Imagine seeing the world through an unfocused lens. Now try to find a door when it looks no different to the wall.

Imagine seeing the world through an unfocused lens. 
Now try to find a door when it looks no different to the wall.

If we are to dismantle space and then reassemble it, must we as designers embrace our responsibility to establish inclusivity for all that will pass through it? Let’s pose the question to ourselves and our industry; are we designing for all or are we passively bypassing regulations because we don’t understand their original intent? An omission that causes displacement for the user and that impacts their ability to navigate a space with confidence and ease.

Luminance contrast requirements in commercial projects highlight a fundamental flaw in the world of design practice. In regulatory terms ‘luminance contrast between building elements is the difference in the amount of light reflected from the 1st building element compared to the amount of light reflected from the 2nd building element’ [1].  The provisions identify the correct luminance contrast using a calculated percentage to ensure that built elements provide purposeful way finding cues for those who are visually impaired. But, as ‘plain English’ advocates would undoubtedly argue; is the outdated language too difficult to comprehend? And as a result, does this diminish the possibility to design and build compelling and functional spaces for all?

‘Universal design is not about disability – it’s about better living for everyone’ Erick Mitkiten, architect. [2]

With every design we need to ask the question, have we put ourselves in the shoes of all users equally? In order to understand what is required from us, do we need to break down preconceived regulations, and work to build new ones? An informed conversation that includes the key experts in the field; VisAbility Australia and Equal Access Australia, along with others to determine what really works for everyone.

Let’s make life simpler, refocus the lens, and allow everyone to navigate the built environment equally and easily, after all, it is the user we are designing for.


[1] AS 1428.1 – 2009 Appendix B.31
[2] Vencill Sanchez, K (2021), Design for Everyone, Dwell Media, NY. Viewed 12 March 2021.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *