Trends in Public Design for the Disabled: A Case Study on Public Design for Visually Impaired People

Trends in Public Design for the Disabled: A Case Study on Public Design for Visually Impaired People

Kin Wai Michael Siu (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-617-9.ch001
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The goal of an inclusive society with equal opportunity for all is increasingly recognised and promoted worldwide. However, disabled people still face many difficulties in their daily lives, as well as some degree of exclusion from the wider society. Over the past few years, public design has considered ways to benefit disabled people, with an increasing trend to consult with and take advice from disabled people themselves. Taking aircraft lavatories as a case study, this chapter explores ways to help visually impaired people have a better quality of life, with minimal assistance from other people. This chapter discusses how the public design process can use consultative, participatory and inclusive approaches to generate understanding, so that the outcome of applied research fits the needs and preferences of disabled people. This chapter is not just a report on a particular case study. It also hopes to arouse designers’‘ awareness of user-participation as an important trend in public design. Disabled people, users, should be invited to participate actively in the design process in order to bring real benefits to the disabled community, thereby contributing to an inclusive and harmonious society.
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Case Study: Aircraft Lavatories For Vip

To promote and develop public toilets that are more accessible, an applied research project on existing designs of public toilets and how VIP access them was conducted from 2004 to 2008. The project was funded by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Asian Scholarship Foundation, and assisted by the Hong Kong Toilet Association, the Hong Kong Blind Union and several other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide services to VIP.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Indirect Discrimination: Indirect discrimination occurs when a condition or requirement is applied to everyone, but in practice affects people with a disability more adversely, is to their detriment, and such condition or requirement cannot be justified.

Public Toilet: Toilets may also be called lavatories, washrooms or bathrooms in different functional, physical, social and cultural situations. A public toilet is a toilet built and/or managed by a government or public agency, or a privately managed toilet, which is available for public access.

Direct Discrimination: Direct discrimination occurs when, on the ground of disability, a person with a disability is treated less favourably than another person without a disability in similar circumstances.

Public Design: Public design is a discipline, an approach and area of design that aims to serve a wide scope of users, as distinct from a particular set of user(s). Public design aims to serve the different needs and preferences of the public. Most of the time, public design relates to public systems (e.g., telecommunication systems), environments (e.g., streets), facilities (e.g., rubbish bins), and graphical design images (public poster images).

Disability: A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A person may also qualify as disabled if he or she has had an impairment in the past or is seen as disabled based on a personal or group standard or norm. Such impairments may include physical, sensory, and cognitive impairments.

Visual Impairment: A visually impaired person is blind or has impaired vision. Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors. Blindness is frequently used to describe severe visual impairment with residual vision. Those described as having only “light perception” can see no more than the ability to tell light from dark. Low vision is defined as visual acuity of less than 6/18, but equal to or better than 3/60, or corresponding visual field loss to less than 20 degrees, in the better eye with best possible correction.

Inclusive design: Inclusive design is an approach to design that aims to be flexible enough to serve the broadest possible range of users. Inclusive design calls for adaptable interfaces to be built into the product (or other kinds of designs) early in the design phase, producing features easily used by everyone. It allows for customization based on user needs and preferences. It provides equivalent access to content based on user needs and preferences. It also provides access to users with disabilities and provides better usability for everyone.

Discrimination: Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, sex or perceived handicap. It is also sociological term that refers to treatment taken toward or against a person of a certain group that is based on class or category. The United Nations points out that discriminatory behaviours take many forms, but they all involve some form of exclusion or rejection.

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