Out and About with Universal Design

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 walkwayGetting out and about is part of staying active and connected within the community, but some people find that more difficult than others. Inner Sydney Voice has an article explaining the 8 Goals of Universal Design and how they can be applied in the urban environment. The examples given are not exhaustive, but do help with thinking about including everyone. The 8 Goals of Universal Design extend the concepts of the classic 7 Principles of Universal Design that are most often quoted in academic articles. You can download the PDF of the article.  

The 8 goals are: Body Fit, Comfort, Awareness, Understanding, Wellness, Social Integration, Personalisation, Cultural Appropriateness. They were devised by Steinfeld and Maisel (2012).

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 for people with Down syndrome. 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. 

From the abstract

This paper develops an in-situ methodology to help architects insure better inclusion of people with Down syndrome all along all phases of the architectural design process. This methodology first offers architects some design keys in regard of how people with Down syndrome interact with two types of spaces: their personal dwellings and some completely unknown spaces.

The methodology then unfolds towards more pro-active inclusion of the participants thanks to playful expression of their feelings and perceptions. This paper discusses how this methodology relates to inclusive and universal design principles as well as prevalent models of disability in architecture.

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.

Universal design and 40 Principles of TRIZ

A short paper by Kalevi Rantanen shows how to combine the principles of universal design and 40 Principles of TRIZ. It gives another perspective on how to apply the principles of universal design in a problem solving context. TRIZ is the Russian acronym for “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving”.

How to use 40 Principles of TRIZ flow chart: General Problem to General Solution. From Problem analysis to Evaluation and selection.

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”. 

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. 

Principles and something more

The paper begins with a note about accessibility being a “must”. In TRIZ jargon accessibility is one feature of the Ideal Final Result. It’s about a check between whether a feature reduces harm for one group without increasing harm for another.

“For example, we consider removing a threshold. A harmful feature, a barrier to the user of a wheelchair or walker disappears. Are the useful features retained? Perhaps even new benefits appear? Everything useful is retained if we move thresholds. A new benefit is that it is easier to clean doors.

Will new harmful features appear? Usually not, but some doors may need sealing. In that case flexible, rubber-like thresholds can be used. Does the system become more complex? No, removing thresholds makes a building more simple.”

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 Plan.design. 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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