Property industry backs inclusion as it helps reshape elements of the built environment

Tumbalong Lights set to light up Vivid Sydney

Some of Australia’s largest real estate organisations and corporate employers have voiced their commitment to supporting accessibility and inclusion within public and work spaces of the future, to coincide with the upcoming launch of Vivid Sydney’s all inclusive, children’s play space, Tumbalong Lights.

Tumbalong Lights, a sensory rich play experience where all children can play, participate and belong, has been brought to life by a collaboration between Vivid Sydney organisers, Destination NSW, along with Cushman & Wakefield, Charter Hall, Stockland’s Care Foundation, ARA Group, Westpac and Australia Post.

James Patterson, Chief Executive, Cushman & Wakefield, said, “We are excited to play a small part in helping break the barriers of social exclusion by creating a place where children no matter what their level of ability can experience the magic of Vivid Sydney 2018.”

“We look forward to seeing thousands of children play together, including those with physical and intellectual disabilities, vision, hearing and mobility impairments, or spectrum disorders such as autism.”

Davina Rooney, General Manager of Sustainability at Stockland added, “Stockland has developed 11 inclusive play spaces around the country in both our retail centres and residential communities with our partner the Touched By Olivia Foundation and we are absolutely focused on developing more playgrounds to make a lasting, positive contribution to local communities.”

“With one in five Australians living with a disability, we are very proud to be setting a new benchmark for inclusive, imaginative outdoor play with Vivid Sydney, opening the first inclusive play space at Tumbalong Lights. This fantastic play installation will showcase how all children can play together, including those with physical disabilities, vision, hearing and mobility impairments, or spectrum disorders such as autism.”

Matt York, Principal, Strategy and Design at Spiire, the firm that designed one of the four inclusive light installations, ‘Beneath the Sea’, explains that inclusive design principles were central to creating the interactive and tactile display.

“From an inclusive design perspective, we focused on how this playscape considers play through the lens of sensory processing disorders including autism spectrum disorder to cater for a range of sensory profiles and needs.”

“This included the ability to learn about the playscape from multiple aspects, managing anxiety and showing clear cause and effect through colour selection to allow all children to feel empowered, safe and connected. We needed play to be about discovery amongst the sea grass, to allow a tactile experience with the sea life, and bring the calmness and inertia of being beneath the sea to the surface.”

Accessibility and inclusion within the built environment

The launch of Tumbalong Lights coincides with major initiatives being developed and implemented in the real estate sector that supports inclusion within the broader population and accounts for the changing nature of the Australian workforce.

This includes planning, designing and developing public and work spaces that accommodate a more diverse range of consumers over the next decade, whether it relates to a multi-generational and multicultural workforce, wellness and mental health considerations, and spaces that support the almost one in five Australians that live with a disability, and their families.

“Today, accessibility and inclusion are central to developing the spaces in which we work and live, and can have a substantial impact on wellbeing for all Australians,” James Patterson said.

Davina Rooney added, “Stockland’s Accessibility and Inclusion Strategy is focused on responding to the needs of people living with disabilities across our communities and assets nationally.”

“Stockland has delivered two quiet rooms at Stockland Shellharbour designed to create a safe place for parents, carers and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developed an adult-sized change facility at Stockland Wendouree in Victoria in line with the key principles of Changing Places.”

Accessibility design reshaping physical spaces

According to Cushman & Wakefield, the next phase of best-in-class accessibility stands to create spaces that will truly transform the working environment for those with a disability – approximately 18.3% of the Australian population.

This includes the use of textures, colours and direction lighting to assist the vision impaired to navigate physical spaces, sensor technology to provide wayfinding support and indicate the availability of meeting rooms and other shared spaces, as well as the use of acoustics to differentiate spaces for easier identification.

Suzanne Currie, Head of Group Property at Westpac Group said Westpac uses these design guidelines to create workplaces that are accessible and inclusive.

“It is an ongoing focus for us to ensure that we support all our employees and ultimately enable everyone to participate. This means looking at accessibility from all perspectives, beginning with building access and continuing through to how each area of the workplace is used,” Suzanne Currie said.

Technology supporting accessibility

Technology continues to play a substantial role in further embedding inclusive design into the built environment and improving accessibility for all Australians.

Commenting on Stockland’s initiatives to leverage technology to support inclusion and accessibility across its properties, Davina Rooney said, “We are consistently looking for ways to improve the lives of our customers and residents and create liveable spaces for all.

“We currently have a project underway reviewing the evolving access needs of our properties including the mobility of customers, and are also investigating opportunities with autonomous vehicles, virtual reality and other technologies which provide exciting opportunities for the future of inclusive property in Australia.”

Beyond the built environment

“Encouraging better mental health and making people feel comfortable no matter their ability, cultural background, gender or age is also a crucial consideration when creating the workspaces of tomorrow, and both the physical and mental spaces people inhabit are inextricably linked to inclusion,” Mr. Patterson said.

Phil Tuckerman, Chief Executive Officer of JobSupport, that provides employment services for Australians with cognitive disabilities, added, “Providing support for those with an intellectual disability typically goes beyond the physical space they work in.”

“It is often more about working with employers to customise and design a job for our clients that draws on their strengths, provides routine around tasks that can be taught, and offer training and on-the-job support over the life of the role. We now work with major employers such as Cushman & Wakefield, Westpac, Woolworths, Coles, Harris Farm and McDonald’s to help those with a cognitive disability step into the workforce, and that can have a tremendous impact on those individuals and their families.”

Paul McCann, Chief Executive Officer, ARA Group, added, “ARA Indigenous Services is working to make a meaningful difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders through inclusive community, employment and business support initiatives. We aim to support economic development in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”