Universal design should be the first subject taught in architecture and construction education. It is a concept that includes everyone regardless of age, capability and background. It considers buildings, open spaces and products.
The inclusion of the DDA Premises Standards into the BCA in May 2011 was a big step forward for universal design. This raised the bar of minimum accessibility in design and construction of buildings.
What is the next step forward? Whilst articles and blogs preaching universal design is a small part of the equation, the evolution of universal design will take place by those champions whom are large and powerful.
Shopping Centre Titans such as Stockland, Westfield and Vicinity are providing ‘Changing Places’ facilities for adults with profound disability. Stockland have quiet rooms for parents with autistic children and also provide all ability playgrounds.
Lend Lease make sure that their commercial buildings have powered entry doors and accessible fire refuges.
All of these aforementioned provisions are not required under the BCA. They are beyond compliance and a result of good corporate citizenship. Above all these provisions increase the quality of service for users of the building.
From a big picture perspective, what has been described is incremental change. Large property companies and architectural studios need to pick up the baton and drive these changes forward. The success of universal design should be a result not only of creative design aesthetic but the recognition of appropriate functionality that helps people inhabit buildings and spaces in order to use them more effectively by promoting connection, well-being and inclusion.
Director, Morris Goding Access Consulting