on the Attitudes of Architecture Students Towards People with Disability? Published in the Journal of Accessibility and Design for All.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo presented their research on the incorporation or otherwise of universal design in architectural education at the 3rd International Conference on Design Education Researchers. “Universal Design in Architectural Education: A U.S. Study” was published in The Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference for Design Education Research Vol 2, which has many other articles on the topic of design education.

 

The denied ramps at a museum

Although Australian buildings are relatively new compared with those in Europe, heritage values are sometimes used to prevent workable access solutions to older buildings. This paper discusses the issue of pitting two different values against each other – heritage and accessibility. The complex museum structure at the Church of San Salvatore in Brescia is used as a case study.

Similarly to contemporary projects, when ancient buildings are opened up to the public for the first time, accessibility should be considered first, not when the complaints come in. The authors conclude, “… accessibility to culture and cultural heritage is to be understood as synonymous with democracy and sustainability”. 

A view of the interior of the museum showing painted walls and a long arched corridor.
Santa Giulia Museum, Brescia
External view of the Church of San Salvatore- a light coloured three story building with a square tower.
Church of San Salvatore, Brescia

The title of the paper is, “Does Pure Contemplation Belong to Architecture? The Denied Ramps at the Church of San Salvatore in the Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia”. The paper was presented at the 6th International Universal Design Conference held in Brescia 7-9 September 2022. Authors are Alberto Arenghi and Carlotta Cocoli. The full paper is open access and can be downloaded from IOS Press Ebooks.

You can also access all other published conference papers for this conference.

Abstract

This paper addresses the issue of balancing the two values underlying the accessibility and conservation of cultural heritage: its use and its protection. These values are often, wrongly, regarded as opposites, or as incompatible. The reason for this contrast originates in the way of understanding ancient architecture and in the value of the relationship between architecture and people.

This issue is considered by presenting a recent case concerning the Museum of Santa Giulia in Brescia, a multi-layered complex that preserves evidence ranging from the prehistoric to the contemporary age, housed in a monastic complex of Longobard origin.

The recent failure to build some ramps proposed for increasing accessibility to the church of San Salvatore, an integral part of the museum’s itinerary, offers an opportunity to reflect on the need for better integration between different, and only apparently opposed, instances.

The topic is dealt with by referring to the most recent disciplinary reflections in the field of conservation carried out in Italy with respect to the issue of accessibility to the cultural heritage, without neglecting juridical-normative aspects and international documents, such as the Faro Convention.

This multidisciplinary reading aims to highlight the main significance of accessing cultural heritage, with reference also to the objectives of sustainable development and the human development of the individual and the reference community.

 

Creative bathroom designs

A long black sink shaped like a shelf hangs longways from the wall. The backwall is full length window and it is difficult to see the tap. It looks very modern.Todd Brickhouse’s Newsletter has some interesting pictures of creative bathroom designs. All are wheelchair accessible and look really good. 

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. The sink might confuse anyone with perception problems. 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.  Pale marble tiles line the walls of this bathroom. There is one long shelf with a mirror behind. A bath with a hand held shower is fitted just above the bath rim.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. 

 

Co-designing bathrooms with older people

Public toilet in Kawakawa New Zealand. It has large mosaic tiles all at different angles. The toilet seat is timberHow do you know what older people want in their bathroom design? Simple. Ask them. And have lots of Post It Notes handy. Having a more flexible and safer bathroom at home is one of the keys to ageing in place. Knowing “what’s best” is not necessarily in the hands of design experts or health professionals. Co-designing bathrooms with older people is a better option.

The Livable Bathrooms for Older People Project investigated and evaluated all aspects of bathroom design, fixtures and fittings. The report details how the project was conducted, the role of participants in the process, and the outcomes of the research. There are many explanatory pictures demonstrating the process. The report is available on ResearchGate, the UNSW Library list, or can be purchased from Google Books.

The Co-Design research was carried out by Associate Professor Oya Demirbilek. The Co-Design Sessions Lead Investigator with assistance from PhD Students Alicia Mintzes, Steve Davey and Peter Sweatman. University of New South Wales. 2015.

Note: The picture is of the renowned public toilet in Kawakawa New Zealand. It would be very confusing for someone with perception issues.  Editor’s photo.

5 ways to improve accessibility of cities

Aerial view of an expanse of a housing estate.Richard Voss reminds us that all of us are ageing all the time. Consequently, we need to think ahead in the design of our cities. He makes a good point that by the time the ink dries on new access codes they are already out of date. His 5 ways to improve accessibility of cities are based on universal design principles.  These don’t date, they evolve.

First, he recommends providing incentives to include universal design features in housing.  As we know, this mitgates major renovations, especially at a time when you can least cope. Lifemark in New Zealand has the answers here.

Second, Voss says we have to wake up to the fact that we all need universal design. He points out that accessibility is not all about wheelchairs.

Third, we should combine common sense with building codes. Here Voss talks about merging universal design with heritage codes. 

Fourth, create a new innovation industry around accessibility. Voss says we should get universal design embedded in the retrofit of buildings. It will make them more sustainable and resilient as well as accessible.

Fifth, set achievable targets for each development sector. Discussions around inclusion affect every sector: workplaces, retail, hospitality, transportation, etc. Links between disciplines are essential.

Voss concludes that universal design has no extra cost if implemented early in the design process. Unfortunately, not many people believe this because from past experience, change usually means extra cost.

The article by Richard Voss was posted on Linked In. 

 

Social value of good design

A white brick building with blue framed windows. Social value of good design. It’s so much easier to measure outputs than outcomes. Social value is an outcome, but how do you measure it? Well the answer for most is, it’s too hard so don’t bother. The Fifth Estate features an article about why the building industry should measure the social value of good design. 

The Women’s Property Initiatives in Melbourne provide housing for women and children. They have a system where tenants pay no more than 30 per cent of their income in rent. They knew this was working because they could see improved wellbeing. But how do you measure this social value in money terms?

So, what is social value? It is “the quantification of the importance that people place on the changes they experience in their lives”. Using stated preferences methods in research is a similar idea. 

Emma Williams argues for the building industry to broaden the way they measure the success of a project. If we are to address social inequities, we have to give equal weight to social value. Measuring financial and environmental impacts is only part of the job. 

The title of the article is, The difficult task of measuring social value in the built environment

The Women’s Property initiative found that for every dollar invested, $11.07 of social value was created. Architects can work out the economics of green standards, but not social impact. Success of a project is about the people – that means social value. 

Google spells out accessible, inclusive, usable

A woman stands on a stage with a woman sitting behind her. She is making a presentation to an audience. Google spells out accessible, inclusive and usable.It would be good if all designers took their lead from the likes of Apple and Google: inclusion, accessibility and usability are about the design process. Apart from clearly explaining how these terms are linked and can be used together, Google spells out accessible, inclusive and usable in a half hour video 

Infographic showing three groups of disability: permanent, temporary and situational. From Microsoft.
Microsoft infographic: Permanent, temporary, situational disability

The video also has some tips and tools for designers and shows how three different users have the same need: a man with a mobility disability (permanent), a boy with a broken arm (temporary) and a woman with an armful of shopping (situational). Microsoft designed an infographic to illustrate the point. 

Individual situations might be different but they all have the same need for accessibility. And people have the same goals they want to achieve regardless of their situation.

This instructional presentation is aimed at an audience interested in designing apps, particularly the second half of the video. However, the messages in the first half can be applied to other design disciplines. 

Understanding universal design in architecture

The building sector in Denmark is transitioning towards a universal design approach. But it has not yet found its way into architectural practice. Legislation and access codes remain the dominant features of design. Two researchers sought answers from young professionals who understand universal design in architecture. The aim was to see if the ideas are beginning to embed themselves in architectural practice.

A person in a powered wheelchair riding along the footpath.

“It is not just about ramps, handrails, and lifts. It is also about organising buildings and outdoor space. It is about showing consideration for those people who are somehow challenged in their physical capability or have cognitive challenges that make it difficult to obtain a good everyday life at work, in school or in day care.”

Quote from survey participant

The researchers surveyed “Frontrunners” – young professionals with an interest in universal design and those who are expected to be on the front line of professional development. They found the frontrunners understood universal design in five ways:

1. Universal design is a driver of social sustainability – they work together.

2. The need to bring design thinking and focus back to the human body and scale.

3. Implementing universal design means going beyond tacked on ramps, and compliance to legislation.

4. Integrating universal design in both the process and the solutions from the perspective of equality. Designers’ need an inclusive mindset so that some are not labelled as “special needs”.

5. Involving minorities in urban planning processes thereby giving them a voice because it’s more than physical access.

The researchers found there was a genuine attempt to mainstream universal design into practice. Their paper discusses these five discourses emerging from their research. The title of the paper is Frontrunners” Understanding Universal Design in Architecture.

The researchers found that overall, participants understood that universal design accommodates human diversity, and should be integrated into the process from the outset.

Their paper was presented at the 6th International Universal Design Conference held 7-9 September 2022 in Brescia, Italy. All papers are open access.

Accessible Tourism Resource Toolkit

Front cover of the accessible tourism resource kit showing hot air ballooning over the city.The Business Victoria website has a sub-section on accessible tourism. Unfortunately it is listed as separate from other aspects of tourism such as starting up a tourism business. Nevertheless, the Accessible Tourism Resource Kit has some useful information for existing businesses in the sector.

Similarly to other guides on accessible and inclusive tourism the Accessible Tourism Resource Kit covers:

      • Discover what you are missing
      • Explore your local area
      • Make low cost changes
      • Assess your building and facilities
      • Describe your business
      • Promote your business.

Editor’s comment: The PDF version of the Kit has a very light type-face and this is not a good design idea. By comparison, the accessible Word version has good text contrast. 

The City of Melbourne has a website section with access information, for recreation, entertainment and cultural venues. Shopping, cafes, exhibitions, playgrounds, toilets, sport and recreation are covered in detail. There is also a link to a Melbourne mobility map.  

There are more guides in the travel and tourism section of this website.

Articles on home modifications

A man in a bright yellow T shirt is painting and archway in a wall inside a home. The wall is grey and there are tools on the floor. Articles on home modifications.From October 2022, a step free entry and other minor changes for accessibility will be mandated for all new homes. For many people it will minimise the need for home modifications. Where they are needed, it will make it easier and more cost effective. In the 20 years leading up to the code change, many research articles were written to put the case. These articles remain relevant for existing homes and in jurisdictions yet to mandate access features in new homes. They are a mix of magazine and research articles and are listed below.

Ageing in Place: Are we there yet? (2019) Mary Ann Jackson

Your Home: Adaptable Housing Guide (2022) published by the Australian Government

Overcoming inertia to jump start renovations for ageing in place (2020) Louis Tenenbaum 

The potential of a home modification strategy – a universal design approach to existing housing (2014) by Phillippa Carnemolla.

The role of home maintenance and modification services in achieving health, community care and housing outcomes in later life (2008) AHURI Report by Andrew Jones et al. 

Better supporting older Australians to age in place (2021) AHURI Brief. 

Accessible housing – what’s it worth? (2020) by Dušan Katunský.

Accessible housing: costs and gains (2017) 

Ageing better at home (2018) Centre for Ageing Better 

Housing and older people: four strategies (2018) Jon Pynoos

Home design and later life (2017)

Adaptable housing for people with disability in Australia: A scoping study (2021) Australian Human Rights Commission. It looks beyond the code change for new housing to the issues in existing housing.

Planning moves in later life

A study on planning to move in later life is based on the notion that people will need to move regardless. If this is the case, the question becomes, who does the planning? The researchers are taking medical approach in two ways. First, by suggesting older people should be encouraged to plan their move. Second healthcare professionals can “help them better adjust to a new living environment”. 

Poor health was the main reason for not planning a move, and wanting to live closer to children was the main reason for a planned move. Planning for moves in late life: who plans and how does planning influence outcomes?, shifts the focus from staying put to moving so that people can age-in-the-right place.  

architecture blueprint with rule and pencil

Does educating homeowners about universal design influence any repairs following a home insurance claim?  Researchers found that almost all homeowners included universal design features in repairs. This lead to a voluntary 6- week online training program to educate contractors who work with customers to discuss and promote universal design with policy holders at the time of a claim. 

The title of the article is Educating home contractors on universal design modifications: an academia and corporate collaboration,  

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