Conferences and calls for papers

An external view of the venue showing level entry.4th Australian Universal Design Conference will be held 12-13 May 2020 at Melbourne Showground’s brand new Victoria Pavillion. The theme is Thriving with Universal Design: Everyone, Everywhere, Everyday. We had an excellent response to the call for papers and were over subscribed. Many thanks for your enthusiasm! It promises to be a great event! A draft program for presenters will be available soon. Full papers and extended abstracts will be published electronically by Griffith University.


International Council on Active Aging Conference, Summit & Expo. 26-29 October, 2020, Long Beach California. Theme: Aging well: the great disruptor. Call for presentations closes 10 January 2020.

2020 Conferences

Florida State University AMPS Conference: Experiential Design – Rethinking relations between people, objects and environments. 16-17 January 2020, in Tallahassee. 

Slips, Trips and Falls Conference 13-14 February 2020 Madrid. Topics include architectural design, ageing, ergonomics, footwear, and safety standards as well as falls prevention and analysing accidents. Website is in Spanish and English.

ITAC2020: Transforming Independence Through Innovative Technology, 3-4 March 2020, Brisbane. The theme emphasises the importance of assistive technology supporting service quality and independence. This is one for health professionals interested in IT developments.

Smart Accessibility 2020.  International Conference on Universal Accessibility and the Internet of Things and Smart Environments. 22-26 March 2020, Barcelona, Spain. Wide ranging topics: built environment, smart cities, techniques and tools, technology for independent living, digital inclusion, Internet of Things and much more. 

Designing for Inclusion CWUAAT. 10th Cambridge Workshop on Universal Access and Assistive Technology. University of Cambridge 23-25 March 2020. A cross disciplinary event with interesting and intersecting topic themes.

National Sustainability Conference, 27-28 April 2020, Brisbane. The theme is “Sustainable Solutions for a New Decade”. Now is the opportunity to see universal design and social inclusion in the sustainability agenda. Two topics relate: Good Health and Wellbeing, and Sustainable Cities and Communities. 

6th International Conference on ICT for Ageing Well and e-Health (ICT4AWE2020), Prague, Czech Republic 3-5 May 2020. Call for papers closes 13 December 2019. For those who study age and health-related quality of life and apply information and communication technologies for helping people stay healthier, more independent and active at work or in their community. ICT4AWE is organized in 3 major tracks:
1 – Aging well – social and human sciences perspective
2 – Ambient Intelligence and Independent living
3 – Telemedicine and e-health

From Access to Inclusion 2020; an Arts and Culture Summit 11-14 May 2020 Dublin, Ireland. Call for papers closed 12 November 2019. An international gathering of access professionals and advocates exploring how to provide seamless, person-centred experiences in arts and culture.

Not to be confused with the 4th Australian Universal Design Conference, there is another one in Finland in June 2020. This follows the four previous conferences in Scandinavia, UK and Ireland. 

International Dementia Conference 11-12 June 2020, Sydney.  Main theme: Care in the age of outrage. There are many topics including built environment. ePosters are still being accepted.

Liveable Cities Conference 22-23 June 2020, Perth Western Australia. Presentation Submissions Close 6 March 2020. Program Themes include transport and mobility, circular economy, community engagement, affordability and employment. The concept of inclusion is under the Community Engagement and Culture theme. 

The Disability Innovation Summit will be run alongside the Tokyo Paralympic Games in August 2020. Call for papers will run between October 2019 and March 2020. Priority will be given to submissions with: a passion to collaborate globally; products and ideas that are ready to go to market; or have the ability to be scaled; and tangible solutions that can impact lives around the world.

17th International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs, 9-11 September, Lecco, Italy. Call for contributions for close 1 April 2020 for science track and 1 May 2020 for forum track. 

Designing Cities 2020: Boston 14-17 September 2020. Save the date. “The NACTO Designing Cities Conference brings together 900 officials, planners, and practitioners to advance the state of transportation in cities.”

International Council on Active Aging Conference, Summit & Expo. 26-29 October, 2020, Long Beach California. Theme: Aging well: the great disruptor. Call for presentations closes 10 January 2020.


Destinations for All 2021 Summit save the date: It will be held in Miami Florida in the Fall of 2021. This follows from the one held in Belgium. Updates to follow.

Are we achieving inclusive design?

Front cover of inclusive designer book. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) asked Julie Fleck to write a book about inclusive design, which was published recently. Fleck was asked by Tourism for All whether she thought we are doing a good job with inclusive design. She said the UK has made huge progress since the 1980s when access became a town planning matter. Improved building regulation, including housing, have had a significant impact on the accessibility of the built environment.

The book also provided an opportunity for Fleck to look at what still needs to be done. She discusses the need to challenge perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. These are the factors that exclude and discriminate – often unintentionally. The book also looks at the London “Square Mile” and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It has case studies and lots of pictures. The title of the book is, Are you an inclusive designer?  

Overview: Despite improvements in the last 20 years we still have a long way to go before all of our buildings, places and spaces are easy and comfortable for all of us to use. This book puts forward a powerful case for a totally new attitude towards inclusivity and accessibility. Exploring both the social and the business cases for striving for better, this book will empower architects to have more enlightened discussions with their clients about why we should be striving for better than the bare minimum, and challenging the notion that inclusive design should be thought of reductively as simply a list of “special features” to be added to a final design, or that inclusivity is only about wheelchair access. The ultimate aim of this book will be to help make inclusive design business as usual rather than something that is added on to address legislation at the end of the development process. Accessible and engaging, this book will be an invaluable resource for students as well as practicing architects, richly illustrated with case studies showing both good and bad examples of inclusive design, and celebrating inclusion. Rather than a dry manual, this book combines a powerful, thought-provoking polemic arguing for a step change in attitude, a guide for practitioners on how to have constructive conversations with clients around ID, and a learning resource for students and architects on how to adopt inclusive design and inclusive environment approaches in their work Offers an engaging challenge to widespread assumptions around what constitutes good, accessible design Provides practical advice, illustrated with case studies, for inclusive design principles The book will also act as a guide for practitioners on how to have more enlightened discussions with their clients around inclusivity

Housing: What next for an ageing Australia?

a blue glowing house icon is held in the handsIf you ask an older person if their home will suit them in their later years, they are likely to say yes. But how will they know and will they find out when it’s too late? That is the key issue when policy makers talk about ageing in place. Are we actually prepared for it? And not only are they people’s homes, they are potentially the workplaces for care service staff. 

The intersection of home design and support services is one of the factors looked at by Matthew Hutchinson from QUT. His thesis looks at a myriad of housing types including collective living and mutual support, which on the face of it, looks like group home living. Building design is mentioned in passing. The thesis proposes several ways of re-thinking the types of dwelling and dwelling arrangements that might better suit older people to age in place and receive care at home.

This is a very academic text with lots of diagrams and flow charts. Suitable for architects who are interested in housing typology and policy makers interested in ageing in place strategies. The title of the thesis is, Housing for an ageing Australia: What next?  

Abstract: Within the policy context of ageing-in-place aspirations, this thesis examines the potential nature of housing for Australia’s ageing population. By conceptualising housing and support together as an ecology and using grounded theory methodology to involve relevant stakeholders the thesis reveals both the desire and need for new urban and suburban based housing typologies arranged around collective living and mutual support. It further proposes a performance brief comprising desirable housing design principles. The thesis makes a contribution theoretically to the fields of architecture and critical gerontology.


Universally designed mealtimes

A busy array of small kitchen appliances and cooking utensils.Mealtimes are made easier with a range of small kitchen appliances. But can everyone use them? Meal preparation is something most of us do every day. It’s not until you can’t do it that you realise how much it impacts on wellbeing, independence and quality of life. 

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee worked with General Electric to develop an audit tool they can apply to the design of their small appliances. The tool can be used by engineers, retailers and individuals as well. The title of the tool is Small Kitchen Appliance Accessibility and Universal Design Information Tool (SKA AUDIT). It includes 7 features: doors, lids, dials, on/off water reservoirs, buttons and “ready” indicators. Both physical and cognitive conditions were considered in the development of the tool.

The title of the article is Small Kitchen Appliance Accessibility and Universal Design Information Tool (SKA AUDIT).  

Abstract:  Over a quarter of Americans have disabilities. The impacts of these disabilities are pronounced in 3 areas: mobility, self-care, and household activities (including meal preparation and housework). Preparing meals at home is a powerful way to reduce the risk of depression, stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Small kitchen appliances play a large role in meal preparation and have the potential to help increase the independence in meal preparation of people with disabilities. Currently, however, almost no guidelines exist to ensure that small kitchen appliances are accessible and usable. This paper discusses the development of the Small Kitchen Appliance Accessibility and Universal Design Information Tool (SKA AUDIT). This tool allows practitioners to score the accessibility and usability of common small kitchen appliance features based on their client’s impairments. The SKA AUDIT assists practitioners and their clients (and potentially the general public) in choosing small kitchen appliances that are more accessible and usable, in accordance with the user’s level of ability.


The bank knows about your dementia

A Visa credit card sign is hanging in the window of an attractive looking shop..Forget the medical diagnosis, it seems the bank knows before anyone else when you have dementia. The first signs are not in the brain but in the bank account according to an article by Eric Chess in Statnews. It seems that impaired financial decision-making goes beyond the obvious vulnerability to scams. It shows up in things like managing credit cards and unnecessary spending. This is especially the case if spending habits begin to diverge from previous spending behaviour.

The Financial Security and Cognitive Health Initiative is developing a screening test to detect cognitive impairment early. The aim is to increase awareness of it and to enhance both cognitive and financial health. A cross-disciplinary research team has been established with several academics, the financial industry and government. 

The title of the article is, Step aside, biomarkers. Look to the bank account for early signs of dementia

Eric Chess, M.D., is director of the Financial Security and Cognitive Health Initiative at the University of Denver’s Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging.

Consumers, care and ageism

A man sits on a bench in a garden near a building.Are customers the same as citizens? Consumers are part of the market. Citizens are part of society. There are consumer rights and then there are human rights. Older people are treated as consumers of specialised housing products. They are not treated as citizens in their own homes. This is one of the messages to come out if the Royal Commission.

In The Fifth Estate article, Willow Aliento says of the care and retirement living sectors, “…the inquiry found that there had been a shift towards thinking about the aged care sector as an “industry” with “customers”, rather than a social service for older citizens.” This is an important factor because this approach dehumanises residents. Even the retirement living sector is fundamentally ableist because they only advertise “active living”. 

The article discusses how poor design of the physical environments with large, noisy facilities and poor visual layouts contributes to residents’ reduced quality of life and care. it also cover issues of downsizing and pension and assets tests. Complex issues are tackled well in this article titled, How ageist, ableism and inequity are creating “shelter hell’ for older people


Brisbane encourages SDA housing

Blue and yellow logo of Brisbane City Council.Developers who deliver homes to Livable Housing Guidelines will receive a 33% reduction in infrastructure charges. The Brisbane City Council incentive scheme is not aimed at the mainstream market. It adds to the funding for Specialist Disabilty Housing (SDA) that is already on offer from the Commonwealth Government. 

The Property Council of Australia who negotiated this outcome welcomed the news in a media release. The Council has a fact sheet explaining the conditions of the incentive which is for Gold and Platinum level of the Livable Housing Guidelines.

Editor’s comment: While this is good for those interested in the SDA sector, it further entrenches the notion that universal design is only about people with disability. The benefits for including UD features in all housing are once again marginalised. With the upcoming Regulation Impact Statement due early next year, such schemes will only confuse the industry. The Disability Royal Commission has no doubt been a driver of the scheme because specialist housing is urgently needed.


Cross cultural hospital design

Entrance to the emergency section of a hospital.Designing with Indigenous Australians in mind is good for everyone. We know that having level access into a building is essential for some but good for all. It’s the same for many types of design. For example, smartphone apps designed for people who are blind have advantages for everyone. When it comes to designing hospitals, Indigenous Australians are often left out of the picture. 

An article in The Conversation draws our attention to the need to have separate waiting rooms, specifically designed for indigenous patients. This is because they often leave emergency rooms without receiving treatment. But does that mean non-indigenous patients feel comfortable in waiting rooms? Probably not – we all feel uncomfortable and anxious in hospitals. And that’s not good for our health! The article explains design features to improve hospital design. The research is by Timothy O’Rourke and Daphne Nash from University of Queensland. 

The title of the article is, Making space: how designing hospitals for Indigenous people might benefit everyone. Although this article doesn’t mention universal design per se, cross cultural awareness to create inclusive spaces and places is synonymous with UD. 

There are more links in The Conversation article on designing hospitals too, This topic has been covered a few times on this website, but it is good to see it reaching the media.  

Downsizing: Is anyone interested?

A For Sale sign with a red roof over the lettering.Downsizing is not happening even if policy makers think it’s a good idea for older generations. This is the bottom line of the latest brief from AHURI. So, what is downsizing? First, this concept is mostly about home owners not renters. There is financial downsizing to release equity by buying a cheaper home. But only 20 per cent of owner-occupiers aged 55 to 64 years in 2001 moved to another home of lesser value by 2016 (this age cohort was the most likely to have ‘financially downsized’ during this 15 year period).

Physical downsizing is often seen as reducing the number of bedrooms, but this is a crude measure. This is because the number of bedrooms isn’t the issue. The size of all the rooms could be smaller, but it’s the size of the yard and maintenance that really matters to older people. Fewer than 15 per cent of older home-owners moved to another home with fewer bedrooms between 2001 and 2016. This latest research serves to confirm the key study by Bruce Judd and team where they found all bedrooms were in use. Also, older people spend more time at home, so it’s their space for recreation and activities

The title of the brief is, Understanding downsizing: What are the different types of downsizing and how common is it? There are references to other related AHURI research in this brief.

Editor’s comment: Government and the property industry might be keen to see older home owners move. However, the evidence is showing that the property industry might have to re-think their strategy of trying to entice people into their retirement villages by continuing to design and build homes so that people can’t age in place.  


Health and wellbeing by design

A young man is in the middle of a residential street. He looks like he is jumping or dancing.We shape our building and thereon, they shape us is an oft quoted Churchill saying. I wonder if he knew how much they also shape our health and well-being. Koen Steemers’ article on this topic outlines the definition of wellbeing and health and the implications for architecture. He also provides “rules of thumb” for design based on extensive research. Steemers acknowledges there is no one-size-fits all for healthy design. So the aim is to optimise every aspect wherever possible. It is interesting to note that he puts accessible housing into the list as a must. Architecture for well-being and health is a very comprehensive and readable guide for the built environment professions. 

Sydney Ideas Festival also covered this topic, Room for improvement:cities housing and health

“Whether people are healthy or not, is determined by their circumstances and environment. To a large extent, factors such as where we live, the state of our environment, genetics, our income and education level, and our relationships with friends and family all have considerable impacts on health …” World Health Organization: The determinants of health.