LESSON 8: DESIGN CRIMES ON TRIAL:
|WORD BANK: Pedestrian bridge, “reasonable accommodation,” platform lift, structural glass stairs and ramps, equity/equal treatment, “design for civil rights,” the power of public pressure, electronic faucet/flush controls, “tall” toilets, water-conserving vs. self-cleaning models, grab bars/poles, toilet design vs. cultural change, bidet, “all-in-one’ bath fixture,….|
|A woman is confronted by two steps to the witness box. But at the push of a button on this witness stand accessor, the stairs retract into the floor to become an accessible platform lift. Credit: VerticalMobility|
Darnell (2002) defines 'bad designs' as everyday things that cause people to become confused, make mistakes, or have other difficulties using them. He says that things designed for common use should NOT require you to be highly intelligent or use LOTS of mental energy or EXTRA time in learning, problem-solving, or reading instructions. Right ON!!
Darnell divides BAD DESIGN examples into four categories: 1) Things, 2) displays, 3)controls, and 4) signs, names, and labels. He subdivides the groups by the various faults they demonstrate, including: Things that don't work the way you expect; that are too similar; hard to see; don't work well together; get in your way; hard to handle; hard to remember; or don't fit.
His other “wrongs” are: Unexpected placement; too close together or too far away; inconsistent; hard to figure out; and conflicting cues or feedback. In short, designers who want their products to be used WIDELY must NOT create obstacles (like those above) that really DEcrease the number of potential USERS or CONSUMERS.
Let’s take a Virtual Field Trip to Darnell’s BAD DESIGN website. He has a HUMONGOUS selection of BAD examples, organized by the categories and subdivided by the faults we noted above. We’re feeling generous, so we’ll just ask that once in his site, you find one BAD example from each of the four groups that is APPROPRIATE FOR CLASS DISCUSSION (Get our DRIFT? Some of his choices seem UNmentionable…) For each, jot down his description (in shorthand—QUICK!).
You don’t have to agree with Darnell’s reasons, but they’re a good place to start a lively “legal discourse” as partners or small groups share their “PRIZES.” Once you’ve discussed them, test each of your four against all seven Universal Design Principles. (We assume most will FLUNK…how could a BAD design possibly be universal? But we’ve been wrong before.)
Finally, check out Darnell’s last two “Common Questions and Answers,” especially the second one.
|Quotable Quote: Most things have good, workable designs. We don't notice them because they are relatively easy to use. But BAD designs call attention to themselves by causing UN-needed difficulty and confusion. Thus, it seems MORE important to give examples of BAD (than good) designs and identify the characteristics that make them bad (Darnell, 2000).|
In question was a new pedestrian bridge, the fourth on the Grand Canal after the Rialto, Accademia, and Scalzi Bridges. The new bridge would link the City's only train station on one side, to the main bus terminal and a multi-story parking garage on the other side of the canal. But as designed, the bridge would be INaccessible to people with limited mobility.
Award-winning architect, Santiago Calatrava (famous for his beautiful tensile structures --mostly bridges) designed the new bridge. Its walking surface was to be structural glass with steps at each end (and no ramps). Although the design violated Italian accessibility laws, the City of Venice approved it. Thus, the bridge would EXCLUDE anyone who is UNable to move up and down its 100+ steps.
To bypass the code requirements, the City initially proposed free rides for “the stair-challenged” on the canal’s public water ferries. After the local disability community rejected that plan, the City decided to add two platform lifts to run on demand on either side, along the arc of the bridge.
The platform lift idea also went down to defeat based on practicality, reliability, aesthetics, equity, and the code. People with mobility limits did NOT consider 30 minutes to cross the bridge on an UNreliable, noisy, body-shaking device to be equal treatment. They saw it as violating their civil rights!
Later, 20 Italian architects, engineers, and designers signed a letter asking the City to stop the bridge construction and reconsider its design. The letter received wide publicity, and the City noted the request but did NOT halt construction. At that point, the design professionals appealed to U. S. and other international designers for help (i.e., went PUBLIC to a whole world of tourists who might VISIT the Great City of Canals after they retire--with their walkers and adult scooters).
|Quotable Quote: Linking Civil Rights and social justice goals with design codes and standards confuses the dickens out of many design professionals (Un-named disability advocate, n.d.).|
Pauls raised several key issues: First, problems were very likely with the NON-uniform steps (not all the same height). Second, the risky transition from the stairs to the level/flat circulation path (in city crowds, people can't see the edges of steps, EVEN if well marked).
Third, the low risers (stair heights) and long treads (walking surfaces) were likely to end in STEEP slopes at BOTH ends of the bridge. Finally, could structural glass stair treads be made slip-resistant enough for safe OUTDOOR use (a special problem with ANY long tread)?
One end of the ramp connects a city street with the campus quadrangle (a main route to campus). But when Steinfeld visited, that part was covered with the large rubber mats usually used at building entries. He suggested that they were a sign that the glass is slippery when wet--for everyone.
Another New York City example was a new Gap store: An entire stairway, including treads, balusters, and load-bearing support was made of structural glass. The idea was to let light reach further into the building, plus have a surface that gives users a thrill--like walking on air. Steinfeld suggested that using structural glass OUTDOORS withOUT adequate PRE- (usability) testing is NOT a good (design) idea.
One last American example, a Calatrava-designed addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, is “a breathtakingly beautiful building.” But two older women had tripped on its pedestrian bridge and broken their hips. After reading about plans to add a steel railing on both sides of the cables down the center of the footbridge, two local disability advocates met with a reporter (Gould, 2003) to report MORE problems with the facility.
The Milwaukee advocates' concerns about the museum's other environmental barriers included: Poorly marked signs for the family restrooms and the van-accessible parking; hard-to-open doors; hard-to-find elevator buttons; glare made worse by the all-white interior; and low arches on which people with low vision bumped their heads.
In response, the Mayor asked the designers to write a technical report that he could discuss with Calatrava. Two Italian disability organizations approved the report and published its recommendations on a web site to inform the public. Further, they sent a copy directly to Calatrava to encourage his prompt attention.
Following their meeting with the Mayor, the group notified the media of the results, including the international support for redesigning the bridge. If no solutions were found, they also planned to take legal action to stop the bridge construction.
In mid-2003, Calatrava changed his bridge design to an option suggested by an Italian architectural firm (HB Group of Milan), and agreed to modify the design to be wheelchair accessible. Whoa! Does that, like, mean when we visit Canal City, we all can use the COOL, ACCESSIBLE new bridge?!
Rumor is that the City Fathers (and Mothers?) are moving forward to plan further improvements to make Venice user-friendly FOR ALL. By the end of 2004, the bridge was under construction off-site, and had NOT been viewed by the public. The LINKS below may have updated information:
(Also look for the SLIDING GLASS ROOF he designed for Athens' new Olympic Stadium, from which thousands watched the 2004 Summer Games).
|Quotable Quote: In the 21st Century, people have NO EXCUSE for making inclusiveness an AFTERTHOUGHT. It should be a GIVEN (Gould, Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, June 2003|
You probably chuckled over the Heads of the Masters (Anderson, 1998) in Lesson 6. Do you wonder whether any residential or commercial water closets are universally-designed?
Among human-factored designs, the toilet is unique. Other than one's clothing, few furnishings or fixtures are required to fit the person as closely. Yet the bathroom also must be usable by everyone in the household, the business, OR other place it’s installed. Except for potty chairs, urinals, bedpans, bedside and other portable toilets, the same basic (indoor) fixture has served most Americans who needed it UNTIL the past few years.
Your mini-mission, if you choose to accept, is to apply your new UD knowledge and problem- solving, critical thinking skills to research the design of the lowly, misunderstood toilet (product). Plan to share this important new information with others who may be unaware of the biggest changes since Mr. Crapper invented the water closet and moved it indoors.
An informal survey of 3-5 different toilet brands and models will reveal many new (even UD) features. In the U. S., revised design standards and federal regulations, PLUS the Sustainability Movement, rising demand for ergonomic design, AND market competition from international bath designers, are causing the REdesign of our most private household fixture.
American toilets have come a long way from the “3 Bedrooms and a PATH” used by your great-great-grandparents. Pretend that you are professional Bath Designers who routinely include UD features in new and remodeled homes. Fortunately, you need not survey the market alone. Instead, find a friend to share the fun in studying the Great American Toilet Revolution first-hand!
Smaller plumbing shops may not have toilet models with all the features discussed below on the showroom floor or in stock. But “big box” home building and remodeling centers (e.g., Home Depot, Menard’s and Lowe’s) are likely to display a wide variety of American and international fixtures that include many examples of the following design suggestions.
Toilet TANK SIZE: Today’s (lower) tank designs must meet a federal regulation that new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per (gravity) flush. Although that should remove all waste in one flush without leaving sediment, scum may build up rapidly on some water-conserving toilets, thus requiring the use of bowl cleaner more often than on older, “water-guzzling” units.
FLUSH MECHANISM Design and Location: The exterior handle or button should be human-factored to be easy to operate, regardless of hand or arm strength and flexibility. A lever on the FRONT of the tank may be easier to reach and use than on the side. Electronic flush controls may be available for residential toilets used by persons who cannot operate either levers or push-buttons.
Toilet BOWL HEIGHT AND SHAPE: The U. S. market offers both standard and “tall” bowls, plus regular and elongated SHAPES. Their height and width dimensions are key factors in meeting the needs of toddlers through older adults. Whether one piece or two, both tank and bowl must fit the space available, with clearance on three sides for human performance, and room to open/close the bathroom door.
Toilet SEAT OPTIONS, ADAPTORS, and ADD-ONS: Toilet price tags usually do NOT include the seat because it's an individual choice or decor option. Market surveys should include toilet seat colors, designs, and options that fit toddlers in training, raise seat height, offer a cushion, or……..
Adaptors and add-ons are available to meet needs such as painful old or totally new knees, legs in casts, and frail users who are UNable to stand without support long enough to turn around to sit down. Assistive devices installed on the walls or floor beside or behind the toilet include PROPERLY INSTALLED (fold-down) grab bars and floor-to-ceiling poles to help sit down or stand up.
This maneuvering disk above assists persons with limited mobility. With or without personal or grab bar assistance, s/he stands up on it, turns the whole body, and sits down. Credit: www.DynamicLiving.com
SPACE for HUMAN PERFORMANCE: A toilet must be easy to use in relative privacy by able-bodied persons, those who require assistance, and people transferring from a wheelchair or lift. The space must be large enough for the fixture, the user, grab bars/pole, walker or wheelchair and/or a helper, and maneuvering. Protrusions into the space (e. g, toilet paper holder, towel rack, grab bars) can be obstacles or hazards. Recessed and fold-up options may improve safety.
Many Fifties' (+ current apartment) bathrooms are “way too small” to fit all of the above. As a result, some frail older adults may be forced to move from their longtime homes to assisted living or care facilities. But timely bathroom modifications can increase both convenience and safety, AND may prevent major life disturbances in old age.
Although changing bathroom fixtures is expensive, such one-time costs can equal the charges for only one or two months in a care facility. Furthermore, such improvements add livability and value to the home and help sell it quickly.
Imported toilets sold in the U. S. are required to meet our plumbing standards. But they also offer options (such as a tiny lavatory atop the tank) not found on all American toilets, Such features may relate to culture-specific hygiene practices or the newest technologies in that region.
The Washlet Japan is marketed internationally. Credit: TotoUSA, 2004.
To give you that Continental flair, we add this Toilet Tidbit: Bidets (bee-days) are personal hygiene fixtures that look like toilet bowls with lavatory handles and a small drain but no tank or faucet. In Europe, bidets have long substituted for or been additions to bathtubs or showers. They do NOT, however, replace the toilet.
Geographic differences in bathroom fixtures are disappearing as results of cultural shifts and rising percentages of adults over age 75 in the U. S., Europe, and Asia. For example, many Japanese are adopting western-style raised-bowl toilets over the traditional floor-level toilet used in a squatting position.
Some new designs combine existing waste removal methods with personal hygiene features to assist adults who have difficulty reaching, bending, or twisting. For product development information, including quick-time movies and free plug-in downloads on Toto washlet, go to http://www.totousa.com. For another version of the same concept go to http://www.us.geberit.com/us/webusnsf/pages/prod~toil-shower.
In response to needs identified by adult care facilities, a recent innovation by an American industrial designer combines toilet, sit-down shower, and lavatory in one fixture. In addition to its use at group care facilities, the HygieniCare all-in-one bath can be installed in residential bathrooms in much less space than required by separate toilet, shower, and sink units. CLICK HERE for HygieniCare video plus accessible home additions for veterans with disabilities.
Question what the first word, Since, seems to imply. Then consider whether Europeans with mobility limits are better or worse off (how and why?) than Americans who are homebound because so many U. S. homes, workplaces, and public transportation systems have NO wheelchair access. P. S: Europe is very densely populated AND has HIGHER percentages of people over age 65 than U.S.
"I had to give up going to the symphony in my home town (Atlanta, GA) because in the existing hall, I could not hear well. The only wheelchair accessible seats are in the back of the hall under the balcony (at top price level), but the sound was muffled. I longed to be up in the inaccessible balcony where tickets were cheaper and the sound better."
"When I heard that a wonderful new hall would be going up (designed by a Mr. Calatrava, whom I'd never heard of), I began writing very polite letters to the relevant decision makers, stressing the needs for equal access to seats at all price ranges and with equal lines of sight. (Thus, no one has to sit behind a post or behind an audience that rises to its feet, calling for an encore....)."
"No responses, until weeks later after I wrote again with copies of a news article about a lawsuit against a local facility with terrible lines of sight for people with mobility impairments. Only later did I learn that the world-famous architect chosen to design Atlanta's new symphony hall was somewhat renown for LACK of access."
YOUR ORDERS: Think about and discuss with a partner what you'd recommend that Ms. Smith and her friends do next, if anything? P.S: This is the same civil rights issue that already forced several new American sports stadia to RE-do their accessible seating at great expense so wheelchair users can see the field without their view being blocked by cheering, STANDING fans! It’s better known as “ADA Compliance.”
|Like my homemade ramp? It even has a place to brake. (Doesn't meet the minimum 1:12 requirement.) Wheeeeeee!|