Beyond compliance with UD

Front cover of the guide.Standards for the built environment tell you how to comply with minimum requirements. But compliance does not equal usability or convenience for everyone. A guide book from Ireland on the built environment draws together Irish standards with a practical universal design approach. Many of the standards mirror those in Australia so most of the information is compatible. Parking, siting, pedestrian movement, steps, ramps, lifts, seating and bollards are all covered. 

Building for Everyone, External environment and approach covers each of the features in detail. While the style of tactile indicators varies from the Australian design, the advice on placement is still useful. There is a reference list of related documents including Australian Standards. The guide is undated, but probably published circa 2010. This means some of the technology, such as parking ticket machines is a little outdated.

There is also a section at the end on human abilities and design. It covers walking, balance, handling, strength and endurance, lifting, reaching, speech, hearing, sight, touch and more.

Published by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland it is very detailed. Checklists help guide the reader through the material. This booklet links with others in the series, particularly the one on entrances and circulation spaces. The good aspect of these guides is the perspective of a universal design approach rather than proposing prescriptive design parameters.

Wheelchair users identify the real barriers

A man in a wheelchair is separated from the crowd by a low concrete barrierA recent in-depth study from UK on wheelchair users reveals that in spite of legislation to improve accessibility, designers are still providing a bare minimum without regard to functionality for wheelchair users. One aim of the study was to find out the problems wheelchair users encounter in the built environment. Unexpectedly, they also found that wheelchair users were critical of their wheelchair saying the design could be improved. The title of the article is, “An Inclusive Design Study of Wheelchair Users in the Built Environment” published in the Journal of Engineering and Architecture, Tom Page & Gisli Thorsteinsson.

Abstract: The aim of this study is to determine the problems wheelchair users face in the built environment and why these problems have not been resolved. The study considered the role of the designer in creating an inclusively designed built environment. The literature review finds that there are many designers that support inclusive design, but also some that do not. The government has enforced many directives and legislation, but this is often met by designers using the bare minimum required and does not solve the issues that wheelchair users face. The empirical research then moves on to finding answers to research questions that were not found during the literature review. Two online questionnaires were used in order to gain qualitative and quantitative results from 45 wheelchair users and 54 designers. The results are analysed through the use of charts, and then the results are discussed. The designers are found to be in support of designing for wheelchair users, but often feel that if they do the revenue potential of their design will be affected. The study concludes that wheelchair users’ problems are a combination of the poorly designed built environment and the wheelchair they use.