Universal Design Conference: Future Neighbourhoods: Designing for Inclusivity

At the Universal Design Conference

On the 6th and 7th of September, Auckland Council hosted Te Ao Tangata – Inclusive by Design: Universal Design Conference. As Gold sponsors, Be. Accessible assessed the event to help make it fully accessible, and Minnie Baragwanath and Neville Pulman presented to the delegates about the work that we do. The conference focused on four key themes: Housing, Neighbourhood, Transport, and Tourism.

One of the housing sessions of the conference was about 'Future Neighbourhoods: Designing for Inclusivity'. Tricia Austin is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland. Tricia and her research team are researching Future Neighbourhoods as part of the MBIE National Science Challenge.

The purpose of the study is about "making new neighbourhoods and developing resources for developers to consider all user groups". Coincidently, all researchers in Tricia’s team had a type of disability story, be it a parent, partner, sibling and so on. The research looked at the Hobsonville Point housing development, and the safety of children as a focus point. They looked specifically at two factors: the entrance from the door to the street – can the resident see their neighbours, and identify if they have children they should be looking out for? Do these housing developments foster social relationships?

The other factor they looked at was shared external spaces, and whether they are safe for children and consider accessibility. Tricia commented that the back-service roads of this particular development serve as both road and footpath. The cars in these back-service roads are parked in different directions, and children are often playing on these roads where cars are reversing.

Tricia also talked about the design of the housings. The double storey houses are designed for families but carrying children and shopping bags up a flight of stairs with no shelter may prove quite a challenge! The apartment blocks don’t have lifts, and the single storey homes have narrow entrances that require a tight turning circle with pebbled paths on one side.

The team have also met with residents in Auckland’s Albany, New Lynn and Onehunga to discover why they chose high-density living, what do they view as ‘livability’ and their satisfaction and housing aspirations.