Consumers, care and ageism

A man sits on a bench in a garden near a building.Are customers the same as citizens? Consumers are part of the market. Citizens are part of society. There are consumer rights and then there are human rights. Older people are treated as consumers of specialised housing products. They are not treated as citizens in their own homes. This is one of the messages to come out if the Royal Commission.

In The Fifth Estate article, Willow Aliento says of the care and retirement living sectors, “…the inquiry found that there had been a shift towards thinking about the aged care sector as an “industry” with “customers”, rather than a social service for older citizens.” This is an important factor because this approach dehumanises residents. Even the retirement living sector is fundamentally ableist because they only advertise “active living”. 

The article discusses how poor design of the physical environments with large, noisy facilities and poor visual layouts contributes to residents’ reduced quality of life and care. it also cover issues of downsizing and pension and assets tests. Complex issues are tackled well in this article titled, How ageist, ableism and inequity are creating “shelter hell’ for older people

 

Smart Cities for All

cover of Smart Cities Toolkit.How smart can a smart city be? ‘Smart’ is everything from the footpath to the website. So not so smart if it doesn’t include everyone and join the dots between all the factors that make a city a city.  With digital transformations happening worldwide, the aim of the Smart Cities for All Toolkit is to eliminate the digital divide and improve urban environments for everyone. In the video below, James Thurston talks about the issues cities are facing.

The main part of the toolkit, the Inclusive Innovation Playbook, is detailed and aimed at a policy and planning level. Stakeholder participation and inclusion is an essential theme. Case studies assist with understanding. There is a helpful checklist at the end of the Playbook. There’s a lot to digest, but this means it isn’t a cursory overview with simplistic solutions. It goes much deeper than a digital accessibility checklist. This is about joining the dots across city assets and leveraging them for everyone’s benefit. Other sections of the toolkit cover: 

    • Toolkit Overview
    • Guide to adopting an ICT accessibility procurement policy
    • Implementing priority ICT accessibility standards
    • Communicating the case for stronger commitment to digital inclusion in cities
    • Database of solutions for digital inclusion in cities

“The toolkit supports a range of organizations and roles related to Smart Cities, including government managers, policy makers, IT professionals, disability advocates, procurement officials, technology suppliers, and developers who design Smart City apps and solutions.

Each of the tools addresses a priority challenge identified by global experts as a barrier to the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities and older persons in Smart Cities.”  See also Smart Cities for All: A Vision

James Thurston of 3Gict discusses the issues in the video below.  

Ageing with Choice in Western Australia

Ageing with Choice front cover.Ageing with Choice is Western Australia’s blueprint for “seniors housing”. One might ask, why only for older people? The Future Directions document has housing as part of the concept of being age-friendly and having connected communities. Some research went into the document and there are no real surprises. There are seven priority areas and a list of actions to follow. A good example of planning for the longevity revolution. A well set-out document with lots of infographics. 

Editor’s Note: There should be a note of caution about ancillary dwellings in the family back yard. That is, if the family splits up or has to move with their jobs, what happens to grandma? She doesn’t own the land. Also, to date, most ancillary dwellings are rented out to supplement family income. But this is a good idea for increasing rental stock for all ages. Downsizing should also be cautioned in terms of living in a small home. Research is still showing a preference for three bedrooms to give “room to move” especially if partnered. But most older people want to downsize their maintenance and gardening. I also noted some of the infographics are still based on mythical population segments.

Strategy priorities are :

Age-friendly communities
Homes that support ageing in place
Affordable housing innovations and alternatives to home ownership
Better options for renters
A more age-responsive social housing system
Assistance for those experiencing housing crisis
Informed decision-making

Ageing with Choice: Future directions for seniors housing 2019-2024 can be downloaded from the Western Australia Government website.

 

The 100 year life

A graphic showing facades of different styles of free standing homes in lots of colours. They look like toy houses.People expect to grow old, but they don’t plan to grow old. Public policy has to do more than just capture people when they can no longer care for themselves. Even if people plan for their older age, there are policy and built barriers preventing the continuation of a “decent life”. And housing is a key barrier. The report, The 100-year life: the role of housing, planning and design, highlights the issues and provides recommendations. The report recommends an integrated approach to housing, planning and design to support people in later life. It stresses the importance of taking a universal design approach and co-production. Developers, planners and local authorities also have an important role to play. And of course, focusing on older people means that people of all ages are included. While this is a UK project, there are many aspects that apply to other countries including Australia.

The research was conducted jointly by Design Council, Centre for Ageing Better and Social Care Institute for Excellence. The report in PDF was published in June 2018. The report includes references and resources.  

See also the Colorado Lifelong Homes White Paper for a similar take on the issues of successful ageing in place.

“A decent life” as described by Amartya Sen

Toilets, taboos, and design principles

Directional sign to toilets in an outdoor area.Public toilets are a key factor in getting out and about. But are they useable by everyone? Ever thought about how they contribute to our economic and social growth? A myriad of issues are brought together for a thoughtful discussion in Katherine Webber’s Churchill Fellowship report. The report is based on her international study tour. It has several recommendations for design, maintenance and social planning. The title of the report is, “Exploring Accessibility and Inclusion in Public Toilets“. There is a one page checklist on public toilet design principles. See below.

The report has a great quote from Lezlie Lowe that indicates the importance of public toilets in everyday life, “Have we ever granted toilets – and especially public toilets – their due? Have we given them credit for how they’ve helped grow our world? As gross or goofy or quotidian as they may seem, public toilets represent higher notions and beliefs. Fundamentally: who is in and who is out. Whom we see as part of the city. Whom we see as human.” From, No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs. A list of public toilet design principles.

Access symbol: inclusive or exclusive?

International symbol for access. Blue background with white graphic.Confusion still reigns about the international symbol of access (ISA). Is it exclusively for wheelchair users? Or does it denote access for everyone? The ISA was originally created to denote physical spaces for wheelchair accessibility. But its meaning has evolved into something much more complex. 

A study with participants who were a mix of people with and without disability revealed some interesting findings. However, A set of six symbols denoting walking can, signing, Braille, hearing loop, and audio description.some participants who did not identify as having a disability described themselves as having some form of impairment. This illustrates ideological differences about disability per se, and highlights how society uses labels and symbols to define a group or culture in wider society. 

The article has lots of statistical results. The discussion and conclusions are worth a read because of the implications across society. It includes a look at all the symbols currently in use to signify different disabilities. Some participants wanted to see characteristics of themselves in symbols, but this creates uncertainty with other groups. As an aside, the use of the word “handicap” showed up in participant responses, indicating it is still in common usage.

The title of the article is Effectiveness of the International Symbol of Access and inclusivity of other disability groups.

The article concludes, “Perhaps a more effective solution would be standards which incorporate universal design, thereby ensuring equitable and intuitive use of products A blue background with three icons. One shows a woman pushing a pram, the next a woman with a dog, the third, a wheelchair user. The icons are in whiteand spaces and eliminating the need to symbolically represent population-based accessibility. Initiatives such as Design for All (DfA) in Europe, which was adopted in the EIDD Stockholm Declaration of 2004, and the Barrier-Free Accessibility (BFA) program in Singapore, promote a social model of disability by encouraging barrier-free design of products, services, and environments for people of all abilities and under varying socioeconomic situations.”

 

Raising the bar on housing standards

Front cover of the report.Advocates in several countries have been lobbying for mandatory accessible housing standards for many years. At last Habinteg in the UK has succeeded in getting the topic on the government’s agenda

A forecast for accessible homes, is an important report covering all the key issues, ending with three key actions. The Habinteg report reveals a “huge postcode lottery in the planned supply of new accessible homes…”.  Therefore it is crucial to “set a national policy that will create a level playing field and more certainty for developers”. The report found that existing basic minimum standards as set out in Part M1 of the building code are insufficient. The planned development of accessible housing is set to fall short of previous official predictions. The report also has personal case studies to highlight the impact the lack of availability has on their lives. Mandatory standards within building regulations are needed because Part M1 is too basic. The shortage of housing with liveable access features, which are suitable for everyone, is now at a critical level.

Australia should watch this space while the Australian Building Codes Board considers the same issues regarding mandating accessibility in all new homes. The Regulatory Impact Statement for accessible housing is due out for comment early next year. The ABCB oversees the National Construction Code. Get an insight into the NCC and how it works from Sourceable article.

UD Policy Document

Front cover of the policy statement.Having a universal design policy statement to go beyond access compliance is a relatively new thing. And it is a lot of work to start it from scratch. Fortunately Hobsons Bay Council in Victoria has a good example to refer to. Their Universal Design Policy Statement for council buildings and the public realm is comprehensive and nicely written in 18 pages. It covers cost (or lack thereof), the regulatory framework, applying UD principles and advocacy with business and governments. The last part of the Background section sums up Council’s approach. 

“Council is committed to exceeding minimum standards to include Universal Design principles when building new buildings, undertaking significant upgrades to existing buildings, the public realm, and where possible during minor upgrades and maintenance works to existing buildings. In addition, Council will work with private developers and businesses to encourage the use of Universal Design principles as well as advocate to the Victorian and Australian Governments to include the principles of Universal Design into relevant regulatory frameworks.”

There is also a Universal Design Fact Sheet from the Office of the Victorian Government Architect which could be pinned up on all desks to remind staff to think about universal design principles in all they do.

 

ABCB moves to next phase

Timeline for the next steps to the Regulatory Impact Statement.The process for the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for Accessible Housing is underway. With more consultations due soon for the RIS, it is worth refreshing our memories on the issues. Using a lot less words, a Building Connection magazine article picks out the key points of the first report by the Australian Building Codes Board. The article by Jane Bringolf is on page 16 of the online flipbook titled, A Summary of the ABCB’s Report on Mainstream Accessible Housing. The infographic shows the timeline for the project. If minimum access (universal design) features are agreed, it will be included in the 2022 edition of the National Construction Code.

CUDA made a submission to the Australian Building Codes Board Options Paper.

Complete Streets: Health agencies play a role

Pedestrians are walking towards the camera. They are on a wide walkway. Some people are looking at their phones. They are dressed for warm weather. There are buildings on each side of the walkwayThe Complete Streets concept is about creating a safe place for all road users regardless of their age or ability. Transport and planning agencies usually have control over road and street plans, but public health agencies also have a role to play. Along with other stakeholders, health agencies can evaluate initiatives from a health, physical activity and inclusion point of view. A report from the US gives an overview of strategies and examples of how public health agencies, advocates and practitioners were involved in planning processes.

The report, published by University of Illinois, is titled, “Public Health Engagement in Complete Streets Initiatives: Examples and Lessons Learned”, is 18 pages plus appendices.