From Barrier-Free to Universal Design: Singapore’s experience

Siam Imm in a bright pink jacket making her presentation on barrier free to universal design Singapore's experience.
Ms Goh Siam Imm

Speaking about Singapore’s experience at the 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference, Ms GOH Siam Imm said, “Barrier-free accessibility encourages a mindset that you design a building first and then you start removing barriers to comply. That’s no good. We needed people to think accessibility first, not last.” That is when in 2013 they incorporated universal design concepts to think beyond wheelchair users to all users.

Ms Goh explained how their journey began in the 1980s with basic access provisions, but the onset of an ageing population meant a re-think for this Garden City. Twelve storey residential buildings now have lifts to all floors. But the private sector is another matter and their innovative incentive scheme has gained traction. Ms Goh ended question time saying that in her view Australia needed a central body to help disseminate the concepts of universal design and to form alliances with other countries to share knowledge and best practice.

The edited transcript of her presentation (from live captioning) explains the history and the incentive schemes for the private sector. The full transcript is also available.

Picture of the Interlace showing how eight storey apartment blocks can be stacked at angles besides and and top of each other.You can download the edited transcript in Word or in PDF.

You can download the full transcript including the question and answer session in PDF format.

The picture is of the Interlace – a universally designed development mentioned in the presentation. It won a global award.

See the other presentations at the conference. 

2016 Universal Design Conference presentations

Margaret Ward 2016 universal design presentation front pageMargaret Ward: Words that succeed, policies that fail. This presentation provided an overview of the status of the National Dialogue on Universal Housing Design, and the current lobbying activities attempting to overcome the inaction in policy implementation. You can also read the full transcript and audience questions.

abilgail-elliott-pptAbigail Elliott: STEP Up – Shape your space. The Victorian Government has been proactive in implementing universal design in sport and recreation. This presentation has good information and explanatory graphics that can be applied in other situations.

anthony-hogan-pptAnthony Hogan: Acoustic Accessibility: The issue of controlling social noise.  Understanding speech is what keeps people socially connected. The presentation at the conference included simulations of what speech sounds like to people with hearing loss thereby explaining why acoustics are an important consideration in building design.

emily-steel-pptEmily Steel: Beyond Ramps and Signs – design for neurodiversity. Community understanding about cognitive differences is improving. Emily’s presentation outlined barriers and facilitators for inclusion of a neurodiverse population, which of course, is good for everyone.

linda-m-c-pptLinda Martin-Chew and Bianca Opasinis: Designing streets for all. The City of Whittlesea has linked universal design and active living. This presentation outlines the process the City went through to come up with optimum solutions in the urban environment. A written paper is also provided.

helen-james-pptHelen James: Universal Housing Design – the New Zealand experience. Lifemark is a not-for-profit group working to influence the design of homes in New Zealand. This presentation shows their progress to date and collaborations with industry.

lindsay-perry-pptLindsay Perry: Angelman Syndrome: How can the built environment offer inclusion? Lindsay uses the Angelman Syndrome as a perspective or lens for assessing the design of the built environment and provides good case study solutions that suit the wider population as well.

Cobie Moore: Aesthetics, Design and Graphic of two overlapping circlies: one is aesthetics and the other is design process.Disability.  Cobie wants to see more thought going into the designs of some basic assistive technologies, such as pen grippers and walking frames. Designers fail to consider the notion that people with disability also appreciate attractive designs. Their designs might be functional, but ugly designs are stigmatising and therefore do not meet with the concept of inclusion. She takes us through the steps of “designing with aesthetic appreciation” and collaborative design. Cobie is a design student and says her study is informed by her disability. 

lee-wilson-exit-signsLee Wilson: Universal Design meets the Exit Sign. Emergency egress is an important factor in building design. No-one wants to get left behind. Lee presented the process of advocating for and designing exit signs that could be understood by the majority of people. Exiting a building during an emergency can be a fraught and frightening process for wheelchair users and people with mobility difficulties particularly when the only way out seems to be a stairway. People who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people who are blind or have low vision were also included in his presentation.

nick-loder-and-lisa-staffordNicholas Loder and Lisa Stafford: Moving from the margins in design education. Nick and Lisa focused on “spatial justice” in their presentation. They also gave an overview of some research on design students and their approach to universal design. They conclude that most design degrees do not embed universal design in full degree courses, that is, if they introduce the concept of inclusion at all. Usually it is taught as a disability compliance factor.

simon-darcy-universal-mobilitiesSimon Darcy: Beyond the Front Gate: Universal mobilities and the travel chain. Simon presented a keynote address focused on tourism and transportation and how the travel chain needs to be seamless. People with disability travel as much as the rest of the population and for the same reasons. The only area where people with disability travel less is to employment. Simon presented some interesting graphs comparing the rates of travel by people with disability and those without, as well as some of his own travel experiences as a wheelchair user. But just being able to go from home to the local tavern is also just as important as global travel.

di-winkler-justin-nix-summer-foundationDi Winkler & Justin Nix: An innovative housing and support project. The Summer Foundation is progressing the concept of inclusion with specialised accommodation and support for people with significant disabilities. While this project is not an example of universal design per se as the dwelling design is a specialised design, it does meet the concept of inclusion in terms of placing this accommodation type throughout a particular neighbourhood or multi-unit development. The presentation provides many photographs of two major projects. The Summer Foundation was set up in response to young people being inappropriately accommodated in aged care facilities.

front slide for Evan's presentation Evan Wilkinson: Design for Everyone Guide. The Guide is practical, free to use and caters for a range of design skills and backgrounds. The Victorian Government makes universal design principles a key part of their funding requirements. Evan gives several examples with lots of photos of sporting infrastructure. The presentation included a video which is very useful as it shows an architect, Peter Maddison, explaining the reasons for designing universally. It also includes other senior people, including the Government Architect, Jill Garner commenting on the benefits of UD. The six minute video,  Design For Everyone: A Guide To Sport And Recreation Settings is captioned. 

Professor Gerrard Goggin’s Keynote presentation: Communicating Universal Design Across Virtual and Built Environments discusses the issues around web accessibility and how virtual and built environments merge in terms of design and accessibility. And how new and old forms of communication have always left some people out. The transcript is in a Word document.

The establishment of Centre for Universal Design Australia Ltd was announced at the This 2nd Universal Design Conference in 2016. 


Panel session: Economics of Inclusion

Ro Coroneos head and shoulder shotThe conference concluded with a panel session discussing the economics of inclusion.

Ro Coroneos from Lendlease explained the process they used for Barangaroo South, a major development on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour. Working with Australian Network on Disability they consulted community representatives to create comfortable, convenient and attractive spaces and places in the development.

Ms Coroneos said that making the place fully accessible was often in the details, such as seats with armrests and lighting in strategic places to read signs. Lendlease has produced a handbook which is being used to help other sections of Lendlease improve their design processes. Ms Coroneos said it makes good business sense to attract and keep as many people as possible in the precinct – it’s not just about people with disability themselves, it is also about the friends and family who accompany them on outings.

sally coddingtonSally Coddington advises businesses on ways to attract and retain customers by being disability friendly. She regularly counters the argument that the number of people with disability is small, “People say that 20% of Australians identifying as having a disability is a small market. I don’t call that small”, she said. By the time you add in the rest of the family, or friends in a group, you are looking at more like 50% to 60% of the population. Strategies based on universal design stimulate business growth, enhance customer loyalty, generate goodwill and improve profit.

Kelly VincentThe Hon Kelly Vincent expressed her frustration about how others keep saying that inclusion and universal design costs too much. No-one talks about the costs of NOT designing for inclusion. There are knock-on effects to health and well-being, let alone the convenience for everyone of getting out and about. And it is not just about the built environment, inclusive customer service still has a long way to go. Kelly’s aim is to do herself out of a job – she looks forward to the day when having a disability “is not a full time job”.

Paul Nunnari head and shoulders pic.Paul Nunnari began his presentation with the great UK advertisement promoting the Paralympic Games in Rio; Yes I Can:  We are the Superhumans. The full length video clip shows people playing musical instruments, participating in track and field events, swimming, dancing, singing, and generally doing many things most people would be unable to think about, let alone attempt. As the inclusive events manager for the NSW Dept of Premier and Cabinet, Mr Nunnari explained how NSW has improved access and inclusion for everyone in major events such as New Year’s Eve and Vivid Sydney. These events bring money to NSW, and it is essential to capture as many customers, visitors, and revellers as possible. If a wheelchair user or blind person cannot get around easily, the rest of the family will stay home too and watch it on TV.

In summary, panelists provided good arguments and evidence that ignoring 20% of the population is poor business practice and poor policy development. However, the biggest drawback is that no-one seems to be listening.

Transcripts of panel discussion

Picture shows Mandy at her stenographer machine composing the live captioning at the conferenceThe transcript, with some minor edits, presents four different perspectives: property development, marketing, politics, and event management. There were many questions from delegates and these are also included. The panellists gave great examples and statistics to promote the economic argument and some take-home messages. The session was chaired by Nick Rushworth, and Mandy was the captioner (pictured).

Download the complete transcript in Word or in PDF.  

Download separately by speaker: Ro Coroneos, Sally Coddington, Kelly Vincent, Paul Nunnari, and the Q&A Session.

Accessibility Toolbar