2013 was a landmark year for research at SURFACE, with the culmination of EPSRC projects, Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors (I'DGO) and Go Far, and the launch of the Salford Institute for Dementia, of which we are a core member. Find out more about our research achievements in 2013.

SURFACE has been an inclusive design research centre since 1999. We are proud to have the ongoing support of major UK government agencies for funding research and training, including the Medical Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, as well as major sponsors from industry, local government and the not-for-profit sector.

Much of our work is done in collaboration with other academic partners, bringing together experts in 'real world' and laboratory-based research from within the University of Salford and other Higher Education Institutions. This innovative, multi-disciplinary model helps us to explore the relationship between the technical and social aspects of the built environment and the impact of 'place' on human psychology, behaviour and biomechanics.

We are always striving to identify and address future drivers for accessibility, such as ageing populations, active travel and assistive technologies. We promote the sustainable lifetime of buildings and products, from their design, simulation and testing to their ongoing operation and management. Our current and recent research projects include:

Going Outdoors: Falls, Ageing & Resilience (Go Far)

This year-long pilot study was awarded a Strategic Grant by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) in April 2011, with work beginning in January 2012. SURFACE is leading a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from seven UK Higher Institutions, as well as experts from Age UK, the UK Health and Safety Laboratory and Toronto Rehab, supported by a wide network of partners. The project is considering the role of the outdoor environment in shaping health inequalities, exploring older people’s experiences of falling (and fear of falling) outdoors, investigating the development and testing of innovative tools and techniques to evaluate the relationship between at-risk people and the outdoor environment and developing a clear road map for future cross-disciplinary research in this area. It is funded by Lifelong Health and Wellbeing: a major, MRC-led, cross-council initiative supporting research into healthy ageing and wellbeing in later life.

To find out more, please visit the Go Far project's website or download the Go Far introductory brochure.

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I'DGO TOO: Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors Phase 2

This four year project (EPSRC ref EP/D079640/01) ran from early 2007 until late 2011 and reported its findings in April 2012, in celebration of the European Year for Active Ageing. Building upon the success of the first phase of I'DGO (see below), it again brought SURFACE together with the OPENspace and WISE research centres, as well as, for the first time, colleagues from Salford's Centre for Health Sciences Research. In examining the age-friendliness of the latest policy and 'best practice' in the planning and design of outdoor spaces, the Salford team looked, in particular, at tactile paving and road crossings, undertaking both 'real world' and laboratory-based research into their impact on older pedestrians. Evidence from the study underpins SURFACE guidance on the design, siting and laying of tactile paving, which was launched at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen in September 2012.

You can download the  I'DGO findings leaflet (published April 2012), and also the guidance on tactile paving arising from the study. For the latest news, you can log on to the I'DGO project's website or follow @idgoresearch on Twitter. You can also download the project's Impact Statement.

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Visions of the Role of Walking and Cycling in 2030

Led by the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, this three year project (EPSRC ref EP/G000468/1) involves four researchers from the University of Salford, as well as teams in Manchester, Oxford and East Anglia. Funded by the EPSRC, it builds upon growing recognition that 'active travel' can make a considerable contribution to sustainable transport goals, public health and the sociability of communities. Supported by local, regional and national groups, the project seeks to revitalise the quantity and quality of walking and cycling in the UK by 2030, after a significant decline in the last sixty years. It uses interactive 3D computer modelling, backcasting and other participatory tools to help public engagement with envisioning the future; spotlighting the processes through which people make decisions and the contexts impacting upon them day-to-day.

The project is due to report its findings in late 2012/early 2013. To view animations from the research phase, and find out about papers published to date, please visit the Visions2030 website.

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English Partnerships Guidance Note on Inclusive Design

This research project was commissioned by English Partnerships, the National Regeneration Agency, now part of the Homes and Communities Agency. Its aim was to provide a comprehensive source of guidance on inclusive design for all those involved in shaping sustainable built environments, both new and rejuvenated. Building on earlier research, such as Bridging the Gap..., the note emphasises best practice in developing inclusive design strategies and access statements for projects at a range of scales , as well as explaining the legal requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act and Part M of the Building Regulations (2004). Published in 2007, and used by the client as the basis for a series of pilot projects, it incorporates nine technical annexes, including a comprehensive glossary and resource index.

Download the Guidance Note on Inclusive Design.

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Decent Homes Standard and Accessibility

This study was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a UK charity investigating the root causes of, and potential solutions to, social problems. Reporting in 2006, it investigated how six housing associations were addressing accessibility issues in the large-scale refurbishment of previously council-owned housing stock. The research was set within the context of the Decent Homes Standard (DHS), which sets government targets for improving English social housing without specific reference to accessibility. Identifying thirteen ways to address inclusive design during refurbishment, it looked at whether these opportunities were being routinely missed or, indeed, constrained by the DHS works.

Download the full report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website.

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I'DGO: Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors Phase 1

Established under the fourth round of the EPSRC's Extending Quality of Life initiative, this three and a half year project (EPSRC ref GR/S29102/01) was completed by a consortium of research centres in Edinburgh, Salford and Oxford Brookes. Supported by 14 major partners, including the Homes and Communities Agency and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, it aimed to find out if, and in what way, the ability to get out into one's local neighbourhood impacts on older people's quality of life and what barriers there are to achieving this day-to-day. The project reported in 2006, having involved over 770 older people in 200 residential areas. SURFACE led the detailed street design element of the study, which surveyed older people’s experiences of pedestrian access to their local neighbourhood and their preferences for how it should function, from the detailing of footways to the design of bus stops and seating.

You can download the I'DGO findings leaflet, with evidence from this and a later phase of the project, and also the design guidance based on the evidence arising from our study. For the latest news on the project, you can log on to the I'DGO dedicated website or follow @idgoresearch on Twitter. The project’s Impact Statement is also available to download.

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Towards Access Standards: the Work of Local Access Groups in England and Wales

This scoping study (ISBN 0-9549327-1-4) was commissioned by the Disability Rights Commission, the public body established to review the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). Completed over six months in 2003/ 2004, it reported on the nature and workings of access groups in England and Wales; aiming to identify whether they undertook a similar range of activities to one another and enjoyed the same level of resources and influence. The research was advised by 10 partners, including representatives from the National Register of Access Consultants and the Access Association. Using a range of research tools, it garnered the views of 660 organisations , both local and national.

Download the full project report.

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Bridging the Gap between Theory & Implementation in Accessibility - A Best Practice Approach

This two and a half year study (EPSRC ref GR/M69197/01) was carried out in collaboration with 14 major partners, including the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, the National Disability Council, the Royal Association for Disability Rights and Scope. Following on from the EPSRC-funded feasibility study, Creating Accessible Environments, its aim was to establish how best to incorporate inclusive design principles into the processes of architecture and construction. Using a variety of techniques, researchers sourced material from designers, clients, access groups and voluntary organisations . We reported in 2002, focusing on the tools then available to stakeholders and the challenges of new legislation.

The qualitative research results identified many knowledge gaps around the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), which was then two years away from full implementation. In particular, the DDA term “reasonable adjustments” was proving a challenge for a number of clients and their designers, who otherwise felt that existing guidance notes and advice were generally helpful. To address the need for clarity, we surmised that 'dual document' guidance could be beneficial, as in the parallel field of fire safety. Combining both Legislative & Procedural and Better Practice elements, such guidance would need to be underpinned by a technical support updating service and – in the long term – by the teaching of inclusive design in all relevant education and training programmes .

For more information on this project, please visit the EPSRC website.

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Creating Accessible Environments within the Briefing Process

This feasibility study  (EPSRC ref GR/M05270/01) was carried out in partnership with the Centre for Accessible Environments over nine months in 1998/1999. Its aim was to establish how, and to what extent, accessibility was being considered at the briefing stage of new building design. Before our study, some research had found that there was room for significant improvement during the planning and completion stages of building development, but little was known about the key point in the process when designer and client established core objectives. As well as assessing current practice, we produced guidance on how it might be improved.

For more information on this project, please visit the EPSRC website.

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