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The principles of universal design can be applied to everything that is designed: products, buildings and open space, transportation, tourism, sport, as well as learning programs, polices and plans. Our newsletter covers as many design fields as possible.

The aim of universal design is to create a more inclusive world. It is being used internationally to change design thinking throughout the design process so that all people are considered regardless of age, capability, or background.

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Is your beer accessible?

Picture from front cover of the booklet showing two pubs and a man who is blind using his smartphone to order food.It’s a simple thing and doesn’t always take much to achieve. The British Beer & Pub Association has a straightforward booklet of advice and good case studies for accessibility. It dispels a lot of myths, and many of the adaptations are simple, such as easy to read menus. It covers physical, sensory and cognitive issues that potential customers might have. So joke-type symbols for toilets are not a good idea, as well as understanding that not all disabilities are visible. Excellent resource for any food and beverage venue. As is often the case, it is not rocket science or costly, just thoughtful.

The title of the publication is An Open Welcome: Making your pub accessible for customers. As Government Disability Champion for Tourism, Chris Veitch says, “Pubs are places where everyone is welcome. It’s where family, friends and colleagues come together and where tourists to the country feel they will see the true, welcoming Britain”. 

Editor’s note: Everyone should be able to have a beer with Duncan.

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.  

Six Feelings Framework

six head icons in a row each with one of the six feelings.A sense of belonging is an aspect of universal design not often discussed. However, when it comes to including people with autism in plans and designs, it’s a very important element. Ohio State University has developed a guide which covers urban design, retail, parks, campuses and more. It’s got everything in detail. It is underpinned with the six feelings framework:

1. Feel connected – because they are easily reached, entered, and/or lead to destinations.
2. Feel free – because they offer relative autonomy and the desired spectrum of independence.
3. Feel clear – because they make sense and do not confuse.
4. Feel private – because they offer boundaries and provides retreat.
5. Feel safe – because they diminish the risk of being injured.
6. Feel calm – because they mitigate physical sensory issues associated with autism.

The guide is based on extensive research and it is recommended that:

♦ City and regional planners activity accommodates people with autism in their public involvement process.
♦ City and regional planners implement autism standards building on this 1.0 attempt into their zoning and design guidelines, and consider policy changes.
♦ Professionals in affiliated fields who have concern over the public realm test, retest, and improve the ideas in this toolkit.
♦ Civil engineers retrofit infrastructure around the Six Feelings Framework.
♦ Real estate developers who are designing master planned communities consider the Six Feelings Framework in their plans. 

There are more articles on designing with autism in mind on this website. Use the search facility on the left hand menu.

Building health and wellness

A woman strikes a yoga pose alone in a city square with tall buildings around.We need healthy architecture – that is, architecture that supports human health and wellness. Louis Rice claims that human illness is related to the design of the built environment. Key issues are discussed in a book chapter that covers social, mental and physical health and “restorative” design. He proposes a “healthy architecture map” based on materials, environments, agency and behaviours. The title of the chapter is A health map for architecture: The determinants of health and wellbeing in buildings. Abstract is below.

There is more useful information and research in the book including a chapter from Matthew Hutchinson, The Australian dream or a roof over my head. An ecological view of housing for an ageing Australian population.  

The World Health Organization also links health and the built environment in the WHO Housing and Health Guidelines. It includes a chapter on accessible housing.

Abstract: The health crisis facing society, whereby most humans suffer illness, is related to the design of the built environment. The chapter identifies key issues for built environment design professionals to improve the health of architectural environments. The chapter reviews existing medical and public health research to establish evidence-based interrelationships between health and architecture and to define ‘healthy architecture’. ‘Healthy architecture’ goes beyond the relatively narrow focus of physical health, safety regulations or environmental health legislation of much contemporary architectural research. The proposed conceptualisation of ‘healthy architecture’ requires consideration of social, mental and physical health, particularly wellbeing and restorative design. A conceptual framework is generated as a ‘healthy architecture map’ by considering the four principal domains of architectural design related health and wellbeing: materials, environments, agency and behaviours. The ‘healthy architecture map’ can be used by built environment experts, architects, planners, engineers, clients, user groups, public health professionals to inform and improve the design of the built environments to promote and facilitate health and wellbeing.

Neighbourhoods and universal design

A woman stands at a street crossing with her assistance dog. She is touching a tactile street sign.Pedestrian death rates are rising. What’s the cause? Is it smartphones or road design and drivers? Or is it both? Australian figures show the older generation is a big part of the fatality toll. But they are not likely to be looking as smartphones as they walk. So road and street design need another look. The American Society of Landscape Architects has an excellent guide on neighbourhoods and street design. Safe intersections, wider footpaths, accessible transportation, multi-sensory wayfinding, legible signage, and connected green spaces are just some of the features addressed in the guide. City of Sydney gets a mention (see picture above) about a larger signage system that helps pedestrians calculate walking times within the city. 

 

Ageing in the right place

Front cover showing the four steps.Advocates are calling for all new homes to include universal design features, but what about current homes? Even if occupants decide to renovate and include such features, how will they know what might be needed? The My Home My Choices tool can help.

The tool has four steps: individual wants and issues; opportunities for improvement in the home and lifestyle: different options for maximising the use and value of the home; and other choices such as moving, sharing, home modifications and home support. This well researched tool is easily adapted from this New Zealand model. 

Another research group has developed a prototype web application to use at home when needed, over time and at the user’s own pace. It consists of three modules Think, Learn and Act to facilitate awareness, offer information and knowledge and enable the user to decide and act on issues relating to housing. Topics are: preferences, the home, the neighbourhood, health status, social network and support, financial situation, the future, options for help and support and housing options.

A poor fit between the home and what older people need can lead to unnecessary care needs, loneliness, worse quality of life, increased caregiver time and early institutionalisation. 

 

Accessible rail travel

A train line disappears in the distance and in the foreground is a red rail indicator light.How does Australia rate globally when it comes to rail travel and related public infrastructure? Well, that depends. A new report compares Australia with UK, Spain, Sweden, and United States. Other types of global rankings are included in the report by Claire Shooter of the Rail Safety and Standards Board in UK. Of course, there are considerable variations within countries too. There’s a lot of good information in this report and it’s worth a browse.

The executive summary explains there were two main messages throughout the literature on improving accessibility:
1. Designing transport to be accessible to all has benefits far beyond making the transport network accessible to people with disabilities; It improves the experience of tourists, shoppers, families, people with temporary disabilities and pregnant women. Taking visible steps towards improving accessibility itself encourages more people to use the service.
2. It is critical to engage people with disability in the choice, design, and implementation of accessibility improvements to ensure they are appropriate and effective. Not only does this increase the confidence of people with disability that the transport network cares about catering to them, it can avoid costly investments in inadequate solutions.

The report, Rail travel and disability: An international perspective on accessibility. is on the RSSB website. Note: accessing via the website requires a free login process. It is a bit cumbersome but it provides access to other documents as well. Or you can download directly from this website

The objectives of the research:

As a result of actual or perceived difficulty using public transport, many people with disabilities (PwD) rely on private vehicles, taxis, or designated paratransit services to travel. In Australia, the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI) based in Canberra and CQUniversity are conducting research to better understand what could be done to improve use of public transport by PwD. Under a memorandum of understanding, ACRI and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) of Great Britain regularly share knowledge to add value to the research and innovation activities of both countries. This report is the first joint initiative between ACRI and RSSB, which aims to conduct a global horizon scan of accessibility innovations and practices in sectors including transport, retail and hospitality that may aid the rail travel experience for people with a disability.

UD2020 Publication of Papers

Logo for universal design conference UD2020.I am pleased to announce that Griffith University is generously sponsoring the publication of papers for the 4th Australian Universal Design Conference

That means all successful presenters can take up the option to provide a full paper or extended abstract for publication. Details will be sent to successful presenters when they are notified about their abstract. 

Poster submissions close 30 November. So there is still time to contribute to the conference and take up this generous offer. The closing date for Posters is 30 November. 

Please note that we had an overwhelming response to the call for papers and there will be a delay in responding to everyone. So that we can include as many presenters as possible we will be reducing speaking time from 20 minutes to 15 minute sessions with 5 minutes for questions.

Jane Bringolf 

How not to build a library

A long flight of stairs on the left looks out over Manhattan with rows of books tiered up on the right hand side. They are only accessible via the stairs.An architectural triumph that fails its patrons. If ever there was an example of how not to design a public library, this has to be it. All because the architects failed to check with any user groups. The architects still maintain the issues are just “wrinkles” in the design, not flaws. However, bookshelves lay empty, bleacher seating is sealed off for safety reasons, baby strollers block the walkways, and that doesn’t include the issues for people with disability – patrons and staff alike. Clearly they thought the ADA was nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, the building offers wonderful views. The article is from the New York Times, New Library is a $41.5 Million Masterpiece. But About Those Stairs. It explains the issues in more detail and has more pictures. There is also a news video from Spectrum News with the story. A salutary lesson in remembering function as well as form in design.

 

Liveability plus lovability

Open area with trees and people seated at tables in an outdoor cafe. Liveability usually refers to physical conveniences associated with city life. But how do they make us feel? Are our places lovable as well? A study from 26 neighbourhoods in the United States found that liveablity and lovability are not correlated. Intangible aspects of place aren’t just nice to have – they are critical for improving economic performance. But how do you measure lovability? Lucinda Hartley of University of Melbourne explains more about the research and how socialisation of places also increases economic activity. A place needs to be inclusive with Access-ability to make it lovable by all, of course. The title of the article is, Lovability versus Liveability: What big data tells us about our neighbourhoods. Includes nice pictures and links to other references.