Universal design should leave nobody out

SINGAPORE: Senior architectural designer Richard Kuppusamy cuts an unusual sight in busy construction sites when he navigates expertly past enormous cranes and trucks, manoeuvres around floors scattered with various tools, and even gets on temporary hoists – in his wheelchair.
Ramp at Miyajima
Born with spina bifida – a congenital spinal cord defect which leaves him paralysed from the waist down – Mr Kuppusamy has been in the construction industry for over 11 years and has never once been refused entry on site, even though he has drawn curious looks.

“There’s been (times) when the lift wasn’t ready yet, but it was never a matter of ‘we’re not providing access’ for you… And that willingness to do things has made it possible for me to work in this industry,” the 40-year-old told.

This willingness to provide access to him across the company’s front door as a wheelchair user, and the availability of a wheelchair accessible toilet, were the key questions he had for potential employers in 2012 when he considered returning home to be closer to his parents after spending 16 years in the UK training and working as an architect.

“Call me arrogant if you like… I knew my business and I knew I have skills to offer any employer… But I also knew my future is limited by my accessibility,” said Mr Kuppusamy, whose portfolio includes specialist emergency care hospitals, universities, retail and commercial developments, and even the BBC Scotland headquarters.

In the end, he joined architecture firm WOHA Architects, whose management spent S$109,070 retrofitting their shophouse office with ramps, stair lifts and renovated the toilets to make the workplace accessible for him, shared WOHA co-founder Wong Mun Summ.

Jokingly, Mr Kuppusamy said he has since become the “poster boy” for this concept of “universal design”, which is the cornerstone of his work and something he tries to incorporate into local projects that he has worked on, including new generation public housing projects like SkyVille@Dawson and Kampung Admiralty, the upcoming 11-storey integrated development in Woodlands.

These have lush sky terraces that double up as “outdoor living rooms” for the community to gather, flat pathways and handrails, as well as Braille and colour contrasts on signage.

Beyond building ramps, he said universal design is about designing with “people” as the priority, and making it intuitive so that everyone, be it young mothers with prams or the elderly, is able to enjoy the environment.

To that end, he trains himself in understanding other people’s disabilities and needs as well. Good design, he said, is the key to social inclusion as people with disabilities would have more chances to come and interact with society.

“Building owners don’t take the needs of disabled people seriously because they say there aren’t enough people with disabilities to matter. But people with disabilities aren’t getting out of their homes and into the shopping mall or cinema because it’s those building owners who aren’t doing enough to make their premises accessible. It’s all a vicious cycle that needs to be turned around,” he said.

In fact, part of the reason why the Singaporean, who became a wheelchair user in his early 20s, was hesitant to return home five years ago was because he felt here, he has to fight for even the most basic rights like equal access.

It is times when a van driver occupies his disability parking lot to unload his goods without apologising, a sales assistant speaking only to his girlfriend while they are out shopping, or the handicapped toilets in malls are occupied by able-bodied people who just wanted “a larger room” that Mr Kuppusamy feels disabled.

Having spent most of his life growing up in what he called “more enlightened” countries like New Zealand, the United States and Switzerland because of his father’s overseas posting, he was never given any special treatment in all the mainstream schools he attended, save for a few minutes extra to move between classes.

“I never got siloed into a special needs school. After all, I don’t have special needs. My physical disability doesn’t define who I am or what I am capable of doing,” he said, adding his decision to become an architect came about after a family friend’s suggestion and a desire to put his practical nature and love for problem-solving to good use.

Since coming back, while he noted that Singapore has made big strides in improving accessibility, he urged for more to be done to ensure a more proportionate number of accessible homes, parking, and toilets, and for solutions not to be tacked on just as an afterthought.

He said design here is still geared towards enabling caregivers to give assisted care instead of helping disabled people to lead independent lives. For example, putting enough knee-space under sinks in apartments would allow wheel-chair users to do their own dishes instead of relying on others.

But the biggest barrier to accessibility remains Singapore’s me-first attitudes and mentality, he said. People need to put aside their personal agendas to “work towards a more humane society”.

For now, the captain of the Singapore Wheelchair Rugby team and executive committee member of the Handicaps Welfare Association, is doing what he can to drive causes he is passionate about.

Counting himself as a “uniquely lucky case”, Mr Kuppusamy said that what keeps him going is the mantra of leading to serve. “I’ve made my own opportunities where I can, and I have a duty like everyone else to give a little something back. I realised very early on that if I want change, I need to be the one driving that change,” he said.

Source: Today

3rd International Universal Design Conference

The 3rd International Conference on Universal Design (UD2016), which will take place in the historic city of York, UK, August 21 – 24 2016.

UD2016 logoThe conference will address all aspects of universal design, design for all, and inclusive design, including universal design of the physical environment, of products and of the digital world.

The conference will bring together both researchers and practitioners and will include presentations on theoretical and practical issues, design cases, demonstrations and posters.

For more information, visit ud2016.uk or contact Helen.Petrie@york.ac.uk

Singapore Universal Design Week kicks off

SINGAPORE: Themed “Universal Design in Public Places” this year, Singapore Universal Design Week kicked off on Wednesday, with the launch of the country’s first Universal Design Guide for Public Places.

Organized by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the third Singapore Universal Design Week is filled with events on how excellent Universal Design strategies create an inclusive environment for everyone, including persons with disabilities and older people in Singapore.

BCA Chief Executive Officer John Keung said the objective is to make Universal Design a big part of life in Singapore, and everyone can live, work, learn and play in comfort, ease and in friendly surroundings.

“We recognize how public places are an important part of our living environment and simple but inclusive designs can make a huge difference in everyone’s lives. Hence, our universal design efforts will go beyond buildings and focus on public places.”

One of the highlights of Singapore Universal Design Week is the launch of Singapore’s first Universal Design Guide for Public Places, which was unveiled at the opening ceremony by Singapore’s National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

The newly issued Guide, which is one of the key initiatives of the Ministerial Committee on Ageing’s Action Plan for Successful Ageing, will guide architects, engineers, building owners and developers in providing more Universal Design features in public places.

Developed in collaboration with the BCA’s tripartite partners — public agencies, the industry and voluntary welfare organizations, the Guide covers a comprehensive approach to Universal Design in and around buildings, vehicular environments, sanitary facilities and even for different types of public buildings such as community clubs and supermarkets.

Singapore Universal Design Week will last until Saturday, which attracts building professionals, developers, industry firms, public agencies and voluntary welfare organizations to take part in various events and learning opportunities, such as Universal Design Conference, Universal Design Exhibition, Universal Design Forum and Universal Design Building Tour.

Source: china.org

Call for Abstracts: 3rd International Universal Design Conference

The 3rd International Conference on Universal Design (UD2016), which will take place in the historic city of York, UK, August 21 – 24 2016.

UD2016 logoThe conference will address all aspects of universal design, design for all, and inclusive design, including universal design of the physical environment, of products and of the digital world.

The conference will bring together both researchers and practitioners and will include presentations on theoretical and practical issues, design cases, demonstrations and posters.

Key Dates

Submission of abstracts: April 4 2016

Notification of acceptance: April 29 2016

Camera read copy for papers for the proceedings (optional): June 20 2016

For more information, visit ud2016.uk or contact Helen.Petrie@york.ac.uk

Grand Rapids YMCA first building to adopt universal design standards

Advances in science and medicine are making it easier for people of all ages and abilities to get around. But how do you design a new building to ensure that it serves the needs of all users? Inclusive design can make that happen.

UB’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center), in collaboration with the Global Universal Design Commission, has developed the first set of universal design certification standards for commercial buildings, looking to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines as a model.

The first facility to adopt these standards and become certified — the Mary Free Bed YMCA in Grand Rapids, Michigan — opened its doors to the public Dec. 7.

The IDeA Center, which is housed in the School of Architecture and Planning, started developing the universal design guidelines in 2009.

“This is a major milestone for the IDeA Center and our partners in the Global Universal Design Commission, who have been working on this effort for more than five years,” says Danise Levine, architect and IDeA Center assistant director. “A lot of resources were devoted to developing the universal design standards, finding an adopter and evaluating the first building.”

The IDeA Center’s universal design standards are comprehensive, offering guidelines for the design process (who should be involved and how), site elements (parking, signage and pedestrian routes), building elements (doors, restrooms, circulation systems) and services and facility-management policies.

“These standards were created to provide designers and other stakeholders with a resource that can guide them to go beyond basic accessibility and be more inclusive,” Levine says.

How exactly does universal design help? Here are a few examples:

Exterior circulation: The site is organized to minimize travel between parking and the building entrance without crossing into vehicular paths while exterior pedestrian routes provide continuous travel throughout the site without changes in level.
Building elements: Doorways, hallways and other spaces accommodate a wide range of body sizes and abilities.

Wayfinding: The Mary Free Bed YMCA uses color schemes, combined with different shapes and hue patterns that are easily identified by people with all types of color vision and under a variety of lighting conditions. The wayfinding system was designed to be consistently recognizable by people of all ages and cultural groups.

Levine reviewed the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids’ final drawings for the 116,000-square-foot Mary Free Bed facility and offered recommendations on changes that would improve its overall usability, including signage and wayfinding, communication elements and digital technologies — as well as exterior spaces.

“A core value of our YMCA is inclusion,” says Ronald K. Nelson, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. “Universal design opened our eyes to another dimension of inclusion, of which we are now very proud. It was a huge asset to have an organization such as the IDeA Center that could evaluate our planning and progress, particularly since our project was well underway prior to our being aware of each other’s organization.”

Collaboration between the numerous stakeholders was key to making the Mary Free Bed project successful and, in turn, helping the Y fulfill its mission to create an inclusive facility, Levine says.

“It is extremely gratifying and exciting to see all of these efforts come to fruition. The Y, as an early adopter of the standards, should be commended for being a leader in the inclusive design movement, designing and developing an inclusive site for all of their employees and visitors,” she says. “Visitors to the Y should, in turn, recognize and appreciate the Y’s commitment to providing a state-of-the-art facility for the entire community.

“The universal design standards will provide designers and other stakeholders with strategies that they can include in their own projects that create more usable environments. Until now, no such resource existed,” Levine notes. “Our hope is that more sites will come to incorporate the standards, not only creating more exemplars of universal design, but also providing more inclusive environments that benefit all people.”

The IDeA Center recently began working with a Fortune 500 company to begin the process of implementing the standards for a major renovation project. A universal design certification website also is under development and will be launched by summer 2016.

The universal design standards were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.

JOIN the GAATES Universal Design and Accessibility Consultant Database

The Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES), the leading international organization dedicated to the promotion of accessibility and Universal Design, is expanding our database of professional consultants who are actively working in the field of Universal Design and Accessibility of the built environment, information technologies (IT/ICT), education, transportation, inclusive disaster risk reduction and tourism.

While the listings in this consultant database are not open to the general public, it will provide you with the opportunity to be considered for consultancy opportunities on GAATES projects, as well as for projects being undertaken by other international organizations with which we have on-going agreements. It is free to register, please register for the Consultant Database on the GAATES website (http://gaates.org/join/consultant-database/)

GAATES will not sell or distribute your private information for purposes other than for which your have provided it.  Contact: info@gaates.org for more information.

Universal Design Center to make clothing for persons with disabilities

TURKEY: Istanbul Technical University’s (ITU) Universal Textile Design Center was recently inaugurated with a ceremony overseen by Emine Erdoğan, the First Lady of Turkey, and ITU Chancellor Mehmet Karaca. Speaking at the ceremony, Erdoğan stressed her support for the textile design center for persons with disabilities.

“This is the first time in Turkey that a center such as this has opened. God willing, the center will produce fabrics and design clothes to make life easier for persons with disabilities,” she said. Stating that the initiative of the ITU is a result of the history of the university and its 200 years of technical accumulation, Erdogan said the foundation of this center is an important step for universal textile design, which is a new trend in textile manufacturing. “Actually, ‘universal design’ means ‘design for everyone.’
According to this view people who are affected by obstacles are not only limited to those who are disabled. Everyone experiences limitations during their infancy and childhood. Many people might experience limitations due to pregnancy, old age or traffic accidents; hence, this center addresses a large part of the society,” Erdogan said. She stressed that the projects the center will undertake to make life easier for persons with disabilities are encouraging, and ITU’s initiative will enable persons with disabilities to wear comfortable and aesthetically pleasing clothes. Erdogan also wished that this center will set an example for other organizations, and said the concept of universal design should become widespread in every segment of the society.

The 180-square-meter ITU Universal Textile Design Center contains state-of-the-art technology, and was established to produce samples for various branches of the textile industry from fabrics to clothing. The center features knit fabric, textile finishing and chemical testing laboratories along with a textile design and ready-wear workshop. The center will manufacture and design comfortable and aesthetically pleasing clothing that can be easily used and washed by persons with disabilities. The center will also produce smart textile products intended for persons with disabilities, and it will also create the necessary research environment, as the center is equipped with the latest technology. Moreover, the center will be able to measure people’s sizes with 3-D body scanning technology. Testing for comfort and quality of the fabrics and clothes will also be conducted at the center.

Source: Dailysabah

Advocates call for Universal Design to be included in new constitution

BANGKOK, THAILAND: An advocate group for the interests of persons with disabilities has petitioned the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) to push for the new constitution’s guarantee of universal design.

A man in a wheelchair rolls through a wide fare gateCDC Chairman Prof Borwonsak Uwanna yesterday received the petition from the network of volunteers for persons with disabilities and older people as well as university design ambassadors. The group called for the inclusion of the word “Universal Design” in section 295 of the new constitution in order to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, arguing that the inclusion would coincide with the new constitution’s agenda of reducing social inequality by providing persons with disabilities with equal access to facilities and resources.

Prof Borwonsak welcomed the petition, saying that words such as “Universal Design” and “citizen empowerment” serve as a paradigm shift towards a humanist constitution that emphasizes the importance of individual rights and equality.

Universal design refers to the international standards of designing information, products, facilities and services in a way that is accessible for all participants, including persons with disabilities and older people.

Source: National News Bureau of Thailand

Conference on Universal Design in India

COIMBATORE: DJ Academy of Design (DJAD) in association with the British Council is hosting a two-day conference on “Universal Design and Development” at The Residency on March 13 and 14.

“Inclusive” design, which is both sensitive and critical, is the theme of the Conference, said Sanjay Jayavarthanavelu, Trustee, GKD Charity Trust and Chairman, Governing Council, DJAD, briefing press persons.

Emphasizing the importance of providing a design solution – be it product or service – for all (without discrimination between those with normal abilities and disabilities) to create an inclusive society, he said, “Design in India faces three crucial challenges today. First, it (design) is quite young. The realization, power and potential of design has just started to dawn on people; second, between battling on multiple fronts, the country has to cope with the pressures of development in terms of providing basic necessities and third, Universal design is still a far cry here, considering the steady increase in the number of people with different abilities due to modern life pressures.”

Stating that most public places, be it heritage sites, schools, malls, parks, roads, public transport system, theaters or even hospitals are not accessible to people with disabilities and older people, he said, “This side of human development has escaped the attention of designers, planners, architects and the government in a country where an estimated 125 million elderly (2014 census) and 63 million people with vision disabilities (not taking other disabilities into account), mourn silently.”

Besides sensitizing designers and architects about inclusive design, the Academy is hoping to bring social integration through design.

Source: Hindu

Singapore Universal Design Week

SINGAPORE: As part of our outreach program to raise awareness of Universal Design, the BCA organized the inaugural Singapore Universal Design Week to highlight the growing importance of barrier-free accessibility and Universal Design for buildings and public spaces in Singapore. The Singapore Universal Design Week promotes the importance of Universal Design in creating inclusive living environment to enable people – regardless of age or physical ability – to live, work and play without barriers.

From 5 to 9 November, the Week is a five-day event with a Conference, Exhibitions, Workshop and other activities held at the Singapore’s Marina Bay area. The Conference and Products Showcase, titled ‘Universal Design in Architecture and Urban Spaces’, is the anchor event of the Week and features notable speakers including renowned architect Mr. Daniel Libeskind.

At the Week, the BCA, Handicaps Welfare Association (“HWA”) and the Singapore Institute of Architects (“SIA”) will also be signing a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) – the first tripartite co-operation in the area of Universal Design social enterprise to push for greater employability for persons with disabilities.

Under the MOU, SIA will promote the modelling and drafting services of the HWA 3D Building Information Modelling (“BIM”) Studio to their members and encourage them to engage the Studio for drafting and modelling works. BIM is recognised worldwide as an enabling technology to integrate the construction value chain and improve productivity in the industry. The BCA will provide training and give the latest updates on BIM technology to the HWA to help keep the BIM training up-to-date with the latest development in the field.

Dr. Keung added: “The MOU is a key milestone in the BCA’s strategy to tap on tripartite partnerships – people, private and public – for Universal Design in Singapore. Through this Universal Design social enterprise, persons with disabilities can build new capability and gain meaningful employment by joining the HWA-SIA-BCA joint training programme on BIM, which is a powerful and productive tool that is transforming Singapore’s built environment sector. The SIA members can tap on BIM capability of graduates of the joint BIM training programme to help meet the need for BIM personnel in the industry. For the BCA, this is another avenue to accelerate the industry’s adoption of Universal Design and BIM that will contribute to a future-ready and inclusive built environment for Singapore.”