Designing for autism

Floor Plan, Blueprint, House, Home. Designing for autism.Well designed buildings support people with physical impairment, but what about people with sensory issues or cognitive conditions? Shelly Dival argues that we can do more in the built environment to support people on the autism spectrum in educational, work, and home environments.

As a Churchill Fellow, Shelly travelled around the globe in 2018 to gather international knowledge and raise awareness in Australia of how people with autism can benefit from more positive interactions with the built environment. Her report outlines building features requiring further research, including design theories, methods and outcomes. Her findings are also featured in an architecture magazine.

One of her insights was the crossover between autism and other neurological conditions including dementia. Designing for neurodiversity rather than specific conditions may be an effective future-proofing strategy that supports everyone. That’s similar to the approach adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in their Guidelines on cognitive accessibility, based on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.  

To market, to market with SDA housing

Five level apartment block with shops at street level. Specialist Disability Accommodation housing (SDA) is seen as a niche housing product that governments should pay for. But a new study shows the demand is so great private developers need to get on board. With $700m a year earmarked for SDA it means a move from grants-based funding to a market-based system. However, there are many others who need basic accessible housing who do not quality for SDA, and this is still a gap in the market. But will the market think that the issues have been solved with SDA and do nothing about mainstream housing?  This article was found in The Conversation. SDA is a must if Australia is going to meet its commitments under the National Disability Strategy

Designing homes for inclusion and independence

Front cover of the guidelines showing three people standing and one in a wheelchair looking out over a beach sceneThe aim of the NDIS is to create independence and inclusion. And that includes providing suitable homes in mainstream settings. So no more segregated group homes, but more homes in regular neighbourhoods. Federal funding for NDIS recipients has increased demand for specialists in the accessible housing field. To assist designers and builders produce specialist housing, Summer Housing has produced design guidelines, Designing for Inclusion and Independence – An Explanatory Guide to support the Briefing and Design of Accessible Housing. They are keen to build sector capacity and share knowledge and resources.

This guide serves as a practical tool to develop the brief, design and specifications of high quality accessible housing. Key considerations are social inclusion, usability, homelike environments, amenity and cost-efficiency. The guide includes checklists as well as practice tips and includes current design benchmarks such as the Livable Housing Australia Guidelines, and Specialist Disability Accommodation Design Category requirements. The guide has six parts:

      • Introduction
      • Part A: Spatial Planning – Typology
      • Part B: Spatial Planning – Accessible Dwelling Elements
      • Part C: Construction and Detailing – Building Elements
      • Part D: Construction and Detailing – System Elements
      • Appendices

Summer Foundation also published a report, New Housing Options in November 2015. The learning from their early projects informed the new guidelines.

SDA Consulting has a free checklist for Specialist Disability Accommodation.