Friendly design

Landscapes Accessibility for All

Accessibility is an increasingly important consideration in the construction process today.

It’s not just about the handicap ramp leading up to a building’s main entrance. Accessibility also includes wider doors (some that even open automatically) to accommodate wheelchairs, open thoroughfares throughout a building, support bars in bathrooms and hallways, and even light switches and power outlets that anyone can easily reach.

But the need for accessibility isn’t confined to inside the walls of the home. Disabled people deserve to enjoy the outdoors just as much as their non-disabled counterparts, which is why it’s important to create an accessible landscape as well!

If you’re thinking, “Hey, I don’t know anybody in a wheelchair!” — well, then you’re clearly a wizard.

You never know when you’ll break a leg. Someone could get pregnant. (It happens!) You never know when you’ll have a parent — or even a child — in a wheelchair. There are also considerations to be made for visually impaired people and a wide range of other differing abilities.

Whether you’re making landscape adjustments to accommodate a loved one, or just taking precautions for the future, here are five ideas on how to make your outdoor living space more accessible to all.

Accessible Landscaping Tip: Maintain Level Ground
Proper grading is the foundation for every accessible landscape.

Flat, level ground is easier to traverse, and, well, if you’ve ever had to push a wheelchair up a hill…

Friendly designAccessible Landscaping Tip: Incorporate Smooth Surfaces
If you want all parts of your outdoor living space to be accessible, you’ll want to pave a way among each individual area.

And if you’re creating an accessible landscape for the blind or visually impaired, varying the types of pavers you use within different areas can be a great way to signify a change in the environment. (Maybe smooth brick pavers on the patio, natural stone pavers on paths and stamped cement on the pool deck?)

Accessible Landscaping Tips

Accessible Landscaping Tip: Give Yourself Wide Berth
There are no narrow pathways in an accessible landscape! Think of accessibility as your excuse to create majestically wide paved pathways and give everyone plenty of room to move among the tables, chairs and other items on your patio.

(Building an outdoor kitchen with a belly-up bar? Don’t forget to include a counter with a lower height — toasts aren’t as fun when you can’t include everyone.)

Accessible Landscaping Tip #4: Use Walls to Create Boundaries
Just as it’s important to provide handholds inside the home to provide extra support, retaining walls and other surfaces of various heights can be helpful in an accessible landscape.

Besides, walls can also double as seating areas and visually separate your outdoor areas to create outdoor “rooms” with different functions.

Accessible Landscaping Tip #5: Don’t Forget the Pool
Swimming pools can be great for rehabilitative exercise as well as fun and relaxation for everyone. If you’re building a new backyard swimming pool — or retrofitting an existing poolto be more accessible — consider adding a sloped beach entry instead of steps to make it easier for everyone to get into the pool.

And it’s even more important to have a sturdy, reliable cover to protect everyone.

Water Structures Designs

Make Your Home Stand Out With A Landscape Water Structure

There’s a lot of ways that you can make your home stand out. However, nothing does the trick quite like landscaping. You may think about a new paint job, and much more for the exterior, but the yard and land you have can look amazing if you just apply a little bit of landscaping to it. Hiring a pro can be a helpful plan, but overall, you should go beyond just the green and colors of flowers and grass. Think bigger, like that of adding a landscape water structure. That’s right, landscape water structures can make your home look amazing, and can give you a bit of peace and tranquility whenever you’re out in your yard, etc. Never thought about this before? Well consider a few notes on why you may want to look into this option and get a pro to handle the plumbing etc.

Water structure

Water structure

The Peace of Water Structures

The first thing to consider is the peace that comes with water structures. When you have running water and rock structures around your landscaping, you will be able to sit in your yard and just enjoy the sights and sounds. There’s something peaceful about this that goes beyond words, and you’ll find that when you hire someone to help you get this going, you’ll be able to enjoy your yard in a whole new way. It’s a perfect union of sight, sound, and technology, that’s for sure.

Adding Value To Your Home

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people pursue landscaping structures for their home is because it helps with increasing the value of their home. That’s right, you could very well end up with a home that jumps in value with just a simple installation. This is something that most people don’t really consider at first glance, but the more you look into it, the more you’ll find that this is a favorable option to consider. Whether you go simple or you want something elaborate, you’ll find something grand that comes with this for the value of your home today and in the future.

Piping and Plumbing Issues

Before you can start breaking ground for any structure, you’ll need to first consider the construction phase. This isn’t as fun as the final production, but you’ll need to consider this. You may not have pipes or plumbing in the area that you want your landscaping to get placed in. To ensure that you have the right elements, you’ll need to call in a professional. A professional can help with the installation of piping and connections to the water supply so that you are able to have free standing, free flowing water, clean sewer and even a pump etc. Learn more

Do not try to do this on your own. This is something that you are going to be tempted to do, especially with so many details that you can pull online about how to start with landscaping. While you can do some minor maintenance and more, you should not work with landscaping plumbing, piping, or anything extreme. Let the pros handle this project, and you’ll be able to get a stunning solution.

Setting A Budget

Before you start calling around to get a landscape structure, you should consider your budget. How much do you want to spend on a landscaping project? Also, assess the size of your yard, and what type of structure you want to put in place. You could go simple, or you could go extreme, depending on what you want overall. If you’re not sure where to start, consider putting aside a few thousand dollars just to get a few ideas going.

Once you have set a budget, you can start to gather inspiration online from different resources. Look up landscape structures and you’ll find that there are some amazing things that you can do for your home’s yard. Whether you want something very simple, or something complex, you could easily push through a variety of options. Not everything is going to be inexpensive, or possible, but you may get an idea as to what you can do with the space you have.

Don’t Rush Into Anything

As you look around for inspiration, ideas, and budgeting elements, make sure to take your time. Do not rush into getting anything installed, especially when it comes to plumbing and water structures. Once the ground is dug up and you have piping installed, you cannot really go back without disrupting your yard, and adding more costs to the bill. Take your time, find something you love, and get a pro to help you get it done right.

Special Issue of ‘Disability and Rehabilitation’

Special Issue of ‘Disability and Rehabilitation’

The research team have edited a special issue of the journal Disability and Rehabilitation, on the theme of ‘universal design’. The issue features eight papers written by leading international writers from a range of disciplines, including philosophy, social policy, architecture, and sociology. The papers outline some of the key challenges relating to the development of universal design, and discuss how far it may be possible to realise its radical intent in seeking to overturn deep rooted designer conventions that rarely respond to the needs of disabled people and impaired bodies. They draw attention to the tensions between, on the one hand, the propagation of a universal design discourse that is challenging of design approaches that fail to respond to corporeal diversity, and, on the other hand, the incorporation of much universal design practice into conventional, conservative, design methodologies. Such methodologies, and their underlying epistemological bases, appear to delimit the understanding of person-hood to bodies-without-impairment, or cultural norms that define the universal subject in ways whereby disabled people are regarded as aberrations. This observation leads contributors to the special issue to interrogate how far, and in what ways, practitioners may be able to develop universal design not only as a ‘‘design strategy’’, but as a political stratagem that has the potential to transform the dominant world view of universal ablebodiedness [12,13].

To view the papers, visit: http://informahealthcare.com/toc/dre/36/16

Mediating bodies: universal design methodology and post-phenomenology

Mediating bodies: universal design methodology and post-phenomenology

On June 16th, Rob Imrie and Kim Kullman attended the Universal Design Conference 2014 in Lund, Sweden and presented a methodological argument about the challenges that universal designers face as they engage with bodily difference and diversity. Adopting a post-phenomenological perspective, the paper indicates that Univer

Universal Designsal Design practices could benefit from a critical dialogue around the assumptions and ideas about embodiment and the world that design methods and tools advance as they are employed to make sense of everyday experience. Without such a dialogue, there is a risk that the widely different ways in which bodies, objects and spaces interact can remain unaccounted for and thereby limit what may be designed. We argue that post-phenomenology, through its detailed understanding of the socio-technical mediations of experience, can inspire universal designers to develop a range of critical and creative ways of using and sharing embodied knowledge.

 

Negotiating place: the challenge of inclusive design

“In my more miserable moments I think we’ll never get it right, and people just ignore it, and building control officers don’t implement it, and we still see buildings where somebody says it’s accessible, and it’s not accessible at all. We’re still designing public spaces with cobbles, brand new public spaces with cobbles and seats that have got no arms or backrests, and they don’t understand that an older person can’t get up off a concrete stone bench. Why do they keep designing stuff like that?” (access consultant x)

This article by Charlotte Bates investigates why “they keep designing stuff like that”. Focusing on inclusive design – a niche approach that strives towards more accessible, flexible and democratic designs – the article examines the underlying values, practices, and sticking points entangled in the challenge of designing and making more equitable products and places.

As the geographer Doreen Massey writes, “The challenge of the negotiation of place is shockingly unequal.” (2005, 169). Despite – and sometimes even because of – the introduction of now taken-for-granted design features intended to make access to urban environments more equitable, our town and city spaces continue to frustrate, fail and ultimately omit many of us, from parents and children to people who are elderly, infirm and impaired.

Our research investigates why “they keep designing stuff like that”. Focusing on inclusive design – a niche approach that strives towards more accessible, flexible and democratic designs – we examine the underlying values, practices, and sticking points entangled in the challenge of designing and making more equitable products and places. To date, we have interviewed a range of professionals in the UK, including company directors, access consultants, architects, engineers, and educationalists. These conversations provide insight into the methods and tools used by these professionals, highlight the difficulties and limitations that they face, and offer a glimpse at the possibility that progress is being made.

Values

Inclusive design has developed and evolved in response to increasing recognition that mainstream design approaches fail to take human diversity into account. Anthropometric data, regularly used in architectural and industrial design to incorporate information about human body proportion, posture and movement, constructs the human as a healthy adult of a particular size and ability. For example, French architect Le Corbusier, a pioneer of modern architecture, developed the ‘modulor’, a universal system of proportions based on the dimensions of a six foot male.

Such schemas have the admirable intention of placing the body at the centre of design, but, perfectly proportioned, it is a minority body. The result is design that is uncomfortable and out of reach for the vast majority of the population. By valuing human diversity and aiming to make places that work for everyone, inclusive design promises, as a landscape architect said to us, “to open up the challenge of designing for us as we really are, as complex beings rather than the Corbusian perfect man” (landscape architect x).

Practices

How inclusive design attempts to achieve its aim is a question that needs unravelling. One key issue that we have focused on to date is the translation of inclusive design values into methods and tools that embrace, rather than reduce, embodied human diversity. In practice, these tools and techniques range from employing expert access consultants, to using ‘personas’ (descriptions of potential ‘users’ based on market research) and simulating the physical experience of being elderly or impaired with specially designed goggles, gloves and even entire body suits. The ‘Third Age Suit’ developed by academics at Loughborough University’s Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute for the Ford Motor Company, for example, is intended to “literally let someone walk in the shoes of an older person and experience firsthand what life is like for someone with restricted mobility”.

Through ‘empathic engagement’, these tools offer the possibility of opening design practices to the lived experiences of ‘users’ and diversifying the body at the centre of design. But, as many of the people we spoke with recognised, they can also be used as ‘quick fixes’ that effectively reduce the complexity of human embodiment. As one designer told us, “the persona itself will probably be three or four slides on PowerPoint. The description about their disabilities is probably a sentence or two” (designer x).

Sticking points

In addition to the difficulties of incorporating a diverse understanding of lived embodiment into design practices, there are also a number of sticking points in the design process that threaten the promise of inclusive design. From the start, designers can find themselves having to convince clients that designing for ‘less sexy users’ is the right approach. Instead of taking the needs of the population into consideration, and despite the market potential of the ‘golden economy’, some clients reportedly prefer to direct their business at the ‘young and healthy’ market sector.

At the next stage, support for inclusive design can be overridden by contractors who ‘value engineer’ to deliver projects on time, on budget and on value, so that “even if you build inclusive design in at the design stage, you can’t guarantee that it will be kept all the way through procurement – if somebody can find a cheaper way of doing things often they will try to” (designer y).

The installation of design features can also be problematic, as one engineer explained, “the difficulty is executing it and knowing what to do… It’s generally done, but unfortunately it’s not done in the correct manner all the time.” (engineer x). Tactile paving is a prime example. When badly installed, it negates the information it is designed to provide and runs the risk of becoming a public hazard. Common installation issues include using the wrong colour paving, a lack of colour contrast with surrounding paving, incorrect use of warning patterns, and inconsistent use of paving types within schemes.

Finally, there are issues surrounding the maintenance and care of products and places. Once in the public realm products are often left to fend for themselves, as we were told, “nobody takes ownership of it, it’s out on the street 24/7, it’s out in all weather conditions, and it gets abused” (designer z).

Negotiating place

The process of inclusive design, from ideation to installation, reveals a literal ‘throwntogetherness’ of place – a term coined by Massey to signal the whirl of global diversity and difference in contemporary urban life. I use the term here to express the precarious and sometimes haphazard way in which places negotiate their way into life.  This throwntogetherness reveals the complex and sticky processes through which designs are shaped and ultimately puts the viability of inclusive design at risk.

Our research highlights the labour towards making more accessible and democratic places being undertaken by a passionate group of people who are wrestling with the lack of a joined-up or universal agenda. It has led us to some remarkable and award-winning products, buildings and public spaces. But it also reveals continuing professional and political ignorance of human diversity and the need to take responsibility for making better places.