Caring cities are inclusive cities

Care is both a need and a service, but it is also a social value that helps qualify how services, assistance, and support are provided. The value of care aims to keep people feeling safe and maintains their dignity. And caring cities are inclusive cities. A policy paper for the World Summit of LoA narrow pedestrian street with market stalls and shops. A caring city is an inclusive city.cal and Regional Leaders at local government level proposes some thoughts on this.

A city that cares fulfils its human rights obligations as well as the needs and aspirations of everyone. Places and spaces should be available, acceptable, accessible, and affordable for everyone. This means city and community ecosystems need a new social contract to be caring. This contract should involve collaboration and be based on respect for people and the environment. 

The policy paper discusses the challenges and sets some recommendations for local and regional governments and some points on taking local action. This paper will be of interest to policy makers in all levels of government. 

Enabling Environments for Local Action

“The responsibility for caring extends across all of government. Local and regional governments need to be supported and enabled to make the necessary transformations in favour of caring systems. To this end, this paper recommends taking the following actions at the national level:

a. Enact adequate, inclusive regulatory and policy frameworks establishing the basis for green, sustainable, and accessible public services and infrastructure

b. Sustain adequate transfer and allocation of financial resources to strengthen local-level technical capacity and enable efficient implementation.

c. Establish the legal foundations to institutionalize meaningful participatory and multi-level governance that considers the whole of society, moving past political alliances and promoting government accountability at all levels.”

Joint way forward

Governments at all levels need to share responsibility for creating caring systems by collaborating with communities. The policy paper recommends establishing strong partnerships and collaboration to enable social change. Here are some of the key points: 

        • Care is a human right and a public good and universal access to it
        • Establishing collaborative platforms and social dialogue
        • Challenging the gendered division of labour of paid and unpaid care work
        • Respect for local and indigenous knowledge
        • Accessible and ethical information management

The title of the policy paper is Caring Systems and was presented at the UCLG World Congress and Summit of World Leaders held October 2022 in Korea.

UCLG = United Cities and Local Government.

Universal design standard from Europe

Universal design is a design thinking process so a universal design standard is a contradiction in terms. Standards are fixed where universal design is a continuous improvement process. However, where designers cannot grasp the concept of an inclusive thinking process, a set of design directions is needed. Hence a new European universal design standard for products, goods and services.

Front cover of the Design for All standard.

The standard sets out requirements and recommendations for extending the customer base for products and services. It’s for organisations that design and manufacture products and/or provide services. The aim is to ensure products and services are available to the widest range of users possible.

Diverse user needs, characteristics, capabilities and preferences area all covered. It is based on processes of user involvement and building on accessibility knowledge. The standard can also be used for complying with legislation and to advance corporate social responsibility. 

The standard was developed by Ireland’s National Disability Authority that houses the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. The document has the title “design for all” which is a recognised European term, but notes that universal design, barrier-free-design and transgenerational design are the same thing. 

Design for All – Accessibility following a Design for All approach in products, goods and services – Extending the range of users can be purchased from the standards authority

There is a media release explaining a little more. The regular complaint about standards is the cost of purchase and could be a reason why they are ignored.

Learning about standards

It is assumed that students in design disciplines, such as engineering, automatically learn about standards and how they are developed. According to an article by Jenny Darzentas this is not the case. The way standards are developed and written makes them difficult to understand and apply. Too much emphasis is placed on “learning on the job”. 

view from the back of a university lecture theatre where students are seated listening to a lecture.

Darzentas says that education about standards in universal design courses would be beneficial. In Japan, Korea and China this is included, but not in Europe and North America. 

Access to standards documents is not usually discussed as a barrier to accessibility and universal design. However, people not only need easy access the documents, but also the information should be easy to access. Is this an argument for standards to follow the concepts of universal design?

The title of the article is, Educating Students About Standardisation Relating to Universal Design. How well do Australian universities address standards in courses where universal design is part of the course?

Abstract

Standardisation education is rarely taught to students in the design disciplines in academic settings, and consequently there is not much evidence about best practices. This paper examines this situation, and elaborates on some of the possible reasons for this situation. Further, it gives an example of how students may be instructed and encouraged to further their interests in standards and the standardization-making process as a means for increasing Universal Design in practice.

This article comes from the published papers from the 2016 Universal Design Conference held in York, UK, which are open access.

10 Things to know about Universal Design

Page with 10 things to know about universal design.The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a comprehensive list that covers all the myths and misinformation about the purpose of universal design. Briefly, the 10 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

Editor’s comment: the CEUD website is looking a little dated, but the content remains valid and is good for newcomers to the topic. There are several guidelines for practitioners too. 

See more detail about these 10 things and other resources on the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design website.

 There are more explanations in the What is Universal Design section of this website. 

Diversity and inclusion: not the same thing

The feet of two dancers. The woman is wearing red and white shoes and the man regular black shoes“Diversity is being asked to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” This is a great quote from Verna Myers. She is referring to the workplace and the employment and advancement of women and people of colour. It is relevant to all other groups because diversity and inclusion are both part of the movement for more inclusive and equitable societies.

The Harvard Business Review discusses this issue in Diversity doesn’t stick without inclusion. It is one thing to have a diverse population, but that doesn’t mean equity or inclusion will automatically follow. Diversity and inclusion are often lumped together in the employment context. They are assumed to be the same thing. But this is not the case.

In the workplace, diversity equals representation. Attracting diverse talent requires full participation to foster innovation and growth. This is inclusion. Getting diverse talent is one thing, including them fully is another. 

Diversity & 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. While the context of their guide is about driving social change, most of the information is applicable in any situation. 

The Diversity & Inclusion: Start Here guide introduces key concepts and 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.

Editor’s note: I co-wrote a paper on inclusion being something where you have to wait for the “mainstream” group to invite you in. Inclusiveness is something that is present, it is happening now. You can see the slideshow version too which has some explanatory graphics.

Inclusive Victoria – the plan

Front cover of the Inclusive Victoria state plan. The Victorian State Disability Plan has a great introduction that includes language and terminology. It acknowledges there is no one right, or universal way to conceptualise disability. That’s because people perceive disability in culturally specific ways. Some people are proud to identify themselves as disabled, whereas others don’t want their disability to define them. Similarly, many autistic and neurodiverse people don’t see autism as a disability. They just see autism at a different way of interacting with the world. The State Disability Plan 2022-2026 is titled, Inclusive Victoria

From the introduction

Here is a nicely worded section from the introduction on language:

“Language is a powerful tool for changing community attitudes,
promoting inclusion and fostering disability pride. Throughout
history, people with disability have fought for changes to
language that reflect their human rights. We know language
is always changing, and we recognise that words are powerful
and have different meaning for different people. We recognise
that people with disability have different preferences regarding
how they describe their disability.”

This introduction explains how language is used throughout the document. It highlights the real importance language plays in community attitudes towards people with disability. A good example for other government documents and policies that are based on a marginalised group. 

The plan contains facts and figures about the prevalence of disability and other statistics. The international, national, state and local government obligations are laid out in a straightforward table format. The key elements of the plan are:

      1. Inclusive communities: Changing attitudes, transport, digital inclusion, sport and tourism.
      2. Health, housing and wellbeing: Health, mental health housing, NDIS, children and families.
      3. Fairness and Safety: Emergencies, advocacy, abuse and neglect, justice system, and gender identity.
      4. Opportunity and pride: Education, employment, voice and leadership, pride and recognition. 

Systemic reform

Most disability plans are action plans. This document includes systemic reform which should underpin actions and outcomes. The six systemic reforms are listed as:

      1. Co-design with people with disability
      2. Aboriginal self-determination
      3. Intersectional approaches
      4. Accessible communications and universal design
      5. Disability confident and inclusive workforces’
      6. Effective data and outcomes reporting

Inclusive Victoria is nicely presented with relatively plain language throughout. 

Easy Read Disability Strategy

Front cover of Easy Read Disability Strategy.The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has an Easy Read guide to the Disability Strategy 2021-2031. However, you need good reading and web navigation skills to get to it. The information is spaced out over 44 pages in the PDF version. 

The key objective of the strategy is about living a life you want to live. The goals are:

      1. Working and earning money
      2. Inclusive homes and communities – living where you want to live
      3. Rights for fair treatment and feeling safe
      4. Getting support as an individual and to be part of the community
      5. Being independent
      6. Learning and getting skills
      7. Access to health services and enjoying life
      8. More inclusive community attitudes
      9. Getting the outcomes we want by working together

The text only Easy Read Word document is on the Disability Gateway website.

The NDIS website has two other reports:

Home and Living consultation summary report

Support for Decision Making consultation summary report  

There are Easy Read versions of the reports and a videos with Auslan if you scroll down the each report page. 

There is also an Easy Read version of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability

 

Universal design and cognitive accessibility

Partial view of a bronze statue of a man with his head in his hand. It represents thinking. Universal design for cognitive accessibility.Universal design is most commonly associated with the built environment. This is where the physical barriers to inclusion are most visible. But the concept of universal design goes beyond this to include cognitive accessibility.

Emily Steel writes a concise article on how universal design informs cognitive accessibility standards. There are many types of cognitive disability and it would be difficult to have separate standards for each one. So the working group has adopted the Universal Design for Learning framework to promote better design for all people.

Brightly coloured strips lay on top of each other, each one with the day of the week. Universal design for cognitive accessibility.The working group has published two standards since forming in 2015. The first provides guidelines for the design of products to support daily time management. The second is about the design and development of systems, products, services and built environments. A third standard is under development. This one sets out the requirements for reporting the cognitive accessibility of products and systems. 

As an international standard, working group participants come from around the world and include people with diverse cognition. Online meetings replaced the face to face workshops during the COVID pandemic. 

The article, published in Design for All India Newsletter, provides more detail about how the group works. It’s Article 2 in the October 2021 edition. The online Newsletter is produced in Verdana Bold and is fully justified. It also includes a lot of Italicised text. 

You can directly download the article titled, Universal design informs cognitive accessibility standards

Interested in this work?

The working group is keen to integrate lived experiences into the guidelines and any revisions. If you are interested in this work you can contact the Technical Committee Secretariat

Dr Emily Steel is the Australian delegate on the International Standards Organization (ISO) cognitive accessibility working group. She also conducted a workshop at the Australian Universal Design Conference UD2021. Dr Steel is also a CUDA board member.

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?  

 

Accessibility with help from Standards

The ISO Guide 71 eleven goals of accessibility.
Slide showing the 11 accessibility goals.

Who wants to refer to the instruction manual if they can avoid it?  In the same way, standards documents get overlooked unless it’s mandatory to comply. But there is one standards document that is worth looking at. It can help us progress accessibility and universal design. On day two of UD2021 Conference, Emily Steel explained how the international accessibility standard works. 

Emily Steel pointing to the 11 Goals of the Guide on the presentation slide.
Emily Steel with the 11 Goals of the Guide.

The international standard has done all the thinking for us. The document guides standards committees as they write and update standards for their specific industry or profession. It is also useful for any committee developing guides or standards for accessibility and universal design. So, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. 

The Guide’s use of the the term “accessibility” relates closely to universal design. “The extent to which products, systems, services, environments and facilities can be used by people from a population with the widest range of characteristics and capabilities to achieve a specified goal in a specified context of use”. 

The Guide has two main parts. The first describes user needs and 11 accessibility goals. These are similar to the 8 Goals of Universal Design. The second describes human characteristics and abilities, and design considerations. 

Guide 71 was adapted by the European standards authority and is titled, CEN-CENLEC Guide 6. It is basically the same information. You can see a previous post about this document. 

There is also an Accessibility Masterlist by Gregg Vanderheiden. It’s a collaborative resource for understanding access features in digital applications. Also worth a look.

All standards should ensure they meet the goals of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Guide 71 shows how to do this.

 

Disability inclusion: A closer look at philanthropy

A jumble of words representing philanthropy and generosity. Philanthropy is yet another barrier to overcome in the quest for inclusion. As a service, it too, should be universally designed. The underpinning principle of universal design is inclusion. It’s captured in the Sustainable Development Goals with the phrase, “leave no-one behind”. So let’s take a closer look at philanthropy and what that means.

Employment of people with disability and other marginalized groups in the philanthropy sector is one issue. Including people with disability within all grants is another. However, the disability sector is most often treated as a stand-alone area for receiving grants. This segregation is not helpful – disability should be included within all projects. The Disability Philanthropy website has three videos that explain more and a resource library.

Ryan Easterly explains, “Philanthropy needs to do a better job reflecting society and communities in general.” Funders should consider disability and the how it affects all aspects of life. There is hardly any issue that a foundation would fund that doesn’t impact or include disability.

Guidance for Foundations on Creating Disability Advisory Groups might be a good place to start. It has a list of Things to Know, and Things to Avoid.

 

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