Beyond minimum standards

Urban landscape with shade trees and lots of casual seating with people sitting. Going beyond minimum standards.Why does the design of built environment continue to fail people with disability? Many have asked this question since Selwyn Goldsmith raised it in the 1960s. Many have found answers. But these are not enough to make a difference to the results. New buildings continue to pose barriers in spite of regulations and standards. Going beyond minimum standards is therefore a big ask. 

Imogen Howe, an architect with 10 years experience, wants to find the answer in her PhD study. Her research questions are something we can all think about:

    • Why and how does the Australian built environment continue to marginalise people with disabilities, despite the Disability Discrimination Act (1992)?
    • How does building design reproduce exclusion and segregation? How is this underpinned by design assumptions and approaches both contemporary and historic?
    • Do building and design codes in Australia, NZ, Canada and the UK address dignity?
    • How do we educate becoming architects about the need for inclusive design and then how to enact it in their designs?

References are made to key thinkers and writers on the topic such as Amie Hamraie, C.W. Mills, Joss Boys and Michel Foucault. 

These questions are posed in an article framed as a discussion piece in The key provocations for the discussion are: eugenics and stigma in design, society structures, and how could this be different. The title of the article is, “The need for inclusive design: going beyond the minimum standards in the built environment”.

Beyond compliance with universal design

Front cover of the guide. A guide book from Ireland on the built environment draws together Irish standards with a practical universal design approach. Many of the standards mirror those in Australia so most of the information is compatible. Parking, siting, pedestrian movement, steps, ramps, lifts, seating and bollards are all covered. 

Building for Everyone, External environment and approach covers each of the features in detail. While the style of tactile indicators varies from the Australian design, the advice on placement is still useful. There is a reference list of related documents including Australian Standards. The guide is undated, but probably published circa 2010. This means some of the technology, such as parking ticket machines is a little outdated.

There is also a section at the end on human abilities and design. It covers walking, balance, handling, strength and endurance, lifting, reaching, speech, hearing, sight, touch and more.

Published by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland it is very detailed. Checklists help guide the reader through the material. This booklet links with others in the series, particularly the one on entrances and circulation spaces. The good aspect of these guides is the perspective of a universal design approach rather than proposing prescriptive design parameters.

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