Building accessibility: explaining why

Front cover of the New Zealand resource. Building accessibility
Front cover of the resource

There are good reasons why revolving doors are not a good idea for a lot of people. But how many designers know this. Unless the building code says don’t do it we will continue to see these in new buildings. The New Zealand Government produced a useful guide to support their building code. It covers building accessibility and explains why some designs are just not helpful. 

Buildings for everyone: Designing for access and usability is a good practice guide which goes into fine detail. For example, problems with sudden changes in light levels, issues with highly patterned flooring, and how wheelchair users might inadvertently damage doorways or tiling. The guide also links to features to the relevant sections of the Building Code. 

While this is a New Zealand publication, there is good information for other jurisdictions. The main contents are:

    1. Builder user activity
    2. Surrounding area and transport
    3. Pedestrian circulation
    4. Vehicle circulation and parking
    5. Building entrances
    6. Internal circulation
    7. Interior space
    8. Fixtures and fittings
    9. Building types
    10. Means of escape 
    11. Building management

This guide explains the “why” of the specific designs. So there should be no more thinking, “near enough is good enough because a little change here and there won’t matter”. It does matter. The publication is from the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Welcoming and inclusive communities

Universal design is mostly associated with the disability community but it is much broader than that. The concept of inclusion means everyone – people from all walks of life regardless of who they are, where they are from and what they can do. The subject of migrants and rural communities is often absent from discussions on inclusion. However, when it comes to economic growth, regions and migrants become the focus of attention. So a guide on welcoming and inclusive communities is most welcome in this space.

Front Cover of the guidelines showing two children smiling at the camera. It is in greyscale and they are wearing hoodies.

The guide is written with local stakeholders in mind. It is a place-based, community-driven process. Understanding the barriers and enablers for different migrant groups underpins this universal design approach to settlement.

The Planning for Welcoming and Inclusive Communities guide is based on research and is structured in three parts: an introduction, opportunities of regional migration, and initiating a settlement strategy. Seven appendices complete the document. The steps of assessment, consultation and planning are explained in detail with helpful guidance.

The individuals and organisations involved in the settlement process have an opportunity to contribute to the design of practical policy. Of course, when consultation is done well people begin to feel welcome.

Two men are smiling broadly at the camera.

“Many migrants would preference rural or regional Australia above a major city, because of a strong desire to engage in farming activities. For many, this desire to connect with the land is more important than securing a specific type of employment or cost of living.”

The guideline is a joint initiative of Welcoming Cities, Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre and the Queensland Government. The Welcoming Cities organisation has more to say about settling migrants in regional areas.

A book to help

Ed Steinfeld holding his book next to his face. Building accessibility.
Ed Steinfeld with his book

Published in 2012, Steinfeld and Maisel’s book, Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments, is still relevant today as a standard text. It introduces designers to the principles and practice of designing for all people. It covers the full range from the foundations of accessibility to the practice of inclusive design.

Topics include interiors, products, housing and transportation systems. Best practice examples demonstrate the value of universal design as both a survey of the field and reference for researchers. Trove has a copy, otherwise it is available for purchase through Google Books or Wiley publishing

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