Universal Design

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Question 1

i) The current state and extent of universal design in the interior design practice.

The 20th century had brought major social changes with respect to civil and human rights. Medical advances during this period meant that the surviving an injury or illness was far greater. Many people were living longer and the average life expectancy of people with severe impairments was increasing too. Therefore many governments in developed country responded with the introduction of equal rights and anti discrimination legislation to support this group of people especially in built environment (centre for excellent in UD, 2008).

In line with that Malaysia’s government is also moving towards the same goal where the first action taken required a 1993 amendment in the Uniform building by-laws (UBBL) stated that new developments have need to incorporate universal design into the building plan. Similar action taken by the department of standards Malaysia, through SIRIM Bhd, on revising two of the existing Malaysian standards (MS) to enhance accessibility for all. They are ms 1184: 2002: code of practice for access of disabled persons to public buildings (first revision) and MS 1331: 2002: code of practice for access of disabled persons outside buildings (first revision). After all, both had been merged into a new document called universal design and accessibility in the built environment: code of practice (second revision). Those amendments and revision is applicable to new and existing buildings. Under the amended UBBL, new developers had to comply with existing standards in order to improve universal access.

As far as researcher concern, as stated by leader of revising Malaysian standard Asiah (2006), the revised standards is more toward guidelines on features, from traffic islands and footpaths to door handles and taps, referenced from international universal design standards in developed countries. Which she acknowledged that it has been difficult to incorporate the desired features within existing buildings in Malaysia, but government stressed that the buildings should at least provide basic amenities, such as ramps and toilets for the disabled, and lifts with braille buttons for the blind, as well as voice activation (Asiah, 2006).

On the other hand, from researcher observation those amendments and revising law and act are mean for public spaces and institution building which directly focusing on special group of users such as disable and older people. For that reason, therefore none or less interior designer sensitive or try to utilize the established regulation in their practice due to no enforcement from government. This was happen because the regulation and standard are mean or have been set up for special group of people only such as for disable people and more widely need to be implement in the public buildings only. With this indication it showed that most designers and users are not ready to accept that accessible and usable features are for everybody and they tend to see those regulation and standard are something that will add the cost of the project. With this misconception, the interior design practice is hardly to be change because designers cannot relate about design and the nature of human being.

Contrary with universal design (UD) approach that have been coin by Ron Mace that in designing for users, we should assumes the wide range of human ability is ordinary, not special (Ostroff, 2001). This is because, despite of disable and older people, users especially those used the interior space are not homogenous group which consist various physical abilities (Story and Mueller, 2002). This can be view from the world statistic that population today is much more broaden from the past, where many people survived from serious illness and accident. Furthermore the declining fertility and mortality rates are higher and it contributes to the increases of the world population. Therefore this...
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