Universal design should go beyond addressing accessibility to include what a person needs and makes them feel happy, according to architect Guy Luscombe, who specialises in ageing.
While meeting physical needs was a must, addressing emotional and psychological needs in design would allow people to feel more included and connected, he said.
Mr Luscombe, director of GLADStudio, will outline what designers can do to go beyond universal design at COTA NSW’s inaugural Universal Design Conference in Sydney next week.
“Universal design is seen in terms of making wider doorways and that sort of thing but it goes deeper than that,” Mr Luscombe told Australian Ageing Agenda.
A truer approach looks at making things more inclusive for people who have a disability, are older or different in some way, by removing the barriers that make them feel different, he said.
Mr Luscombe will present findings from a recent trip to Europe looking at innovative aged care and housing options for older people, which he undertook after winning the Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship.
Rather than specific aspects of design to include, Mr Luscombe said it is about looking at what people need. “A part of the need, which certainly came out in my tour, was that idea that people wanted to feel happy and they wanted to feel comfortable,” he said.
A lot of people talked about large windows as one of the things they liked best, he said. In addition to letting more light in, people said it was because it made them connected to the outside world. “They can see what is going on. They felt they knew they weren’t isolated and were part of a community too.”
It goes to the notions of feeling separated, isolated and not belonging, which are among issues that come up in aged care facilities where people feel they are alone, he said. “The window in a sense was addressing some of those issues. It wasn’t so much about the window but what the window was doing.”
Freedom of choice as a basic human right and variety are other themes from his trip Mr Luscombe said he would draw on.
“If [choice] is taken away we lose some of our humanity. It is something I hadn’t considered before but that starts to affect the ways we look at space,” he said. “We don’t live in bland environments. We decorate and we choose. We fashion the world to our own desires.”
While not necessarily about universal design in the traditional sense, Mr Luscombe said he wanted to show that these things were important in design. “Important because they speak of a broader humanity and a way of thinking about things in a much more intrinsic and meaningful way. That then starts to say we take you seriously and you are included, you are human and you are connected.”