Public Toilets and social and economic participation

Outback dunny in a field of orange grass against a deep blue sky.Public toilets are not dinner party conversation, but they are essential to our wellbeing. They are costly to build and maintain yet we need more of them. They also need to be fit for purpose because they are about social and economic participation. The Changing Places toilet campaign is a case in point. There wouldn’t be many people passionate about public toilets, but Katherine Webber had plenty to say at the UD2021 Conference. 

Katherine’s presentation was titled, Access and Inclusion in Public Toilets: Impacts on social and economic participation. The presentation slides show lots of different examples. Toilet design is often dismissed as just needing to be functional and designs vary little. But public toilets are “difficult to get right. And no wonder. They are mired in cultural baggage, struck in the fixedness of fixtures and bound by massive, often ancient infrastructure (Lowe 2018:49). 

Public toilets also support tourism and economic development, night-time economy, and access to public spaces and public art. 

Katherine describes more in her written paper on this topic. She was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study toilets in other countries. 

Accessibility with help from Standards

The ISO Guide 71 eleven goals of accessibility.
Slide showing the 11 accessibility goals.

Who wants to refer to the instruction manual if they can avoid it?  In the same way, standards documents get overlooked unless it’s mandatory to comply. But there is one standards document that is worth looking at. It can help us progress accessibility and universal design. On day two of UD2021 Conference, Emily Steel explained how the international accessibility standard works. 

Emily Steel pointing to the 11 Goals of the Guide on the presentation slide.
Emily Steel with the 11 Goals of the Guide.

The international standard has done all the thinking for us. The document guides standards committees as they write and update standards for their specific industry or profession. It is also useful for any committee developing guides or standards for accessibility and universal design. So, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. 

The Guide’s use of the the term “accessibility” relates closely to universal design. “The extent to which products, systems, services, environments and facilities can be used by people from a population with the widest range of characteristics and capabilities to achieve a specified goal in a specified context of use”. 

The Guide has two main parts. The first describes user needs and 11 accessibility goals. These are similar to the 8 Goals of Universal Design. The second describes human characteristics and abilities, and design considerations. 

Guide 71 was adapted by the European standards authority and is titled, CEN-CENLEC Guide 6. It is basically the same information. You can see a previous post about this document. 

There is also an Accessibility Masterlist by Gregg Vanderheiden. It’s a collaborative resource for understanding access features in digital applications. Also worth a look.

All standards should ensure they meet the goals of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Guide 71 shows how to do this.


Ageism, Attitudes and Stereotypes

Two men are working on a construction site. One is holding a circular saw which has just cut through a large timber board. Are they a stereotype? Probably not. Ageism attitudes and stereotypes.
Working at any age – no need for stereotypes

Do we deploy so-called positive stereotypes of older people as a means to combat ageism and ageist attitudes? If we say older people make more loyal and reliable employees, what does that say about younger people? But are these stereotypes valid? Philip Taylor discussed these important issues about ageism, attitudes, stereotypes and work.

Professor Taylor’s keynote presentation at UD2021 was thought provoking. It challenged almost everyone in the room to re-think their concepts about ageism and work. It seems there are more complaints related to age by younger people. He asked, is there such a thing as ageism or are there other factors that discriminate?  And how does this work with concepts of equity and diversity?

Then there are the contradictions related to age: The Federal Government wanting everyone to work until age 70, yet National Seniors are proposing older people should make way for younger people and retire early. 

Blue background with white text. Title slide from Taylor's presentation about ageing, attitudes and stereotypes.Here’s a quote from one of the slides, “The very arguments for employing older workers put forward in business cases concerning commitment, loyalty and experience risk confirming broader societal perceptions that they are of the past and thus, less able to meet the demands of modern workplaces” (Roberts, 2006).

There is a greater variation in job performance between people of the same age than between people of different ages. Professor Taylor’s presentation slides have a good amount of text to get the key points of his presentation. Maybe it is time for a product recall on advocacy for older people. 

Are you ageist? Probably

Front cover of the Ageist Britain report from SunLife.This is about language. An article in The Guardian reports on a survey that found one third of British people admit they have discriminated against others because of their age. The SunLife report, Ageist Britain, highlights casual ageism and the impact it has on everyone. But it is ingrained in everyday language. It seems younger people think that life after 50 must be ‘downhill all the way’. But such attitudes infiltrate all parts of everyday life. That’s how older people are excluded from employment, harassed on public transport, and even when shopping. 

Language can demean and depress. “Old fart”, “little old lady”, “bitter old man” and “old hag” were, researchers found, the most used ageist phrases on social media.  Four thousand people in the UK were surveyed. Thousands of tweets and blogposts were also analysed for discriminatory and ageist language. And that’s without journalists using the term “the elderly” for anyone aged over 65.

Editor’s note: Terminology related to people with disability has changed over the years and is generally more inclusive. However, we are a long way behind with our language for older people. They are still viewed as a burden and a problem. Worse still is the terminology of ‘tsunami’ as if longevity is a national disaster. 


UD2021: Published papers for the conference

Header image for the conference.Griffith University supported the 4th Australian Universal Design Conference held in Melbourne by publishing full papers and extended abstracts. See the links below for access.

Community-based studios for enhancing students’ awareness of universal design principles. Hing-Wah Chau.

Universal design in housing: Reporting on Australia’s obligations to the UNCRPD. Note: The presentation updated delegates on the latest information about the recent change to the National Construction Code. Margaret Ward (ANUHD) and Hugh Bartram (Victorian Government).

From niche to mainstream: local government and the specialist disability housing sector. Linda Martin-Chew and Rosie Beaumont. 

Thriving at School: How interoception is helping children and young people in learning everyday. Emma Goodall (workshop).

Universal Design and Communication Access. Georgia Burn.

Achieving visual contrast in built, transport and information environments for everyone, everywhere, everyday. Penny Galbraith. 

Mobility Scooters in the Wild: Users’ Resilience and Innovation. Theresa Harada.

Understanding the Differences between Universal Design and Inclusive Design implementation: The Case of an Indonesian Public Library. Gunawan Tanuwidjaja (Poster).

Accessible Events: A multi-dimensional Approach to Temporary Universal Design. Tina Merk.

Everyone, everywhere, everyday: A case for expanding universal design to public toilets. Katherine Webber. 

Reframing Universal Design: Creating Short Videos for Inclusion. Janice Rieger (workshop). 

*Designing with the Digital Divide to Design Technology for All. Jenna Mikus. 

Faith is wearing a white shirt. She has a mix of grey and dark hair and is smiling at the camera.

The papers were launched at the CUDA Transportation webinar in October 2020 by Dr Faith Valencia-Forrester, Griffith University. 

*Published May 2021.

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