Public service workplace attitudes revealed

Cover of report with lots of faces.The University of Canberra has just published a report about employment of people with disability in the Australian public service. The qualitative study that underpins the report includes many quotes from employees with disability which give an excellent sense of what they are experiencing. The study covers seven Australian Government departments and identifies critical dilemmas for the service as a whole. Disclosing a disability can either get you good support from your manager, or it can hold you back. Not understanding the resilience that living with disability creates, others often see weakness rather than strength. The point is well made by one participant,

“The fact that they don’t want to put more pressure on me and I know I’m ready, that’s very hard to take. They don’t know about my journey. If they knew about the challenges that I’ve met there would be no doubts in their minds.”

There are several recommendations resulting from the research, which should be applied across all areas of employment, not just the Australian Public Service. Areas for improvement include: the current definition of disability which disempowers rather than empowers; the need to upskill managers in how to work differently; and for staff training that includes interacting with people with disability, not just undertaking e-learning modules. 

You can download the report, Doing it Differently: Staff perceptions of the barriers to workplace participation experienced by public servants with disability in the Australian Public Service.

Space: Complex and Contested

picture of a wide paved walkway along the estuary showing a bike rider, a seat and grass.The notions of space and place can be confusing – they are words used interchangeably and to most people mean the same thing – a place to play is the same as a space to play. But to geographers, planners and urban designers, they are not the same thing. Rob Imrie writes an interesting essay on “Space” in Keywords in Disability Studies.  He focuses on the people who are left out of spaces, and who have spaces and places created just for “them”. He writes:

“However space is defined, it is intrinsic to human existence and, for Newton (1689),the fundamental element of space as place is that “part of space which a body takes up” (also, see Merleau-Ponty, 1962). The human body is always emplaced and its placement is conditioned, in part, by the social content and context of a place. Thus,the impaired body has, historically, been constructed as not normal, unsightly, and‘out of place’ in everyday environments.”

The essay can be downloaded from

Nordic Charter for Universal Design

UD logoThis article will be of interest to policy makers and anyone else interested in furthering universal design principles across all aspects of society. Using the 2012 UD Conference in Oslo as a catalyst, the Nordic countries worked together to create a common goal and strategy for dealing with the challenges of an ageing population as well as meeting their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. Although published as an academic article in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, it is informative in the way it covers the built environment, products, services, and ICT.  

Achieving full participation through UD

Achieving participation thru UD front coverA European report sets the scene for promoting universal design and setting an action plan in motion. It promotes a universal design (UD) approach as a strategy to ensure equal and democratic rights in society for all individuals. It covers participation in: political and public life; cultural life; information and communication; education; employment; the built environment; transport; community living; legal protection; research and development; and awareness raising. Examples of good practice are also included. It links well with the eight domains of life outlined in the WHO Age Friendly Cities and Communities program.

The title of the report is Achieving full participation through Universal Design.

UD and 40 Principles of TRIZ

Masterclass How to solve your technical problems using TRIZ ...A short paper by Kalevi Rantanen shows how to combine the principles of universal design and design-for-all with the 40 principles of TRIZ. It gives another perspective on how to apply the principles of universal design in a problem solving context.

The title of the paper is,Homes for Strong Families, Children, Seniors and All Others. How Universal Design, Design for All and Forty Principles of TRIZ Enforce Each Other”. TRIZ is the Russian acronym for “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving”.

The 40 Principles of TRIZ are a list of simple, and easy to learn rules for solving technical and non-technical problems quickly and simply. Studying these existing solutions can inspire people to solve new problems and imagine innovative solutions. They show how and where others have successfully eliminated contradictions. They take us to the proven, powerful recorded solutions contained in the patent database. These 40 Inventive Principles help solve both technical and non-technical problems. 

Universal Design: Is it Accessible?

A blank sheet of paper with an eraser, two pencils and a light globe.This opinion piece by Jane Bringolf published by Multi:The RIT Journal of Plurality and Diversity in Design was written in 2008, but is still relevant. Several aspects of universal design are questioned including the terminology and inherent difficulties in understanding the concepts. 

Abstract: Designing products and environments to be usable by the majority of people is the underpinning concept of universal design. In some aspects, however, universal design fails to meet some of its own principles. This has resulted in a lack of understanding of the concept, which in turn, has allowed the terms “accessibility” and “disability” to inhabit the language of universal design. This means universal design is now bounded by concepts of accessibility, regulations and disability rights, rather than the intellectual challenges inherent in designing for the whole of the population bell curve. The universal design movement recognizes that making headway is proving difficult and is seeking ways to improve its position. Market research, however, indicates universal design is now branded as a disability product and this has implications for consumers, practitioners, and for the universal design movement in general. Discussed are the influence of terminology on the direction and perceptions of universal design, and the dilemmas of applying a regulatory framework as an implementation strategy.

You can also find the article on ResearchGate

The article was written before the 8 Goals of Universal Design were devised by Steinfeld and Maisel in 2012. These goals have a more practical focus. So is it time for a product recall on the 7 Principles of Universal Design?

The beginnings of the universal design movement are attributed to Ron Mace, a polio survivor who went on to be an architect. 


10 Things to know about Universal Design

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has developed a comprehensive list that covers all the myths and misinformation about the purpose of universal design. Briefly, the ten things to know about universal design are:

    1. Universal Design strives to improve the original design concept by making it more inclusive
    2. Universally Designed products can have a high aesthetic value
    3. Universal Design is much more than just a new design trend
    4. Universal Design does not aim to replace the design of products targeted at specific markets
    5. Universal Design is not another name for compliance with accessible design standards
    6. Universal Design benefits more people than older people and people with disabilities
    7. Universal Design can be undertaken by any designer, not just specialists
    8. Universal Design should be integrated throughout the design process
    9. Universal Design is not just about ‘one size fits all’
    10. A Universally Designed product is the goal: Universal Design is the process

See more detail about 10 Things to know about Universal Design