Shared space or contested space?

two cyclists ride into a city square which is a pedestrian precinct. Shared space or contested space?
Pedestrian zone with cyclists

Policy makers are concerned about growing motor vehicle usage, pollution, and poor health outcomes due to lack of exercise. Consequently, transport and planning experts are keen to get people out of their cars an onto bikes and public transport. Creating pedestrian malls is looking like a policy favourite too. But this often means that pedestrians have to mingle with slow moving traffic, light rail, and cyclists. Alright for some, but not for everyone. So is it shared space or contested space?

Older people in particular don’t like to share walkways with cyclists. And for many older people, the car is their mobility device. With poor footpath maintenance, or no footpath at all, people unsteady on their feet will still get around by car. So not an easy problem to solve.

Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has done some research on this topic which is titled, Shared Space, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones from a Universal Design Approach for the Urban Environment in Ireland .

front cover of the report. black background with a collage of pictures and the title in white lettering. Shared space or contested space?
Front cover of the Executive Summary

It comes as two documents, a short executive summary, and the full document.

The study explored “contemporary national and international practices and thinking on Shared Spaces, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones and to investigate these concepts from a Universal Design approach in the Irish urban environment. This report sets out key evidence based findings and provides key recommendations in relation to the implementation of Shared Spaces, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones in Ireland”.

Manchester and Brussels: A place to grow old

A city square in Belgium showing heritage architecture. People are milling about in the square in Brussels.
Brussels city square

The WHO Age Friendly Cities and Communities framework remains a robust method for creating age-friendly places. We can learn a lot from cities that signed up to the WHO Global Network that began in 2007. A book chapter compares Brussels and Manchester as a place to grow old. It shows that different policy approaches result in quite different outcomes.

The first part of the chapter covers introductory material and detail about the 8 domains of the WHO program. The interesting part, especially for local government, is the comparison of approaches and outcomes for Brussels and Manchester. Brussels, for example, focused on social housing for older people and street safety. Manchester focused on lifetime neighbourhoods and quality of life.

Manchester was more inclusive of different ethnic backgrounds than Brussels which also has a diverse population. In short, Brussels was about keeping people safe, and Manchester was about living life. The paper goes on to discuss the barriers to implementing the programme and developing age-friendly policies. There are some good recommendations at the end of this paper which was published in 2015. 

The chapter title is, Developing Age-Friendly Cities: Case Studies from Brussels and Manchester and Implications for Policy and Practice. It begins on page 277.This chapter is one of several interesting papers in Environmental Gerontology in Europe and Latin America.  

WHO Age Friendly Cities

WHO age friendly logo of 8 petals showing the 8 domains of life.Age Friendly Cities has its founding concepts in healthy ageing. Well if it’s healthy for older people it’s healthy for everyone. These cities should be walkable, compact and have infrastructure that supports liveability. But planning laws haven’t this and continue to address ageing in terms of age-segregated living arrangements. 

Canada was at the forefront of the development of the WHO Age Friendly Cities program in 2006. But that hasn’t been enough to overcome entrenched planning and development processes. No Place to Grow Old: How Canadian Suburbs Can Become Age-Friendly, found that although planners and others have concerns about an ageing population, their thinking hasn’t adapted. Consequently, little has changed in the last ten years. 

The survey found that older people were still seen as a special-needs group rather than establishing inclusive policy solutions. The report makes some useful recommendations and the findings are applicable to any urban area in any location.

You can find a list of Australian cities or communities that are members of the WHO Global Network of Age Friendly Cities on the WHO website. You can also find out how your community can become a member of the Global Network.

The graphic above depicts the 8 domains of life that need to be considered in making a community age-friendly: Housing, Transportation, Social Participation, Respect and Social Inclusion, Outdoor Spaces and Buildings, Community Support and Health Services, Communication and Information, and Civic Participation and Employment. An argument was made at the International Federation of Ageing Conference in 2016 that housing should be in the centre of the the petals as it is the central part of everyone’s life.

 

Ageism is bad for your health

An older woman's pair of hands. A common ageist and patronising image of an older person.
A common ageist image. Why not her face?

We have to stop ageism at the older end of the age spectrum. Why? Because it’s killing us. The World Health Organization, says older people who hold negative views about their own ageing will live 7.5 years less than people with positive attitudes. So where do these negative views come from? Everywhere it seems. Ageism is bad for your health because ageing is framed as a negative experience. 

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald reports on this phenomenon. Ageist comments, such as “silly old duck” or “they are useless with technology” are socially accepted. Calling someone an “old dear” is not a term of endearment. Language matters because it is an expression of how we think. Ageism is yet to be properly recognised as damaging, unlike racism and sexism.  But we must be careful with the term ageism.

Ageism is always referred to as an older age issue. However, it is not. Anyone of any age can be subject to ageism. In Europe, the only region with data on all age groups, younger people report more age discrimination than other age groups. Philip Taylor has more to say on this in his UD2021 presentation. 

Ageism affects everyone. Children are brought up in a culture of age stereotypes that guide their behaviours towards people of different ages. They also learn how to perceive themselves at various stages of life. 

The WHO says that ageism is everywhere – in our institutions and relationships to ourselves. For example:

    • Policies that support healthcare rationing by age,
    • Practices that limit younger people’s opportunities to contribute to decision-making in the workplace
    • Patronising behaviour used between older and younger people
    • Self-limiting behaviour based on our own ideas of what a certain age can or cannot do. 

Is ageism really a problem?

This section from the WHO website on ageism says it is:

Two women sit on a bird nest swing depicting a positive image of older people.
Two older women on a bird nest swing. A more positive image.

Ageism can change how we view ourselves, erode solidarity between generations, devalue or limit our ability to benefit from what younger and older populations can contribute. It can impact our health, longevity and well-being while also having far-reaching economic consequences. Ageism is associated with earlier death (by 7.5 years), poorer physical and mental health, and slower recovery from disability in older age.

Ageism also increases risky health behaviors, such as eating an unhealthy diet, drinking excessively or smoking, and reduces our quality of life. In the United States, one in every seven dollars spent on health care every year for the eight most expensive conditions was due to ageism (US$ 63 billion in total).

Other posts on ageing and ageism include Are you Ageist? Probably. and Market segmentation by age – does it work?  

 

Landscape architects lead the way

Image from the Arcadia report showing seating decorated with a shape of the shoreline.
Sandstone seating and Turpentine Ironbark timber. Corian detail shaped to reflect the shoreline of Sydney Harbour,

It’s fitting that a landscape architecture firm should tackle the topic of connection to Country. After all, they are the ones designing our outdoor spaces. NSW legislation dictates that Aboriginal heritage must be protected. Consequently, the responsibility falls to design professionals. It’s a means of enriching the built environment, and not just a legal necessity. So, it falls to landscape architects to lead the way. 

A report by Arcadia Landscape Architects aims to show that engagement with First Nations people is not difficult. They are concerned that designers will unwittingly perpetuate the colonisation of space if they continue with established practice. As they say, it has to go beyond token responses of “ornamental recognition”. They add that engaging with First Nations people continues after the life of the design project. 

The report aims to encourage the wider built environment industry to engage with First Nations people. The concept of Country is more than just land, water and sky. Country is language, family culture and identity, and is loved, needed and cared for.   

“Arcadia emphatically rejects the softening of language when referring to British invasion and processes of colonisation. It is a trend for these processes to be referred to as “arrival” and “settlement”, however the softening of language perpetuates myths of terra nullius and denies First Nations people their history and suffering endured.”

Front cover of Arcadia report. Landscape architecture leads the way.The report covers:

      • Approach and a note on language
      • How to engaging with Knowledge holders
      • Engaging with Country, which has 5 steps and examples
      • Engaging with Industry 
      • What to do when you can’t engage 
      • Where to next? includes conducting cultural training

There is a list of references and further reading at the end. The title of the report is, Shaping Country: Cultural Engagement in Australia’s Built Environment.  

Arcadia collaborated with Budawang/Yuin researcher and spatial and cultural designer Dr Danièle Hromek and Yuin woman Kaylie Salvatori, Arcadia’s Indigenous Landscape Strategist, to develop this research report.

 The NSW Government Architect’s Better Placed document has a section on Connection with Country

There are more articles on landscape architecture in the parks, open space and playspaces section of this website. 

 

Inside out for mental health

The new building for the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. It turned the city inside out for mental health.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

The 1980s saw a turning point for people with mental health conditions. Reagan and Thatcher declared that the asylum model was dead. Australia soon followed suit with this idea. But what to do instead? And what could be done with these huge Victorian building complexes? A facility in Toronto, Canada, came up with a great idea, which was quickly copied in South Australia. Jan Golembiewski explains how the place was turned inside out for mental health.

Golembiewski writes a short story about the Toronto experience in the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health. Similarly to many institutions it took up a considerable amount of land. Urban Strategies won the contract to redevelop the whole site. It involved removing high walls and extending local roads into the site. So, in effect they were turning the facility inside out.

The design incorporated outward facing units which were connected to the urban grid. The open space then became shared space. Patients run a cafe which has some stories to tell according to Golembiewski. He says the people on the street are just a little more colourful. Mental health professionals are ready at hand to keep an eye out generally. The project has turned out to be good for patients and the community. 

The title of the article is, Turning the City Inside Out for Mental Health, and the Canadian facility is the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. It’s an easy and interesting read.

Buying power of people with disability

Are marketing people missing out on a buying power of people with disability? The answer is likely, yes. A Nielsen Report on consumers with disability, including older people, states what is obvious to anyone interested in universal design and inclusion. “Disabilities span across age, race, and gender so there is reason to believe consumers with disabilities should not differ much from the general population.” So what is the buying power of people with disability?

Graph showing the percentage of people with different disabilities. It represents the buying power of people with disability

The report, Reaching Prevalent, Diverse Consumers with Disabilities found that one in four households of their sample group of 86,000 people had one or more person with a disability. That’s an important statistic because consumers with disability are higher spenders in some categories. That’s despite tending to have lower incomes. 

Marketing and advertising people will find insights into disability and their significance in this report. For example, consumers with disability are more likely to have a pet. So they are more likely to buy pet food and related products. 

Marketing departments influence what is designed – it’s their job to find out what to sell. If marketing professionals dismiss people with disability, their company will too. An inclusive marketing approach helps the cause of inclusion albeit with a profit focus.

Nielsen statistics on the prevalence of disability within disability segments.

This report is also featured on the Silver Blog which is focused on marketing to older people. There is another item on the dangers of marketing specifically to older adults as this borders on ageism. Older people want brands to focus on needs and interests, not their age.

The title of the report is Reaching Prevalent, Diverse Consumers with Disabilities, and was published in 2016. However, the content remains current. The graphs are from the Nielsen Company report. 

 

Diversity and Inclusion: Start Here

A hand-drawn graphic with faces of bright colours with big eyes. They are grouped in a bunch.The Commons Social Change Library is about social change and driving social movements in Australia. From time to time they produce easy to follow resources for members and followers. The latest is a guide to diversity and inclusion. While the context is about driving social change, most of the information is applicable in any situation. 

The Diversity & Inclusion: Start Here guide introduces key concepts and a raft of links to other resources. The key point is that inclusion is a social change movement and we can all do our part by including marginalised people in our ranks. That’s whether it’s the workforce, our local sporting team or our social change campaigns.

Carly Findlay is a disability activist who reminds us that disability is part of diversity. Carly’s video explains her experience. Judy Heumann’s TED talk is also worth a look. 

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk, The urgency of intersectionality is about race and gender bias. 

Kaytee Ray-Riek discusses marginalisation across the spectrum and ways of building trust and encouraging inclusive practice.  

Organisers of social justice events sometimes forget the basics of inclusion. Make your social justice event accessible spells out how to do it. 

Before people can get to an event they usually need information. The Internet is usually the first stop. So it’s important to Improve your website accessibility

There are many more resources on this website – you don’t need to be a campaigner to benefit from them. 

Brightly coloured books on a bookshelf with titles that represent social change.The Commons Social Change Library is a not for profit organisation committed to educating for community action. They collect, curate and distribute the key lessons and resources of progressive movements around Australia and across the globe.

There are more posts on diversity and inclusion on this website. For example, Diversity and Inclusion or Belonging and Dignity? 

Inclusion, Human Rights and the Market

Graphic with four circles: one each for exclusion, separation, integration and inclusion.How can we attain our rights within a market-based economy, when those who do not experience social and economic exclusion have the the power of the market in their hands? The cost of inclusion is often said to “cost too much”. This is illustrated in the proposed changes to the NDIS. Cost is also the argument some states are using to stall the implementation of accessible housing. Human rights do not feature in these arguments. 

In Western societies, justice and fairness are not inalienable rights, but a negotiated process based on mutual advantage. According to Mutual Advantage theory we have to be pragmatic about human rights in a market-based economy. The excluded need to bring a benefit to the negotiating table. Rights get enacted only after a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out and “the excluded” are assessed as being “affordable”. That is, “can we afford to include them?”. This is the wrong question. It should be, “what does it cost to exclude people?” And who is listening to the position of the excluded? 

Market economists rarely reside in the excluded group fighting for rights. Measuring disadvantage and exclusion is not something they find easy to measure. Yet they do have a cost to individuals, society and the economy. 

For more on this discussion, see my paper from the 2014 Brisbane Housing Forum. The content is once again current. It includes an explanation of Mutual Advantage Theory by Lawrence Becker. 

PDF document Housing Forum Brisbane 2014  

Word document Housing Forum Brisbane 2014  

Reference: Becker, L.C., 2005. “Reciprocity, Justice and Disability”, Symposium on Disability, Ethics, Vol 116 No.1, University of Chicago Press, p 9-39.

Mapping how something gets built

Virginia Richardson ran a workshop at the UD 2021 on mapping how something gets built. Although local government is not the designer, it has many responsibilities for the project from start to finish. The question for the workshop was, how can we embed universal design in the process? 

Virginia began with a graphic showing an example of the number of stakeholders involved in house building. A line of complex manufacturing machinery used to show the complex process and number of stakeholders involved in mass market housing.

This concept was developed further in the workshop. It showed how many people get involved in a building project from a local government perspective. 

A linear machine picture has lots of coloured post it notes on it depicting all the people involved in building a park project.
Slide from the workshop

Virginia’s slides include the Draft Universal Design Policy and associated documents for the Mornington Peninsular Shire Council. 

There are more presentation slides and published papers on the UD2021 Universal Design Conference page . 

 

 

Planners can play a leadership role

Aerial view of Tongva Park showing accessible walkways throughout.
Tongva Park is universally designed

Post-COVID infrastructure projects are injecting life into economies around the world. So this is an opportune time to infuse universal design into all construction projects. Planners can play a leadership role in taking a universal design approach. But how will planners take the lead if it is not being taught?

An article in the American Planning Association online magazine, Viewpoint, challenges educators to get up to speed with universal design. The author says it is time for justice in the built environment, and universal design is the way to go. However, designers have not embraced this concept. But perhaps the momentum is shifting. 

 Designing for Disability Justice. an essay published by the Harvard Design School, discusses the issues. Access standards are a barrier to design – they limit imagination. It’s more about completing a checklist and offsetting liability than design. Then it’s seen as limiting design and something to be tacked on. A change in thinking is needed so that universal design is tackled as a challenge not a chore.

The title of the article is, Why Planning Education Should Embrace Universal Design. The author concludes,

“Some of the strongest forces on earth — economics, policy, politics, and a pandemic — will change the way we plan for the rest of the century. … formally teaching Universal Design at the university and professional certificate level is one of the best ways to guarantee that good planning rises organically from the diverse and unique needs of end users.” 

Non-disabled planners and designers are yet to understand that they are designing for their future selves. One day, they will need universal design. By then it will be too late. The time to act is now.