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Report of the Third International Expert Seminar
on Building Non-Handicapping Environments:
Accessibility Issues in Developing Countries

Tokyo, September 10, 1988

Download the Tokyo proceedings as a PDF file (92 KB)

Feasibility Study of The "Care Housing Sysem" for Southeast Asian Countries

Kazuyuki Iwai, Akihiro Hotta, Matsutaro Yoshioka, Industrial Products Research Institute, MITI, Tsukuba, Japan

During the years 1980 to 1985 the authors developed the "Care Housing System" project for MITI. In 1988, we conducted a preliminary survey of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines for the Housing Authority and Standard Association and National Institute on Human Settlements, Japan. On the basis of this study we discuss the feasibility of introducing the "Care Housing System" in the developing countries of Southeast Asia.

The Housing Situation in the Developing Countries of Southeast Asia

The housing problems in Southeast Asia are related to poor economic conditions and high urban population concentrations. In rural areas there are poor housing conditions and an insufficient supply of energy resources, especially electricity.

Southeast Asian governments have, for the most part, recognized the need for giving priority to constructing low-cost housing for low income groups. Their main policies, however, have been directed toward improving their counries’ economies through, for example, the promotion of industry and the improvement of basic public infrastructure - roads, sewers and so forth. For this reason, not much effort is presently made to supply low-cost housing.

There are three types of projects to solve housing problems in Southeast Asian countries. These projects are in the areas of social development, design development and technological development.

In the first type, housing projects are considered from the viewpoint of their social and economic value. In such projects, the living environment is improved by, for example, slum improvement, and loan consolidation programs.

The second type project focuses on the development of planning and design technology for low income housing. This involves low-cost housing design using materials and components made with existing technologies. The third type centers on the technology for producing low-cost housing with newly developed components and equipment using, for example, agricultural scrap materials and local technology for products and development of new technology for housing. In this report, we consider the feasibility of a "Care Housing System" in Southeast Asian countries from the viewpoints of technological development and an aging population structure.

The Effects of An Aging Population on Housing in Southeast Asia

Basically, the quality of housing will be determined by the values and life-style of the people in each country. While there are paricular conditions in each country which affect housing, the problem of aging is a problem facing every country.

The following factors must be considered in relation to the aging population:

Most Southeast Asian countries will have an aged population by 2025, especially in Singapore where the percentage of the aged in the population is projected at 17.9 per cent. In Indonesia, the absolute number of senior citizens will be about 23 million.

The governments of Southeast Asian countries have not yet considered the impact of these developments on housing. Since they must address the more general problem of housing shortage, it is difficult for them to think about the special problem of housing the aged. But in the near future Southeast Asian governments will have to consider the special housing needs of their aging populaion.

Aims of Housing Development in Relation to The Aging Population in Southeast Asian Countries

Usually, housing is affected by location, natural features and historical circumstances. The quality of housing in social development is different in each of the Southeast Asian countries. Generally, housing is built of resources produced in each country. Therefore, housing is related to traditional and cultural factors and affects a country’s life-style. Even if life-styles differ, the needs of caring for the aged will be common to all of the people.

Technological development for these needs in the housing component will be accepted because of the small resulting changes in life-style. I think in this respect international cooperation for the development of a "Care Housing System" will be possible.

The Possibility of Using A "Care Housing System" for Aged and Disabled Citizens As Models for Southeast Asian Countries

In Japan a "Care Housing System" was developed as part of the New Housing System Development Project conducted by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). The project’s aim was to improve the quality of life of aged and disabled citizens.

Japan’s aging population differs from aging societies of other countries in two important ways:

For these reasons an industrial system of production was considered appropriate. In light of the nature of Japan’s aging population, housing for the aged and disabled was considered to be a general problem rather than a special one. It was necessary, then, to design general purpose housing components to be used by people of any age or disability. For this reason, we should be able to consider the possibility of applying the results to the housing problem in Southeast Asian countries.

In 1980, a survey was conducted as part of the project.

In 1981, a working group was established and the project’s concept design was developed.

In 1982, experimental design of the housing system and experimental production of components were developed.

In 1983, experimental construction of the housing system was completed.

In 1984, an evaluation of the housing system and its components and a second experimental production of components were developed.

In 1985, the "Care Housing System" was given a final evaluation and the total concept of the "Care Housing System" was established.

In this project the components of a "Care Housing System" were classified as follows:
Level 1: Housing constructed for non-disabled people
Level 2: Housing accessible for aged and disabled citizens
Level 3: Housing for wheelchair users
Level 4: Housing for severely disabled and bed-bound persons
According to this classification, the housing components for senior citizens and persons with disabilities were researched and developed as follows:
A.  Elevator system for level 2 and/or 3
B.  Bathroom (tub and shower) unit for level 2 and/or 3
C.  Sanitary (sink and toilet) unit for level 2 and/or 3
D  Entrance unit for level 2 and/or 3
E  Kitchen unit for level 2 and/or 3
F  Hot water supply controller for level 2 and/or 3
G  Kitchen service cart for living room unit and bedroom unit for level 4
H  Movable bath unit for living room unit and bedroom unit for level 4
I  Transfer system for level 4
J  Living room unit and bedroom unit for level 4
K  Environmental control system and information control system for level 4
L  Care housing prototype by itself and with assembled component units

These components were designed to be reassembled for use in rental and lease systems.

If these components for a "Care Housing System" are to be useful for other countries, it is important to determine whether or not the conditions of the system as presently developed are appropriate. For this reason we have begun to check the plans of housing designs in Southeast Asian countries with the specifications of the project’s components in mind. Our preliminary survey shows that low-cost housing has a minimum level floor space for a person using a wheelchair. This result indicates that this type of housing is accessible for old persons and disabled citizens.


In this report we discussed the possibility of introducing a "Care Housing System" to the developing countries of Southeast Asia. We found that standard housing in these countries had sufficient space for a person to move around in a wheelchair.

At this point, we believe that the specifications of the "Care Housing system" will become a common base in the development of housing components. In the future, open systems for distributing standardized housing components in Southeast Asian countries will be an important factor. In order to begin such a system, work on modular and performance coordination must be developed, possibly under the auspices of an international organization.

Questions and Answers

Q.: I would like to know the average minimum space requirement for persons using a wheelchair. Are there some figures for this in your survey?

A.: We did not make a survey or check on how much space is required for moving around in a wheelchair.

Q.: My question is whether these low-cost houses are accessible all over or just in part and my second question is what range of costs are we talking about in constructing these houses and thirdly, are they constructed only from local materials or are imported materials also needed?

A.: As to your third question regarding local materials, for example, in the Philippines local materials are used but when you use the word local there are many meanings, differing from country to country. When I say local, I mean they are produced in each counry without being imported.

Regarding costs, I think, we must consider the income of people in each country and see costs in relation to that income. What we investigated is referred to as low-cost housing. But the people of the country have told us that the houses are quite expensive and not all of them could afford those houses. 30 per cent of the Southeast Asian people live in slums. therefore, we can not easily define who are the low-cost income people. In the present context, the term "low-cost housing" is used for publicly subsidized housing.

In the field of barrier-free design, especially in housing, we must recognize that there are two types of barriers: absolute barriers and relative barriers. If we want every house and every dwelling to be accessible, then this can only be achieved through a program which guarantees the elimination of all absolute barriers. There are not many absolute barriers but those few are important. Quantity production diminishes costs. The building industry will find methods and solutions to implement these features in every building.

Low-Cost Rural Housing

Minakshi Jain, Ahmedabad, India


We have just finished documenting the rural vernacular archiecture of the western arid region of India. This area includes the Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Barmer and North Gujarat Region. Our emphasis is on low-income houses built in rural areas and small cities. Architecturally, we are examining the forces that have worked on these particular forms. Climate, culture, local materials, age-old housing forms, approachable distances from larger urban area and the behavioral pattern of people are the guiding parameters for these habitats.

The forms of architecture we found are basically very adaptive. The houses we documented are made with organic materials like mud and stone. In rural areas these are single storey houses. Because they are single storey houses, they do not require any mechanical device to make them non-handicapping. The addition of few ramps for any change in level can be easily done in mud or stone both being good materials in their compressive strength. Various other kinds of adjustments in the physical environment are possible. The toilet, for example, can be placed nearer to the house. There are also various alternatives available for toilet facilities.

The idea of making the environment non-hanidcapping is new for this region. The villages here do not have motorable roads, elecricity or tap water. At time, women have to walk two hours for fetching potable water. Any sophistication for making the environment non-handicapping may not be viable. Solutions have to be simple and very direct.

In the western arid region of rural India the real issue is firstly accessibility to primary health centers and secondly to afford the basic medical care. These are basic concerns of utmost importance.

On the other hand, the human approach can best work here in achieving non-handicapping environments.The few disabled persons in a village become the responsibility of the whole village. Everybody will help out him or her in someway or other. Food is provided and he or she can do work that is possible for them. This attitude , at one time, even prevailed in urban areas.

Since the house types found in this region are very adaptive to the needs of persons with disabilities, the adaptation at the house level is not crucial. What is missing, however, is the infrastructure.

House Types

In our study we have identified four types of house forms.


Parallel wall houses in the small towns. These two storeyed houses may be built either in stone or in brick and wood. A central court is a breathing element of the plan. It is the main source of light and ventilation and interaction place within the house. These houses were built about 100 to 300 years ago and the intricate decorations in wood and stone tell us that the inhabitants had then time and eye for proportions and details, decorations and massing. Jaisalmer houses come in this category. (See plan on next page)

TYPE - 2. - C

These are circular huts around an open courtyard bound by a low hedge. These circular mud wall huts are between 8’ to 14’ in diameter with a conical thatched roof. A single house consists of few of such huts, each one for different activities. Their earthy quality make them very photogenic. They are mostly found in Kutch.

TYPE - 3. R.

The third type consists of rectangular rooms around a courtyard. The rooms are placed in such fashion that they form the central court. The roof is also made up of stone slabs and therefore reachable and a stair element is included. The boundary walls are high to fight out the sand storms which occur in this part of the world. The stones or sunbaked mud bricks are plastered with mud and once a year repainted with yellow ocher and white paint. This type is found in Bikaner and Jaisalmer district.

TYPE - 4. CR This type consists of a house where rectangular as well as circular rooms are placed around the courtyard. The circular huts have conical roofs and the rectangular rooms have flat stone slabs or a wooden frame and country tiled pitched roof. Visually these combinations are very attractive. They occur in Barmer and Jaisalme.

The final study will also cover the construction aspects, the materials, the techniques of building and their variations.

Final Seminar Discussion

Mr. Lagerwall, The Swedish Handicap Institute

I have witnessed today some very interesting presentations about transportation, independent living and housing for old persons in Japan. My conclusion is that there are technical solutions within the country. Another conclusion I draw from that is the problem that Japan is one of the richest countries in the world as Sweden, Canada, Switzerland and Australia - which I think are the other Western countries present today. The main problem then lies probably on the political level. It is a lack of political decisions and priorities which is the main hindrance for a barrier-free environment in our countries.

The vast majority of disabled people in the world live in what we call the Third World or developing countries. About 60-75 per cent of them live in Asian countries with, very often, very limited resources where traditional solutions from the West are not always relevant. The solutions very often have to be found by the people themselves living in these areas. But we, living in the rich part of the world, like the five countries I mentioned and other industrial countries can be of great help.

It was very interesting to note that MITI which I had learned of as a very high-tech institution, is dealing with these problems. On the plane coming to Japan I read in an article that development cooperation between Japan and Third World countries is increasing drastically. My question then is, whether there are other examples where Japan is involved in building non-handicapping environments in developing countries.

Dr. Milner, ICTA

I noticed one of the problems alluded to here is of trying to implement appropriate solutions that hinges on the fragmentation aspect of rehabilitation services. There are many agencies which have to be integrated in their thinking before one can realize a solution to a problem and this problem is common to all rehabilitation communities. Because of the eclecticism of rehabilitation that you draw from every aspect of life you need to be in contact with all of the variety of agencies and this tends to slow down progress. One has to make this a natural part of thinking in society so I believe that is something that ultimately we should make progress at. But it is rather interesting to notice as well the economic constraint and I alluded to this earlier on and I was hearing the comment about the wealth of some countries in being able to attend to some of the aspects of development. Canada is considered to be a well-developed country but in terms of mounting new initiatives we are coninually challenged with the issue of cost-containment. That is, we can mount new initiatives if we are clever about utilization of existing resources so that whilst you can do something new, fresh and different, you have got to try to do it without increasing or extending costs. I think the arguments for that become important arguments that will sell concepts to governments. I am really wondering whether others could comment on this particular problem. It seems the key words are cost-containment and cost-efficiency and if we are able to achieve efficiencies out of what we do then initiatives will be looked upon favourably.

Dr. Hagita, Yokohama National University

I would like to address a point that Dr. Ratzka raised concerning my report that here in Japan persons with disabilities are gathered into one special area. First of all, we too feel that such a situation must be solved and so we are trying to correct this problem. But there is a Japanese Public Housing law according to which persons, like Dr. Ratzka, who need 4-7 hours of personal assistance a day have to move to special institutions. The reason for this is that there is a principle which is highly understood in Japan that it is a problem of the family. As for political measures, there is no integration policy. In the regional care system it is only possible to offer 3-4 hours of personal assistance a week. Thus, we can say there is no definite home care system existing. Prejudice also prevails in this area, since everyone must participate in social activities such as cleaning the public drainage systems to be accepted by the society. Thus, these internal, cultural problems act as obstacles hindering a solution. Understanding is the primary hurdle and people are becoming more open.

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