Calling A Spade A Shovel Bringolf
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Calling a Spade a Shovel: Universal, accessible, adaptable, disabled - aren't they all the same? Presentation to the Housing Researchers' Conference, Sydney, 2009. Bringolf, J. ...

Calling a Spade a Shovel: Universal, accessible, adaptable, disabled - aren't they all the same? Presentation to the Housing Researchers' Conference, Sydney, 2009. Bringolf, J.
Deals with the issues of terminology in public policy and academic endeavours.

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  • Good afternoon As the title of my presentation indicates, I am going to be talking about language and terminology and the impact it has on housing. The answer to the question posed – aren’t they all the same – is no, they are not, but they could be.
  • My written paper deals in greater detail as to how I come to some of my conclusions and propositions. Today I have 15 minutes so I have picked out one part of the paper and tried to keep to a simple and practical theme. I will talk a bit about terminology and then give two examples to show why I think our current terminology is a problem and then offer a way forward for a possible solution.
  • In terms of language, I propose that we have too many terms and not enough understanding of those terms. That causes us to use them interchangeably and assume we all mean the same things by them.
  • Here are just some of the terms I am talking about - and the picture is supposed to represent that they are all jumbled up. If I had to summarise this list of terms, I would say these terms are about homes that are not the standard, normal type of home that we usually think about when we think about housing people.
  • Part of the reason for the jumble is the history they bring with them, and the legislative terms, of course, are going to be stuck there. Some have grown from policy concerns about an ageing population and how to have people age in place. Other terms come from taking a person centred point of view and this brings in concepts of universal usability, and inclusive design.
  • My first example is a recent call for tenders by the New South Wales State Government which was driven by the federal government jobs stimulus package. With tight deadlines set by the federal government the tender document was likely to have been put together in a rush. Nevertheless, the industry briefings emphasised the need for more universally designed housing, but not what it was, but lots of other terms emerged in the tender document and universal design seems to have got lost.
  • I’m going to give you some detail about the tender document so that you can see what I mean when I say terminology is jumbled. At the beginning of the tender document is the statement of requirements. As you can see there are six terms here. Further along in the document is Schedule 3 which the tenderer fills in to say how many of each type of house they are planning to build. As you can see there are five terms and we can assume, but shouldn’t, that pensioner housing has become seniors living. The assumption is that pensioners are aged pensioners. At this point universal design principles goes missing. Towards the end of the document is Schedule 8 and this is the one that spells out exactly where tv antennae will be placed, heights of switches and power points, type of carpet, types of taps, as well as construction details. Because there are so many types, each one has to be dealt with separately. This is the point at which it becomes inefficient. For example, why have power points and light switches at one height for some dwellings and not for others – why not have them all the same? People who have no difficulty bending and stretching can still reach power points placed for people who cannot bend over or are seated in a wheelchair. But I will not bog down in any more detail.
  • This second example is taken from academia. I am using a recently published positioning paper largely consisting a literature review. The direction of the research was driven by government funding and the emphasis was on ways of solving the issue of housing an ageing population. The aim of one portion of the funding was to determine the cost-benefits of adaptable housing and the consumer interest in adaptable housing. I have more to say on this point in my written paper, but I will confine myself to the terminology presented in this document, which is…
  • As you can see, not quite so many terms as Housing NSW, but still probably a few too many to deal with. My concern deepened when I found the authors had taken the trouble to provide different definitions depending on whether or not the term was a proper noun with a capital letter or not. For example, Adaptable with an upper case A was defined as being aligned with the Australian Adaptable Housing Standard, and the lower case a was defined as being similar to flexible housing. At this point I thought, we have to sort this out once and for all. We cannot let the terminology grow like topsy and still expect to be making sense. The key question then is….
  • Do we need so many types of housing exclusively for other people. By other people I mean people who, in the eyes of society, are seen as needing special housing for their special conditions. The answer is, not if we start acknowledging that ageing, illness and disability are part of being human, and we should …
  • Expect it, and plan for it in every home from this point forward. If we keep generating housing this way we completely ignore that being human means that it is only a matter of time before age, impairment, illness and disability visits us. Wouldn’t it be better to be prepared? Now? Again, I have more to say on this in my paper, but back to the issue of terminology.
  • So to try and start rounding off this presentation, I am arguing that calling a spade a shovel, that is, using terms loosely, inconsistently and interchangeably means we don’t always understand each other even if we think we do. So, those trying to negotiate their way through the terms and what they mean are spending more time on this than they need to. That has to be inefficient, and probably why I hear that “doing disabled and aged housing is a nightmare and costs a lot more”. And while we are talking about costs, those who are researching the differences in cost between the different types of housing have completely missed the point. They should be measuring the cost differences between existing housing designs and NOT having homes designed for the whole of the lifespan which includes age, illness and disability. Therefore we are holding ourselves back from looking at the right things. We may be doing the research right, but are we researching the right things? But there is light at the end of the tunnel and I have a suggestion to make
  • Let’s go back to the drawing board. As far as I can see, many of the ‘special’ types of homes have similardesign principles and the same objectives. It is time to come together and discuss the terms and begin agreement on some common principles with universal application. And I mean universal – that means as universal as doors and windows are now. This means we can rationalise the language and at the very least, reduce the terms. This has to be more efficient. If we start with a focus on usability for everyone rather than usability for a particular ‘other’ group we might actually start to see some benefits. At this point it is important that I bring up the Landcom Guidelines because I think that a lot of this work has already been done.
  • Landcom, the NSW Government property corporation has spent a good deal of effort researching the differences between the various types of “special” housing and come up with 12 key design features which for simplicity I have reduced down to this list here. Essentially, what they have done is a distillation process of all the design types. The key features show the key structural and spatial issues which if included, will solve almost all the issues of accessibility, adaptability, visitability, universal design, and any other term you want to use. And really importantly, they found that if you overlaid these principles on existing project home floor plans the extra cost would be 1-2% of construction costs. More importantly, if you started with a clean sheet of paper and designed them in from the outset, the cost would be little, if any at all. That puts the cost argument to bed, I think. As I said before, I am putting the case that it is time to come together to sort this out once and for all because….
  • Once we get clarity here we can stop focusing of types of special housing to solve the issues of ‘problem’ people We can start focusing on the benefits of having universally designed features We can start looking at how it can be implemented rather than why it can’t And then we can start researching ways to make it work better Cost arguments will no longer stand in the way, (like a flight of steps stands in the way to a wheelchair user). And everyone can capitalise on more functional environments. I will leave you with a couple of thoughts….
  • We expect to get older but don’t plan to get old. What a paradox. Accidents and illnesses happen – it’s just a matter of when not a matter of if. And when people are older or disabled by illness or accident, the last thing they want to do is move home. So, if we accept the inevitability of these two things it will change our assumptions about how homes will be designed. Thank you.
  • This really is a ‘disabled’ toilet

Calling A Spade A Shovel Bringolf Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Calling a Spade a Shovel: Universal, accessible, adaptable, disabled – aren’t they all the same? Jane Bringolf PhD Candidate Urban Research Centre University of Western Sydney Housing Researchers’ Conference, Sydney August 2009
  • 2. Introduction
    • Terminology
    • Two examples showing
      • Problems for practical application
      • Problems for policy development
    • A possible solution
    Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel
  • 3. Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel My Proposition: We have too many words and not enough understanding
  • 4. Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel Accessible Adaptable Universal Visitable Usable Disabled Flexible
  • 5. Where the words come from
    • Some terms come from human rights legislation and are stuck there:
      • Accessible and visitable
    • Some come from policy shifts:
      • Adaptable, ageing in place, flexhousing
    • Some come from a person-centred view:
      • Usable, person-environment fit, universal
    Housing Researchers’ Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf
  • 6. Example 1: Housing NSW
    • Jobs Stimulus Package – call for tender
    • Industry briefings emphasised the need for more universally designed housing
    • Inconsistent use of terms in tender document
    • Principles of universal design got lost in the detail and the terminology
    Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel
  • 7. Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel Visitable Universal Design Principles Disabled (Fully Accessible) Adaptable Housing Pensioner Housing General Housing Statement of Requirements : Seniors Living Disabled Units General Living Adaptable Dwellings Visitable Units Adaptable Units Schedule 3: Schedule 8 : Seniors Living SEPP Aged and disabled dwellings Disabled Dwellings Visitable Dwellings Family Housing Housing for older people General Living Dwellings for the disabled
  • 8. Example 2: research project
    • Positioning Paper largely consisting literature review with full report to come
    • Government funded, emphasis on ageing and housing policy
    • Aim of one portion of funding: determine cost-benefits of adaptable housing and consumer interest in adaptable housing
    Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel Dwelling, land and neighbourhood use by older home owners, Quinn et al, 2009
  • 9. Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel Accessible Accessible Design, Accessible Housing Adaptable Adaptable Design, Adaptable Housing, Visitable adaptable adaptable housing Flexible Housing accommodate household changes Universal Universal Design, Universal Housing Design Visitable Visitable Design, Visitable Housing Seniors housing People aged 55 + Lifetime Homes Terms Used
  • 10. Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel Do we need so many ‘types’ of housing exclusively for ‘other’ people? Not if we start acknowledging that ageing, illness and disability are a part of being human, and…
  • 11. Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel Expect it, and plan for it in every home from this point forward.
  • 12. Near enough is not good enough
    • We use lots of different terms thinking we are all talking about the same thing, but sometimes we’re not.
    • This means we get mixed up messages – “Oh, I thought you meant…”
    • Lack of clarity in language and terminology causes confusion and inefficiency
    • Harder to make progress – policy, practice
    Housing Researchers’ Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf
  • 13. Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel Let’s go back to the drawing board
    • Many of the design principles have the same objectives
    • Agree on common principles with universal application
    • Rationalise the language/terms
    • Focus on usability for people
    • Use Landcom Guidelines as a start?
  • 14. Structural features for every home
    • Level access throughout
    • Car parking space
    • Wider doors
    • Wider corridors
    • Main facilities on entry level
    • Low window sills
    • Circulation space in all rooms
    Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel Universal Housing Design Guidelines, Landcom, 2008
  • 15. Once we get clarity…
    • We will stop focusing on WHO it’s for
    • Start focusing on WHAT it can do and
    • HOW it can be implemented
    • Then we can start researching ways to make it work better
    • Cost arguments will disappear
    • Everyone can capitalise on more functional environments and products!
  • 16. We expect to get older but don’t plan to get old. Acceptance of the inevitable changes the underpinning assumptions of design. Accidents and illnesses happen –it’s just a matter of when.
  • 17. Contact Details
    • Jane Bringolf
    • Urban Research Centre
    • University of Western Sydney (Parramatta)
    • [email_address]
    • Mob 0417 231 349
  • 18. Some comments from research “ A lot of people I deal with feel that considering accessibility of a building is onerous and don’t see why they should have to. In designing new buildings it doesn’t have to cost any more or take any more time to design an accessible building.” A town planner with a local council “ Universal design is virtually unknown in the industry. It is not something that enters our practice… it just hasn’t come into any of the proposals we deal with.” A consultant urban planner
  • 19. Some comments: “… just the thought that you can’t even go back home, it’s a huge blow … it’s not recognised.” “ going home…it’s the one part of your life you want to get back to normal, and just can’t do it.” “ A room was added by my dad, but it was just a copy of a hospital room, it was really horrible.” “… and my dad said, oh, it’s only one little step. I said, dad, I’m in a wheelchair! I couldn’t believe it – my own dad!” Wheelchair users with a spouses and children talking about the rehabilitation process and the role of home and family.
  • 20. Spot the deliberate mistakes! How easy it is to use the grab bar, the toilet paper or the soap? The bar is also too far from the toilet. A toilet can meet Australian Standards, but be dysfunctional!
  • 21. Housing Researchers' Conference 2009 Jane Bringolf: Calling a Spade a Shovel