Brescia Declaration for Universal Design

The Brescia Declaration for Universal Design is a working draft until the end of October 2022. Have your say on this international document by using this template.

The Declaration is a statement of the state of play in universal design and the need to progress the concepts further. It is written in the context of the recent pandemic and how this has highlights the gaps in equity and inclusion. The Declaration is on the downloads page of the UD2022 conference website. Organisations that agree with the final Declaration can show their support by providing their logo.

The document was drafted by Ger Craddock, Chief Executive, Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland. It was presented at the latest Universal Design Conference in Italy – UD2022.

Papers from the conference are open access and can be downloaded from the conference website.

Lavender coloured banner for the UD2022 Conference in Brescia.

It’s not about economics. It’s about power

For anyone who doubts the influence the housing industry has on government, an article in The Fifth Estate spells it out clearly. The article is in the context of the dumping a new planning policy that would have delivered many benefits to the people of New South Wales. It also indicates why NSW has refused to adopt the access features in the National Construction Code. It’s not about economic arguments, it’s about who has the last word.

A calculator and a bank statement are sitting on a desk. Economics

An independent economic cost benefit analysis concluded benefits to society would be $1.40 for every dollar spent.

The NSW Greens eventually forced the NSW Government to release documents related to their dumping of their long awaited planning policy. It was during a lunch meeting with developers that the Minister for Planning agreed not to progress the new planning policy. And unlike other ministerial speeches, this speech was kept secret. The eventual release of this speech brought forth many other documents.

…it was apparent that the Benefit Cost analysis concluded benefits derived by the society and community to be $1.40 for every dollar spent by the developer! But the dollar is being spent by the developer!! What benefit do they get for expenditure of this money?”

Urban Taskforce CEO Tom Forrest in The Fifth Estate
Three piles of gold coins at different heights with the tallest having a little gold house on top.

The documents

The Fifth Estate has published the letters and emails between the Minister and developers. It makes for interesting reading. The developers’ argument is that they get nothing for these changes while the community gains. This, of course, is debatable. Regardless, any additional developer costs are passed on to consumers so it is difficult to understand this argument.

The documents reveal the close relationship between industry and NSW Government and help explain other decisions. The NSW Government has flatly refused to adopt recent changes to the National Construction Code for housing. These changes are based on the Silver level of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. They are basic access features that would benefit everyone especially people with reduced mobility. However, other states and territories are ready to adopt these changes. Where will that leave developers in NSW? More importantly, where will it leave householders?

If you are interested in the whole story The Fifth Estate has laid it out in a simple story. The title is, “When people notice what we have done” – documents expose how developers killed the NSW Design and Place SEPP.

Are shopping malls ageist?

Older supermarket shoppers need a positive attitude from employees, functional shopping trolleys, and appropriate placement of products on shelves. Retail stores are public space and they should look good and be functional. Therefore a universal design approach can prevent shopping malls from being ageist.

Key design elements are: seamless outdoor to indoor access, easy to use shopping trolleys, seeing, finding and reaching products, reading product contents and price tags, and a smooth payment process.

View inside a shopping mall showing shops on each side of a walkway. Are shopping malls ageist?

Apart from helpful staff and functional equipment, there are other elements to consider.

  • Circulation systems and spaces: ramps, elevators, escalators, hallways and corridors
  • Entering and exiting: identifying and approaching entrances and exits and moving through them easily
  • Wayfinding: Graphical text, pictograms, maps, photos, diagrams, obvious paths of travel, nodes, edges, zones and districts
  • Obtaining products and services: service desks waiting areas and shops
  • Public amenities: toilets and seating
  • Ambient conditions: noise control, non-glare lighting, adequate temperature and humidity

A paper titled, Design Failure in Indoor Shopping Structures: Unconscious
Ageism and Inclusive Interior Design in Istanbul
explains more. The authors use the 7 principles of universal design as a guide and add another 4. The additional four principles are related to aesthetics, social participation, sustainability and equity. They also found that toilets and seating within supermarkets could do much to improve the shopping experience for older people.

As older adults’ need for toilets increases, the time spent in the supermarket declines. So they choose medium or small-sized supermarkets within walking distance of home.

overhead picture of the fresh food section of a supermarket.

From the abstract

People consciously or unconsciously make older adults feel less important than younger citizens. Older people may experience social and economic stress as well as anxiety, hopelessness, isolation, and depression. Almost all industries are disproportionately focused on developing technological innovations for younger people, but not for older adults.

Although there is research on aging populations, research on the indoor design problems that older people encounter every day is scarce. Shopping is a good opportunity for older people to get involved in the community and we should aim to prevent architectural barriers.

A questionnaire was administered to 198 participants about their experiences in supermarkets. The results showed that as the need for rest areas and toilets increases, the time spent by older adults in supermarkets declines.

Additionally, checkout counters and product display shelves show design problems that constitute indoor accessibility issues. This study concludes by looking at issues in the design of indoor shopping area that contribute to ageist attitudes. We call for inclusive shopping environments to address spatial justice and to eliminate ageism.

Shopping for All: Inclusive Retail

Photo of wide shopping corridor at Barangaroo. Inclusive retail experiences.

Designing with people with disability in mind results in greater convenience for everyone. That’s why we need businesses to think about inclusive retail experiences and strategies.

The Australian Network on Disability, and Design for Dignity produced an excellent resource for retail outlet designers. The key is for designers and retail outlets to understand the level of their missed business by ignoring population diversity. Graphs and statistics are used to highlight the lost opportunities.

Guides for retailers

graph of people using mobility and hearing devices

The guide is aimed at retail business owners, service providers, shopping centre owners and managers, designers, builders and certifiers. There is also a Design for Dignity microsite with the information in a web-based format with more detail.

Readers are reminded that disability is more than wheelchair users. The use of other mobility devices and communication aids is shown in the graph above. 

The business of age-friendly

A clothes store with jackets hanging and a table with other clothes.

Many businesses would like to expand their customer base to include older people and people with disability, but not sure how to do it. Utilising a checklist is one way to start thinking about it. Several organisations have produced checklists and other information to help businesses understand what they can do. Much of it costs little or nothing. Here are just three.

COTA TAS has a checklist that has a rating scale from excellent to needs work. It covers external environments, shop entrances, safety, comfort, and staff training, and much more. It’s nine pages and easy to read.

AgeUK has a more comprehensive document that provides the reasoning behind some of the “Top Tips’. These include telephone interactions, websites, and resolving complaints. The report is based on consumer workshop consultations.  

Annual Report 2018-2019

Panel session at the Brisbane UD Conference.CUDA made much progress this year and contributed to many events and community consultations. The website and social media views continued to receive good attention throughout the year.  Key points from the Annual Report 2018-2019 are:

    • Our first online learning course, Introduction to Universal Design, had a 44% completion rate from 440 enrolments.
    • Preparation for and staging of the 3rd Universal Design Conference in Brisbane.
    • Participation in events to promote universal design, including a breakfast event organised in conjunction with Lend Lease.
    • Conference presentations included 4 papers at the UD conference in Dublin, Ireland, and Community Housing Industry Association Conference
    • Invited contributor to two magazines: Inner Sydney Voice and Building Connection.
    • Submissions and contributions to public policy through committee representation, roundtables and written submissions to government inquiries.

The full Annual Report can be downloaded in PDF format. The picture above is from the UD Conference in Brisbane with Lenna Klintworth at the lectern, Emily Steel, Jane Bringolf, Penny Galbraith and Chris Veitch.



Establishing a UD Centre in Australia

Logo for Centre for Universal Design AustraliaFrom the Ground Up: Establishing a Centre for Universal Design in Australia charts the establishment and development of CUDA. This paper was presented at the UD Conference in Ireland held at the end of 2018. Here is the abstract – the full paper is available online.

Abstract: The universal design movement arrived in Australia well before the turn of the century. A handful of individuals, often working as lone voices, are doing their best to incorporate the concepts into their everyday work and promote the concepts more widely. As is often the case elsewhere, the term “universal design” is misunderstood and confused with special and separate designs for people with disability rather than inclusion for everyone. Compliance to legislated disability access standards has created further confusion and as a consequence many myths about universal design have emerged. Such myths have held back the implementation and understanding of universal design and inclusive practice. Australian governments at all levels have shown little interest in promoting universal design principles, save for a casual mention of the term in policy documents. This is in spite of changes to disability and ageing policies promoting more autonomy and independence for individuals. When political leadership is absent, leadership often defaults to the community, or to be precise, to a handful of people with a passion for the cause. In 2013 a chance meeting of two unrelated individuals set the wheels in motion to establish a centre for universal design in Australia. This paper charts the development and progress of the organisation through volunteer effort, harnessing community support, maintaining international connections, using social media, and establishing a resource-rich website and newsletter. 

Annual Report 2017-2018

The 2017-2018 Annual Report on CUDA’s activities is available for download in Word. Key points are:

  • Website views increased by more than 11,000 to 39,300, and is now averaging between 3000 to 4000 views per month.
  • Newsletter had 360 subscribers at the end of June 2017
  • Online learning course, Introduction to Universal Design attracted 171 students with 78 completing the course
  • Seven conference and seminar presentations were made 
  • Ten sector consultations/roundtables were attended 
  • Social media continues to be a efficient way to promote universal design and inclusive practice

You can also download the member announcements made at the 3rd Australian Universal Design Conference held in Brisbane 4-5 September 2018.  

The 2016-2017 Annual Report is also available for download

CUDA News Update

Newsletter Advertising: The Board of Directors have decided that one post per newsletter can be made available for advertising. The cost is $55.00 for CUDA members and $110.00 for non-members. Advertising content should be relevant to universal design and inclusive practice.  Contact the Editor for more information by email:

Membership Types: Membership is a tangible way you can support the work of CUDA. 

  • Individual Membership is $33.00 for the financial year.
  • Liftetime Individual Membership is $110.00 so that you only sign up once and no need to renew each year. 
  • Corporate Membership is $220.00 for up to ten staff. 

All members are eligible to use the CUDA logo on their digital stationery. Members also receive preferred rates for any CUDA events and learning programs. 

You can download the full Member and Supporter Update with extra detail.

Advertising Space in this Newsletter

A red star button with "new" on it and three gold stars.Accepting some advertising in the newsletter is one way of helping to fund the costs of providing the newsletter. It keeps it open to all.

We will accept one advertising post per newsletter with content relevant to universal design and inclusive practice. The format of the advertising will be similar to other posts. Links to external websites or flyers can also be included.

The cost of advertising is $55.00 (inc GST) for CUDA members and $110.00 (inc GST) for non-members. The Editor retains discretion regarding content in terms of relevance to CUDA’s aims. Examples of content that would be considered suitable are events, products and consultancy services. Contact the Editor for more information by email:

Become a member!

Show your support for Centre for Universal Design Australia and the cause of social and economic inclusion by becoming a member.  Your membership contribution will help show the widespread support and interest in Universal Design that exists across Australia and globally. It will also support us to maintain the website and regular newsletters. Join now and you will be paid up until 30 June 2019. The membership fee is $33.00 including GST.


You can pay by credit card through the PayPal gateway using the button link below. If you don’t have a PayPal Account scroll down to the credit card payment option on the PayPal site. You can also pay by bank transfer- see below. You can find out more about the organisation, its aims, and current Board of Directors by going to the About Us page on the website.

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