What’s age got to do with it?

Front cover of What's Age Got to do with it?
Front cover of report

Ageism is most often discussed in the context of older adults. However, younger people also experience discrimination based on their age. Four years ago Per Capita published a report with the title, What’s age got to do with it? It challenged the stereotypical statements about older workers. Although these were meant to be positive statements, they were reinforcing stereotyping. Stereotypes gain currency in society and the result is discrimination. 

The Australian Human Rights Commission has re-used the title for their latest report, What’s age got to do with it? A snapshot of ageism across the Australian lifespan.The research for the report sought Australian thoughts about age and ageism.

The research focused on attitudes about age rather than behaviours. It involved an online survey of 2440 Australians and 11 focus groups. Ninety per cent of respondents agreed that ageism exists. However, some respondents weren’t clear what ageism is. 

Making jokes about age was seen as more acceptable than making jokes about race or gender. Many thought the media played a significant role in producing stereotypical portrayals of all age groups. Stereotypes are strongly held by each group and accepted as fact. The report explores this. 

Ageism impacts our human rights. We all have a right to health, education, housing and employment. We have the right to basic freedoms and to make choices. Consciously or subconsciously those in power can infringe these rights based on what they believe to be true . 

The report was led by Kay Patterson, Commissioner for Ageing and consequently, the report is presented within this context. However the findings support the earlier work by Philip Taylor and Warwick Smith in the Per Capita report. Their work challenged the earlier report, Willing to Work, also published by the Human Rights Commission, 

Generic Universal Design Position Statement

Seven ring binders standing upright on a shelf each in a different colour of the rainbow. They could contain a universal design position statement.Has your organisation has been wanting to draft a universal design position statement and not sure where to start? Well, CUDA has devised a generic document to get you going. 

The CUDA Universal Design Position Statement covers all the basics in a straightforward way. At the end of the document, organisations can insert links to their own policy documents that relate to the position statement. There is also an appendix with key references. 

We have chosen not to abbreviate universal design to UD because acronyms are not accessible to everyone.  We also decided not to use the proper noun version, ‘Universal Design’, because it makes it sound like a product. It also gives the impression of being a special design. So, we have used lower case throughout to emphasise that it is a process and an approach to design thinking rather than a thing.  

For greater accessibility we have devised a companion document in plain language. This is a one page version that has all the key points. This document will be useful for advocacy organisations and others who are new to the concepts. 

If you use these documents in whole or part, we ask that you make the appropriate acknowledgement to CUDA. 

Download the Position Statement in Word:  

Download the Position Statement in PDF:

We welcome feedback on the policy statements.

You can also see the Hobsons Bay City Council Universal Design Policy Statement

Why do they keep designing stuff like that?


Woman with a baby stroller using the platform lift to get onto the raised bus stop platform .The bus stop is a tube shaped shelterDespite the readily available information about universal design and inclusive practice, we still hear people say, “Why do they keep designing stuff like that?”  The answer: it’s still considered niche design. And designers think the access standards in the building code actually work for everyone, which of course, they don’t. They especially don’t work when builders “make their own arrangements” with designs.

Inclusiveness of designs always at risk

The process of creating inclusive places is often based on “throwntogetherness”. Charlotte Bates uses this term to explain the haphazard way in which places come into being. It’s throwntogetherness because the processes are complex causing inclusive design to be at risk. Starting out with an inclusive design, doesn’t guarantee it will end up inclusive. There are too many other stakeholders who want to serve their own interests. 

Bates’ article, Negotiating Place: The Challenge of Inclusive Design begins with a quote from an access consultant.

“In my more miserable moments I think we’ll never get it right, and people just ignore it, and building control officers don’t implement it, and we still see buildings where somebody says it’s accessible, and it’s not accessible at all. We’re still designing public spaces with cobbles, brand new public spaces with cobbles and seats that have got no arms or backrests, and they don’t understand that an older person can’t get up off a concrete stone bench. Why do they keep designing stuff like that?” 

The research is from the UK, but the experiences are very similar in Australia. Bates makes good points, including the one that many of us know: even when you design something to be inclusive, it is overridden by contractors who focus on time and money. So there is no guarantee the end result will be accessible. The article is on the Universalising Design website. Very readable article.

Consulting people with disability

Front cover Consulting with persons with disabilities.
Full guidelines

Consulting people with disability need not be scary or difficult. Not if it is planned well. Yes, of course it takes time, but all consultation takes time. But it is always worth it because it saves time in rectifications later. 

The United Nations Inclusion Strategy has guidelines for consulting persons with disabilities. The main guideline document is very detailed and links with the UN Convention Indicator 5. It covers representative organisations, when to consult, and how to do it. Thankfully there is an Easy Read version too. 

Front cover of Easy Read Guide Consulting people with disability.
Easy Read version

The Easy Read version encapsulates the key information. The importance of consulting, taking part in decisions, and working with representative organisations are covered. There are links to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals with the promise of “leave no one behind”. 
One key point in this version is that people with disability should be involved in decisions about everything – not just things to do with disability. 

 

Teachers’ perceptions of UD for Learning

A collage of words relating to universal design for learning. UDL - teachers' perceptions.Teachers who have embraced UDL are great advocates for the process of designing learning programs that include diverse learners. However, not all teachers like the ideas – resistance to change being a major factor. This was one of the findings from research on teachers’ perceptions of UDL (Universal Design for Learning).

Perceptions are unlikely to change by mandating instructional changes and consequently other methods need to be found. That is one of the findings from a research project on UDL. 

Students benefit socially, emotionally and academically with UDL. However, the successful implementation of UDL is based on teachers’ perceptions. Consequently, promoting equitable instruction requires a positive perception of the UDL model. 

Teachers need to see evidence of student success. Real systemic change requires time for teachers to properly learn and implement UDL strategies. That includes professional collaboration, and peer and administrative support. 

Mary E. Jordan Anstead investigated the issues and presents them in her doctoral dissertation Teachers Perceptions of Barriers to Universal Design for Learning.

From the Abstract

This qualitative case study was designed to understand teachers’ knowledge and perceptions of UDL. It was designed to identify the barriers to implementation and how to overcome them.

Participants were teachers who had implemented UDL from a public charter school serving only students in Grades 3-11 with low incidence disabilities. Twenty participated in an online survey, seven participated in an individual interview, and three participated in a group interview. Data were coded and analyzed for common themes.

Participants expressed resistance to change, negative impressions of UDL, and disability bias. 

Recommendations for administrators included strategies for implementation of UDL, periodic collection of teachers’ perceptions of UDL for formative purposes, modeling UDL for teachers, monitoring teachers’ lesson plans, and classroom observations. 

This study contributes to social change by identifying teachers’ perceptions of their own knowledge, needs, and barriers to implementation of UDL in order assist administrators in effectively preparing them for delivery of instructional services to enhance learning for all diverse and struggling students.

Inclusive Cities: More than a ramp

a series of black icons on white background depicting people of all shapes and sizes, including a baby in a stroller, a person with a can and a wheelchair user. Inclusive cities - more than a ramp.
Some disabilities are invisible

Depending on personal experience, the term “access and inclusion” means different things to different people. The idea of who is currently included and excluded is often framed by this experience. People with invisible disability are easily left out of “access and inclusion”. For example, people with intellectual disability, different cognitive conditions, and people with mental health issues. Consequently, inclusive cities need more than a ramp and tactile markers. 

Inclusion is one group looking at another group and thinking about "Them". Inclusive Cities - more than a ramp.
Inclusion is one group agreeing to include another.

Planning and social policies talk of inclusive cities and social sustainability, but making it happen is another matter. Gains have been made in terms of accessibility for wheelchair users and people with vision impairment. That’s because it is written into the building code. What we don’t have is a code for all the other types of disability that are, at first glance, invisible. People with intellectual disability are one group who find themselves sitting outside of community activities. So, in what ways can we ensure their inclusion in the city?

A literature review of research papers on this topic found some useful information. Australian researchers applied the ‘Inclusive Cities Framework’ to the papers and found that local authorities can take actions to improve inclusion at a local level. For the most part they involved community groups, local businesses and civic activities.

Key points

    • Information and support for community groups, local businesses, potential employees and potential mentors.
    • Shared activities (both structured and unstructured) to share learning, activities and build relationships
    • Conversation and sharing of stories – in formal and informal ways, to share information and networking both across and within community groups and all citizens, whether they identify as having an intellectual disability, as potential employers, employees, and com-munity leaders. 

Inclusion of people with intellectual disability relies on having interpersonal relationships within the community. It has to be more than just being on the member list or in the room with other people. Quality of participation is the point of an inclusive city. 

The title of the article is: Towards inclusive cities and social sustainability: A scoping review of initiatives to support the inclusion of people with intellectual disability in civic and social activities. It is an open access article.

Highlights

    • Aiming to be inclusive for all does not automatically lead to participation for all people.
    • People with intellectual disability continue to be excluded from the full experience of cities – despite an awareness of social sustainability.
    • This paper identifies how people with intellectual disability are impacted by policy and practices around citizen involvement.
    • The experiences of people with intellectual disability inform how the Inclusive Cities Framework is understood and applied to define meaningful participation for all people.

From the Abstract

The inclusion of people with intellectual disability in cultural and civic activities is an important particularly in the context of supporting the social sustainability of our local communities and cities. Local governments and community organisations are poised to play a pivotal role in the inclusion of people with intellectual disability.

We undertook a scoping review of local inclusion building initiatives in Australia and other countries that helped connect people with intellectual disability with their local community. The role people with intellectual disability played in the assessment and evaluation of these resources was also examined.

Analysis of the results offers opportunities to consider the ways in which the personal preferences of people with intellectual disability can be interwoven with structure and levels of participation to improve social inclusion in their local communities.

From the Editor: I wrote a conference paper on inclusion and inclusiveness. See the post on What does Inclusion really mean? 

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.  

You can find out more about the Manchester Urban Ageing Research Group and a short video on what they are aiming to achieve. 

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 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. 

 

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.