Terri Preece

Aligning enabling environments for people with autism and dementia within universal design

Presenter: Terri Preece, Environmental Design Consultant, Dementia Training Australia

Oral Presentation

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is often considered a hidden disability. It can go undiagnosed and it is not a condition recognisable by a person’s physical appearance. An estimated 1 in 70 people in Australia are diagnosed with ASD. It is a lifelong condition. Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians. While 3 in 10 people are over the age of 85 and almost 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 have dementia, it is not considered a normal part of the ageing process (NATSEM (2016) Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056). What do these disabilities have in common? They are conditions that affect the brain and behaviour such as socialisation, communication and the perception of their environments.

How much does designing environments for people with autism and dementia actually have in common? What are the similarities and the differences between designing for the 2 disabilities? Is it just about sensory perception or is there more to be unpacked? And can creating a coordinated approach still meet the individual requirements of the person with ASD and the person with dementia?

Shelly Dival has explored the connections between ASD and creating more enabling living environments and believes the guidelines can be applied to a much broader range of disabilities, including dementia. Terri Preece has been consistently applying evidence based dementia friendly principles in residential and public environments and believes dementia friendly design is enabling for everyone, including ASD. This presentation will share practical knowledge and expertise to better understand how to align designing for these two disabilities into a more inclusive design approach under the one umbrella of universal design.