Accessible design
Accessible design benefits everyone. Image – Canva.
  • Many people will require accessible facilities as they age, not just disabled individuals
  • Accessible infrastructure can break cycles of exclusion
  • Designing for everyone can be tough, speaker recommended having a plan B

At a recent Property Council WA diversity event, Senator Jordan Steele-John stressed the importance of accessible and inclusive design.

“A rapidly aging population means more people will need accessible and inclusive dwellings regardless of whether they were born with a disability or acquired one over time.”

Senator Jordan Steele-John

Senator Steele-John
WA Greens Senator Steele-John speaking at the PCA event. Photo supplied.

Sometimes, so-called ‘compliant’ buildings and facilities simply were not at all that accessible, said wheelchair-bound speakers Mr Steele-John and Associate Professor Justin Brown.

 

Models of thought

The Senator spoke about two models of thinking: the medical model, and the social model of disability.

The medical model, the Senator said, effectively saw disabled people as an outlier. Being inclusive, however, requires a different perspective.

Executive Director for Property Council WA, Sandra Brewer, told The Property Tribune:

“Inclusive design spans more than a single building or a space. Instead, it is a way of thinking about our built environment and the diverse groups of people that call our buildings home.”

Sandra Brewer, Executive Director, Property Council WA

The numbers are stark too, she said, “One in five Australians live with a disability, making disabled people Australia’s largest minority group.”

“It is important for the property industry that it continues to evolve and develop projects that consider disability at the design stage, consulting with experts and individuals with lived experience, to ensure members of our community are not excluded from participating simply because the built environment didn’t consider them,” she said.

Cycling through challenges

General Manager for Inclusion Solutions, Denver D’Cruz, said “exclusive design hurts many people, inclusive design promotes socialising in many ways.”

The cycle of exclusion means that disabled people can often be forgotten.

From not being able to participate leading to being forgotten and subsequently not considered in future designs, a cycle then perpetuates.

Senator Steele-John said the impetus of poor design left disabled individuals unable to visit friends’ or partners’ homes, making housing decisions either impossible or an expensive exercise, among other issues.

“If there’s an emergency I can’t get out, I can’t participate, I can’t get a job, I can’t get friends, it’s a cycle.

Senator Jordan Steele-John

Sympathy without empathy

Associate Professor Justin Brown spoke about his experiences as a wheelchair-bound individual and how he had to consider the accessibility of a venue before going out with friends.

“If I’m going to a gig with friends, I ask is there a step? Can I get my wheelchair in? Is there a usable toilet?”

Associate Professor Justin Brown, Edith Cown University

With the spectrum of needs so wide, Amber Crosthwaite from Lavan asked, “How do we include everyone and who is everyone?”

Associate Professsor Brown said it is a tough ask and there are various models out there.

“If you have to do it by statistics then so be it, do your best, and if someone says it’s no good, do your best to adapt or have a plan B.”

“It’s unrealistic to cover every single scenario, but you can try”.

More on the financial and economic benefits in part 2.

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Disclosure: The Property Tribune was a guest of the Property Council of WA.

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