Liveable House Design

A new voluntary building code on house design is being released today by Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten.  (please note link is to the media article on the code, not the code itself).

Some exerpts from the article (SMH 13.7.10 author Kristy Needham):

A minimalist step-free shower; a corridor wide enough for a sofa; and a front entry you don’t have to wrestle the pram up.

An ageing population of baby boomers who dislike stairs and young parents wanting better safety for toddlers are key targets for the Liveable Housing Design, the consumer-facing brand of the code developed with the property industry. (Ed: because of course the key people couldn’t be people living with a disability now could it? Gahhh [yes I am aware that some people with a disability also fit into the young parents and ageing baby boomer categories, but I think this code includes them more by chance than design])

the fashionable step-free shower was already standard in homemaker magazines, while wider corridors were useful to anyone moving furniture. (Ed: yes because I spend so much time moving furniture, compared to someone wanting a wider hallway for mobility devices, and fashion is sooo important)

US research showed 90 per cent of newly built homes would at some point have someone with a mobility issue residing there. Too many Australian homes were unable to adapt to a family’s evolving needs, let alone wheelchair use, Ms Starr said.

”It makes good sense to design homes so they evolve with their users. It works as well for mums to be as it does for senior Australians.” (Ed: seriously what about designing a home so that PWD can use it without having to undertake extensive and/or expensive renovations or live in a house that doesn’t meet their needs?)

The Master Builders chief executive, Wilhelm Harnisch, said: ”Improving the safety of kitchens and other areas means people can stay longer in the home instead of going to an aged care facility.” (Ed: this is very important for a number of reasons, but still erases PWD who might be able to live comfortably in a well designed space without needing to go to a care facility either, regardless of their age)

THE GOAL

By 2020 most new homes to offer:

– Level entry

– Clear access to entry

– Wider corridors

– Toilet on entry level

– Reinforced bathroom wall to allow future railing

– Step-free shower

 I’ve quoted most of the article here. So is there one glaring thing that jumps out at you? There was for me. Despite the fact that this is being launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities only one person says this code may be beneficial for people using wheelchairs. Sure access issues affect more than just people with disabilities, but I still would have expected more discussion of PWD in an article which is about housing to meet accessibility needs. I would have expected the code to be about PWD.

Note: I am Currently Able Bodied. If I’ve made a glaring error or completely missed the point please point it out to me and I will fix it.



Categories: Culture

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14 replies

  1. The government is avoiding the “bleeding heart” tag at all costs. Refugees, PWD, welfare recipients are targeted or ignored. It’s all about “working hard on your hard work” now, no compassion for (implied) bludgers!

  2. I hope that means that the actual code does have design specs to suit PWD and designed with PWD in mind and they have simply chosen not to draw attention to it. But that is still a very wrong state of affairs.

  3. Really? This appears to be a significant win for people with mobility disability.
    Sure, there can always be hope for more, but to bemoan an announcement because of the target audience? As a campaigner, in order to be effective it helps to convince as many people that this is an issue that affects them. And this new code seems that it will assist a majority of households at some stage in their lives. At leas those moving into new homes.
    It’s a main stream news-service. It talks about the benefit of the new code to it’s target audience. I understand that the invisibility of disability can be frustrating, but will you ever be happy? Ever able to celebrate even an incremental victory?
    Or will you be content to be angry that the world isn’t as you command it?
    And Sam, how are PWD being ignored? Didn’t you read the article, or even the blog post?

  4. How do you know that the target audience doesn’t contain PWD who might like to be acknowledged once in a while? Why shouldn’t they be the target audience? Why should the MSM pretend they don’t exist, if this very policy is for the benefit of PWD? Are that many people really that shallow that something has to be about them before they can see the benefits of it?
    I have small children, the world is never as I command it. Also I’m a woman and you tend to get used to the world not being as you want it.
    I raised the issue of PWD being ignored. Really, it’s announced by the Parlimentary Secretary for Disabilities, but sold as being for baby boomers who don’t like stairs and parents with prams and that’s not ignoring PWD?

  5. Mindy – I think the target audience is deliberately aimed towards builders and those building who are not PWD. PWD building houses would be much better educated about what is required and also be more willing to spend the money to do so.
    My understanding of this initiative is it is to encourage those who haven’t given it any thought a basic understanding of the sorts of things which are required and give them non altruistic reasons to bother doing it (its a voluntary code). So they point things out like better resale value, better for children, elderly (parents visiting for example) whilst at the same time point out how cheap it is to do at build time. The goal being over the long term to increase the amount of housing stock available for PWD that is easy/cheap to convert to their specific needs.

  6. Which is still interesting, Chris, because the proportion of people who have PWD among their family and friends is quite high. (Elderly people with impaired mobility that requires these kinds of accessibility considerations are elderly people with a disability.) So if it’s being pitched as “great for those perfectly abled people you know, and you could possibly sell it for $$$ to those poor unfortunate disabled folk you’ve heard about as well” that’s still fairly othering.

  7. Perhaps they’ve updated the article since you posted this, Mindy, but when I clicked through, the top caption says:
    “A move towards creating interior space and open-plan living will make life easier for those with disabilities. ”
    Followed by:

    Homes will be where the easy access is, says new building code to promote mobility.
    A minimalist step-free shower; a corridor wide enough for a sofa; and a front entry you don’t have to wrestle the pram up.
    These features are part of a voluntary building code to be released today by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten. The code would improve a home’s value and also make life easier for Australians with mobility issues, advocates said.

    I also found the media release on Shorten’s website, it starts:

    Leaders of the housing industry, disability sector and community have today agreed to an aspirational target that all new homes will be built to disability-friendly Livable Housing Design standards by 2020.
    Today’s announcement is the outcome of the National Dialogue on Universal Design, convened by Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities Bill Shorten last year, to improve the availability of Livable Housing and get industry and disability groups working together to promote it.
    The voluntary Livable Housing Design guidelines consist of three levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum and outline the key features required to meet each standard.
    Mr Shorten said Livable Design aimed to build houses that could be adapted to meet the changing needs of residents over their lifetime.
    He said that it would become increasingly important as Australia’s population aged and disability became more common.
    “These are houses which are easier to live in, can be adapted more cheaply, and will be easier to sell,” Mr Shorten said.
    “Livable Housing Design is housing which meet the needs of all people, including people with disability and senior Australians,” Mr Shorten said.
    “Families with young children, anyone who suffers a temporary injury, or has a friend with disability to stay the night, will also benefit from Livable Design.
    “A few simple design features, such as a reinforced bathroom walls, a flat entry to the house and wide corridors and doorways can make a home suitable for an older person or a person with a disability at minimal cost.”

  8. Or will you be content to be angry that the world isn’t as you command it?

    Promoting human rights is just “anger” over not getting your own way? Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable phoning your views through to some talk-back radio station?

  9. Recent reader, first time poster here, just responding to Rebekka’s post to say that I think it’s very interesting to put the media release and the news article side by side, and see the difference in focus. The media release is far more about benefits for PWD, whereas the news article almost ignores that aspect in falling over itself to explain how the development is going to be good for everybody. I’d love to know what was going through the mind of the journalist and/or the editor when they prepared that article for publication. You’d almost think they hadn’t read the Minister’s media release.

  10. Promoting human rights is just “anger” over not getting your own way?

    No, I took the tone of Mindy’s comments as anger. I spend my professional and volunteer life defending human rights, and whilst I too can get angry about it at times I thought Mindy’s passion was a little misdirected here.

    Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable phoning your views through to some talk-back radio station?

    That’s not very nice. I’m sorry, did I insult your friend? That’s nice of you to puff up your chest in her defence.
    I made a comment on whether Mindy’s comments were reasonable. I believe my sentiments are legitimate.

    How do you know that the target audience doesn’t contain PWD who might like to be acknowledged once in a while?

    Of course the SMH readership includes people with a disability who might like to be acknowledged, and it has been pointed out by others that the article did acknowledge those with wheelchairs and other disability related mobility concerns.
    However, this gives an idea of who SMH are trying to sell ads to, and whilst the group does cross over with people with a disability, I expect that the lived experience of most would be different to the target consumer-eyeballs.
    http://www.adcentre.com.au/the-sydney-morning-herald.aspx?show=audience

  11. While it may be hurtful for the major target beneficiary group of the building code change to be downplayed, surely it benefits people with disabilties for the general public to be educated about how the proposed changes will benefit pretty much everyone over their lifecourse. This media article seems to be deliberately slanting the story to be directly relevant to as many people as possible. From a community education POV that is a good thing, and is more likely to improve accessible for PWD than writing a media story that most people would just skim over as not relevant to them.

  12. @hrgh – more frustration than anger. I can’t speak for Linda but she has her own good reasons for being angry, not just coming to my defence.
    @ Rebekka – yes they have updated it, much better now. The (Canberra) ABC news report also focussed on PWD as well as highlighting the positives for TAB. Of course the building industry was complaining that you can’t build every home accessibly because of costs, whereas in the report they said building new homes accessibly added 1K-2K to the cost.
    @ Merryn – we shouldn’t have to erase PWD though, as Mary said. A balance of this is good for PWD but also benefits everyone else is how it should be IMHO. It doesn’t matter who the target audience allegedly is. In my experience if you are building a house or thinking of building a house you read everything to do with building a house. Especially the bits that say you can save thousands later by building this stuff in first rather than retrofitting, and that you will open up your market if you build this way. That is relevant to everyone. Things that affect other people, not just ourselves or those we know should be relevant to everyone, but I guess we are just too selfish a society.

  13. In my experience if you are building a house or thinking of building a house you read everything to do with building a house. Especially the bits that say you can save thousands later by building this stuff in first rather than retrofitting, and that you will open up your market if you build this way.

    *sigh*. If that were only the case. We’re building at the moment and spent a lot of time talking to mostly volume builders. Our emphasis was on environmental sustainability, but we did do a check around accessibility.
    But we did get quite a few comments from salespeople about how unusual it was for their clients to be asking about things like how much insulation they can put in – most are trying to work out how little they can get away with and still comply with standards just to save a few $$. I’ve seen it myself on housing forums where people encourage each other to save money on insulation and instead spend the money on something that can be seen – upgrades in the kitchen for example.
    Many people either wanting a return within 5-7 years time when they think they’ll be upgrading or knowing they’ll get their money back in resale value – thats where having things like the silver/gold certification for accessibility will help and in environmental terms the proposed compulsory star rating scheme.
    On the bright side I visited some retirement like homes with my mum a little while back and was quite impressed by the design. There are builders out there who are willing and able to design for accessibility, just need a bit of a push from the demand side.

  14. Its always about incentives — carrots and sticks —- I don’t know what the carrots are yet but there certainly aren’t any sticks that are immediately visible which will compel change through legislation it’s all touvhy feely stuff and voluntariness and convernsations and dialogues that are taking soooo long I mean so far it’s been a thirty year conversation on things like this.

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