Down syndrome and building design

a young man with Down syndrome sits at a computer workstation. He is wearing a white shirt and patterned tie. there are other workers at workstations in the background. Down Syndrome and building design.People with Down syndrome sometimes experience space in public and home environments in a different way to others. A study in Belgium of people with Down syndrome and building design revealed some interesting results.

For example, the separation of spaces is not always clear if there is no architectural delineation. Participants showed a preference for brightness, large windows, and illuminated objects and surfaces.

Privacy of space was also important, particularly quiet space. Familiar landmarks and furniture were also important. The discussion section of the paper provides more insights that could help designers consider the intellectual perspectives of users, and not just for people with Down syndrome. The paper also makes links to universal design.

The title of the paper is, “Inclusion of Down Syndrome in Architectural Design: Towards a Methodology“. Authors are Clémintine Schelings and Catherine Elson.

You can download it in PDF (400kb) or in Word (2MB) or open access on the University of Liege website. 

Editor’s note:  More recent research on neurodiversity, autism and dementia have similar findings. 


Singapore Universal Design Guide

Cover of Singapore UD Design Guide for public places.The Building and Construction Authority in Singapore has updated its Universal Design Guide for Public Places – one of the initiatives under their “Action Plan for Successful Ageing”. The document is structured into chapters, each dealing with a particular aspect of the built environment such as arrival at the building, and wayfinding and information systems.

The guide includes Top 10 features for seniors and Top 10 features for families. The guide is supported by the updated Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment. Family Friendly provisions are included in this.

Singapore has also introduced awards for universal design, and designers and builders can get assessed to have the UD Mark applied to their work.

Cover of document with a laughing man in a bright shirt playing a ukulele

The inclusion of families in these publications shows how Singapore has moved on from access for people with disability to inclusion for everyone.

Shopping for All: Inclusive Retail

Photo of wide shopping corridor at Barangaroo. Inclusive retail experiences.As followers of universal design know, designing with people with disability in mind often results in greater convenience for everyone. That’s why we need businesses to think about inclusive retail experiences and strategies.

The Australian Network on Disability, and Design for Dignity, with support from Lendlease, and the Commonwealth Bank, produced an excellent resource for retail outlet designers. The key is for designers and retail outlets to understand the level of their missed business by ignoring population diversity. Graphs and statistics are used to highlight the lost opportunities.

The missed business point is clearly made: “It is rare in business or design that organisations set out with “minimum standard” customer experience in mind. Designing to minimum accessibility standards is saying that this group of customers doesn’t deserve the same degree of thought, innovation and insight that is invested in other customers.” Complying to Australian Standards does not make for best practice.

Guides for retailers

The guide is aimed at retail business owners, service providers, shopping centre owners and managers, designers, builders and certifiers. There is also a Design for Dignity microsite with the information in a web-based format with more detail.graph of people using mobility and hearing devices

Readers are reminded that disability is more than wheelchair users. The use of other mobility devices and communication aids is shown in the graph above. 

The diversity of the population is often disregarded in designs. Building code compliance is often considered at the end of the design process instead of integrated at the beginning. This guide helps to show the value of thinking inclusively from the outset.

The business of age-friendly

A clothes store with jackets hanging and a table with other clothes.Many businesses would like to expand their customer base to include older people and people with disability, but not sure how to do it. Utilising a checklist is one way to start thinking about it. Several organisations have produced checklists and other information to help businesses understand what they can do. Much of it costs little or nothing. Here are just three.

COTA TAS has a checklist that has a rating scale from excellent to needs work. It covers external environments, shop entrances, safety, comfort, and staff training, and much more. It’s nine pages and easy to read.

AgeUK has a more comprehensive document that provides the reasoning behind some of the “Top Tips’. These include telephone interactions, websites, and resolving complaints. The report is based on consumer workshop consultations.  


Universal design and 40 Principles of TRIZ

How to solve your technical problems using the 40 Principles of TRIZ.A short paper by Kalevi Rantanen shows how to combine the principles of universal design 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 Forty 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. 


Norway universally designed by 2025 – Update

Top half of the front cover of the Norway Universally Designed 2025. The graphic is various shades of blue with a woman operating an automatic teller machine.The Norwegian Government has taken the principles of universal design and applied them across all policies to create maximum inclusion. This makes everyone responsible for inclusion at every level – in the built environment, outdoor areas, transport, and ICT. Here is an update to “Norway Universally Designed by 2025”.

In 2008, the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, launched its first Action Plan 2009-2013. It sets the goal of Norway being universally designed by 2025.

In 2010, Norway amended its Planning and Building Act to include universal Picture of the front cover of the Norway Universally Designed Action The Delta Centre was given responsibility to coordinate the actions in the 2015-2019 plan in 2016. This plan is more comprehensive and covers ICT and communications to a more detailed level. This is in recognition of how we are becoming more reliant on digital applications.

Olav Rand Bringa provided extra insights at the 2018 UDHEIT conference in Dublin. The title of the paper is, From Visions to Practical Policy: The
Universal Design Journey in Norway. What Did We Learn? What Did We Gain? What Now?



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