Look at me!

An orange automated vehicle has eyes that appear to be looking at a pedestrianWorried that a driverless car won’t see or detect you? With a driver you can check to see if they are looking your way, but if there is no driver, that can be a worry. Autonomous vehicles are posing many problems for designers who are grappling with most of them quite successfully. So for this problem Jaguar has come up with a car with googly eyes. The “eyes” don’t “see” you, but it can give confidence that you have been detected because the eyes follow you as you cross the pedestrian crossing. I should think that once we get used to automated vehicles, eventually eyes will be phased out. Amy Child from Arup gave an entertaining presentation on this and other aspects of the move to driverless cars, including the googly eyes. The transcript of Amy’s keynote presentation can be downloaded in Word. 

It was a great conference!

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.


Universal Design, Affordability and Cost in housing

Head and shoulders pic of Kay Saville-Smith

At a roundtable meeting following the 2014 Universal Design Conference in Sydney, Kay Saville-Smith  shared her experience on universal design and affordability.  She was happy to share her five key points about universal design in housing: 

“The usual argument is that universal design is consistently unaffordable (by which they mean more costly) than poor design because of the difficulties of retrofitting the existing environment and lack of economies of scale. Actually, the reasons why universal design is seen as costly can add cost. Five points are interesting: 

  1. Most products are not designed but driven off existing tools, processes and organisational  structures. To change these does require some investment (hump costs) but these are one off and should not be seen as an ongoing cost. Indeed, those changes can bring reduced costs in the long term through increased productivity etc.
  2. The costs of poor design are externalised onto households, other sectors or hidden unmet need.
  3. Comes out of an advocacy approach that pitches the needs of one group against another and treats universal design as special design etc.
  4. Win-win solutions need to be built with the industry participants that are hungry for share not dominant players who have incentives to retain the status quo.
  5. UD is different from design which is fashion based. The trick is to make UD fashionable so no one would be seen dead without it.”

Her keynote presentation provides more information about why it is so hard to get traction with universal design in housing. The picture is of Kay Saville-Smith.

Auckland Conversations: a quick wrap-up

picture taken at the top of a flight of steps showing an open area in an urban environment in the distanceAs I reported last newsletter, I was invited to be a member of the panel session that followed Valerie Fletcher’s presentation at Auckland Conversations: Designing for People in Mind which attracted 500 people. Auckland Conversations is a regular and free event hosted by Auckland Council.

While much of what Valerie had to say is not new to followers of universal design, I was intrigued to hear about a neurological study using eye-tracking techniques that found architects view buildings differently from everyone else. I was able to mention Livvi’s Place (playgrounds), housing, and a few learnings from my Churchill Fellowship study trip.

I’ve made a few notes of some key points which include some of the key slides from Valerie’s presentation to emphasise the point. You can download in Word or download in PDF format. The other panel member apart from Valerie was Martine Abel who is the specialist advisor to Auckland Council.

The whole 2 hour event was filmed and is available for download from the Auckland Council website. The panel session starts one hour into the YouTube video.

Valerie Fletcher is CEO of the Institute for Human Centered Design based in Boston Massachusetts. 

Jane Bringolf, Editor

Seniors housing or housing for everyone?

Row of two storey houses, box shape, painted deep blue with white square windows and white bargeboardsI was delighted to be asked to make a presentation at Waverley Council’s seminar and workshop last week, Living Local, Staying Connected. My task was to cover the development, content and status of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines.

Other speakers were Professor Bruce Judd who gave a comprehensive overview of his research with older people and their housing preferences. In the process he debunked the myth of downsizing being “the thing older people should do”. Architect Guy Luscome presented the findings from his travelling scholarship in Europe and gave everyone some new ideas about design preferences – windows and natural light coming to the top of the list.

Joel Elbourne and Shawn Neilson from Banyule City Council (Melbourne) gave an update on the progress of their Liveable Design Guidelines and the work they have been doing with developers. Also from Melbourne, Jeremy McLeod told us the very interesting story of the Nightingale Project – showing what can be achieved through new ways of thinking in terms of property development and building design to achieve sustainable and affordable housing. You can download the following presentations:

Livable Housing Design Guidelines: A new way of thinking or more of the same?

Guy Luscombe’s report on the NANA Project

Joel and Shawn’s Australian Universal Design Conference presentation,

A similar presentation by Bruce Judd An Ageing City – Are we prepared? (UNSW Utzon Lecture)

The Nightingale Project

Jane Bringolf, Editor.


Is UD measurable in the planning context?

wayfindingLindsay Perry posed this question at the ACAA/UD conference held in Melbourne October 2015.  In this presentation she provides examples that relate to the classic seven principles of universal design. The second part of her presentation contains a quick survey of friends, family and work colleagues. She asked them, “When you go out for the day, what is the main thing you rely on to be able to travel through and navigate the built environment? What irritates you?” The responses all relate to wayfinding – knowing where you are and having signs that make sense. Download the PDF of the presentation here. Lindsay Perry is Team Leader at Philip Chun Group.

UD and Sport and Recreation Facilities

Evan WilkinsonEvan Wilkinson outlines the process that Sport and Recreation Victoria went through to bring about a better understanding of the principles of universal design and how they can be applied to sporting infrastructure and recreational programs. One of his key arguments is that if universal design principles are considered at the outset, the cost implications are low. However, if left until later in the design and construction process, the cost of ‘adding on’ access features is far more costly. Download the PDF of the PowerPoint Slideshow. (5.5 MB)

Sport and Recreation Victoria have also launched their Design for Everyone Guide. The link takes you to the website that also has a very useful video on universal design shown below.

Notes from the ACAA/UD Conference: Ed Steinfeld’s Keynote

Ed SteinfeldProfessor Ed Steinfeld’s topic was shifting the paradigm from accessibility to universal design. “Universal Design” was coined in the 1980s and has moved on from functionality in the built environment (barrier-free) to embracing the concept of inclusion and addressing diversity in all its forms. But people want to know “what’s in it for me?” and how it relates to outcomes. Most people who know about universal design are aware of the seven classic principles attributed to Ron Mace. However, these principles are not tied to a database of literature. Also,they are generally not very instructional.  

Prof Steinfeld has translated the seven classic principles into eight goals – the eighth adds cultural diversity which is not covered by the seven principles. Briefly, the eight goals* are:

  1. Body Fit: accommodating a wide range of body sizes and abilities
  2. Comfort: keeping demands within desirable limits of body function and perception
  3. Awareness: ensuring that critical information for use is easily perceived
  4. Understanding: making methods of operation and use intuitive, clear and unambiguous
  5. Wellness: contributing to health promotion, avoidance of disease and protection from hazards
  6. Social Integration: treating all groups with dignity and respect
  7. Personalization: incorporating opportunities for choice and the expression of individual preferences
  8. Cultural appropriateness: respecting and reinforcing cultural values and the social and environmental context of any design project.

*Copyright Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012, Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (idea.ap.buffalo.edu)

Prof Steinfeld provided examples of universal design when going through the 8 goals. He also cautioned against unintended consequences of being too smart with technology so that while it benefited some people, including people with disability, it may exclude others. 

The Association of Consultants in Access Australia held the conference in Melbourne 7-9 October 2016. The next Australian Universal Design Conference will be 6-7 September 2016 at the Sydney Town Hall.

Inclusion and efficiency in home renovations

logo-uhasselt_0_0This well designed Poster presentation is from Hasselt University in Belgium. Merging Inclusive Design and Energy Efficiency as a disruptive approach to housing renovation takes the position that comfort can be a unifying way of looking at both energy efficiency and inclusive design. The authors conclude: “When the concept of comfort is expanded to include the a full range of spatial, usability, and cognitive aspects, the merging of ID and EE can offer inhabitants a more complete sense of comfort, and by doing so increasing adoption of both types of measures, in line with wider governmental and societal goals.”

Abstract. There is a pressing need for housing renovations that both accommodate lifelong living and significantly increase energy efficiency. Much research has been done on both Inclusive design (ID), particularly in the context of accessibility, and energy efficiency (EE). However, they are treated independently and faced with limited adoption. A simultaneous renovation for ID and EE might lead to renovation concepts that better fulfil the residents’ desire for comfort in addition to savings in money and time. Comfort is an important driver for both types of renovations. As a result when the concept of comfort is expanded to include also spatial/usability, social, cognitive and cultural aspects, the merging of ID and EE can offer residents a more complete sense of comfort, thereby increasing the adoption of both ID and EE.


Universal Access is not Universal Design

The next universal design conference (hosted by Association of Consultants in Access Australia – ACAA) is coming up on 7-9 October in Melbourne.  Here is a reminder of one of the panel presentations from the 2014 conference in Sydney.

UD Conference headerMark Relf traced the history of disability access and universal design in Australia. His presentation, Universal Access is not Universal Design, provided an excellent context to the position of universal design today. The transcript of his presentation is included in the Panel session on Day 2 of the conference:  Panel Session Day 2 in Word;   Panel Session Day 2 PDF.