One of the underpinning tenets of universal design is to involve users in the design process – at the beginning. Involving citizens in early stages of design can avoid costly retrofits, but more importantly, it is more likely to give people what they want. That means they are more likely to use it. Transport planning can also be universally designed. An article in The Fifth Estate argues that to leave out citizens is asking for trouble, and it is also undemocratic. Infrastructure is a public thing regarless of who owns it, runs it or controls it. It is about good city governance. Planners need to do three things:
- consult and engage citizens early in infrastructure planning
- improve quality and access of citizen engagement at the strategic planning stages
- use more sophisticated strategic planning tools and practices to improve decision-making
The original article was in The Conversation.
Applying the principles of universal design at the formation stage of planning can lead to harmonious, accessible, sustainable and healthy cities.This is the conclusion of a European study. The study looked at the design and development of city space from the perspective of the varying levels of human capabilities. The overall aim of the research was to raise the quality of urban planning, and to develop tools for healthy cities compatible with the principles of sustainability. You can download the PDF of Sustainable Urban Development: Spatial Analyses as Novel Tools for Planning a Universally Designed City, by Joanna Borowczyk, in EconPapers, 2018, vol. 10, issue 5, 1-16.
The Dutch idea of the Woonerf has been picked up again, this time by Jenny Donovan of La Trobe University. Using some graphics, she shows how design can affect our decisions to either walk, drive, use public transport or not, and whether you feel welcome in the environment. She covers the key elements of a Compassionate City where various design elements can meet the needs of a range of people and create more harmonious behaviours. There are several links in the article to other related reports and articles. The article originates from The Conversation.
Compressed urban footprints might be related to higher rates of depression. Drawing a long bow here? Maybe not. In, Mind over matter: The restorative impact of perceived open space, the authors argue that the loss of natural open space could be having a detrimental affect on mental health: “By 2050 three out of four people will live in urban environments.This premium on open space will reduce vital access to the healing effects of undisturbed nature”. The article by David Navarrete and Bill Witherspoon discusses some of the neuroscience about enclosed spaces, lack of natural light and other factors and how they relate to our perceptions of the world around us. There are references for further reading at the end of the article. The article was posted on the Conscious Cities website.
It’s time for planning competitions to have residents involved in the decisions about what the best planning solutions are, not just a select panel of judges. Planning competitions are used as a way to determine alternatives and promote innovative solutions in the early phase of urban planning. The book New Approaches, Methods, and Tools in Urban E-Planning, has an interesting chapter that outlines the findings of how e-participation can be implemented in urban planning competitions. You will need institutional access for a free read. The chapter is “Enhancing E-Participation in Urban Planning Competitions”.
Planning competitions are used as a way to determine alternatives and promote innovative solutions in the early phase of urban planning. However, the traditional jury-based evaluation process is encountering significant opposition, as it does not consider the views of local residents. This chapter describes how web-based public participation tools are utilized in urban planning competitions to register public opinion alongside the expert view given by the jury. The research focus of this chapter is on studying how public participation can be arranged in competition processes, how the contestants use the information produced, and how it has been utilized in further planning of the area. Based on two Finnish case studies, this study indicates that web-based tools can augment public participation in the competition process. However, the results indicate that the impact of participation on selecting the winner is weak. Instead, in further planning of the area, the public opinions are valuable.
If you think that the weather is something people just cope with while getting on with their lives, it might be time to think again. A new study has found that the weather has a significant impact on urban walkability. Itai Palti explains in his article that while the elements of many cities are very similar, only some take the weather into consideration in urban design. He compares rainy London with rainy Kyoto, and points out that London seems not to care about the rain in urban design, whereas Kyoto does. The article refers to an international study, The effect of weather conditions on the seasonal variation of physical activity. It provides some interesting data on weather and walkability. While it might seem obvious that people don’t go out in the rain or heat waves, it is good to see some actual data. There are lots of links to other information in Itai Palti’s article.
How weather affects the experience of the city
How fast can you get across a pedestrian crossing? The Department of Health says the average walking speed required is 1.2 metres per second, but the average speed of the older pedestrian is just 0.7 to 0.9 metres per second, according to an article in The Guardian. Cities are still being designed with a mythical average person in mind, but this so-called average is getting older. Have designers updated their data on this? The article goes on to discuss many issues that have been mentioned elsewhere: older people having problems getting outdoors; time to sit down; a bus driver who lets you sit before moving off; and of course, uneven pavements – or no pavements at all. Across the world 258 cities have signed up to the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age Friendly Cities. One has to ask “only 258?” A good article questioning the approaches of urban designers. It has links to other useful references.
This year the topic for the annual review of Gerontology and Geriatrics is Environments in an Ageing Society: Autobiographical Perspectives. The contributors have long-standing research careers – some are well known in Australia: Edward Steinfeld, Jon Pynoos, Laura Gitlin, Susanne Iwarsson, and Sheila Peace. The chapters cover home, neighbourhood, ageing in place, and social change. Each chapter is written from the researcher’s perspective providing reflections of their experience and learning. As an academic publication you will need institutional access for a free read, or you can purchase chapters separately. Here is the introduction:
“Through the autobiographical perspectives of 16 preeminent researchers and scholars of Environmental Gerontology, this state-of-the-art Annual Review critically examines the broad range of topics that comprise this interdisciplinary field. The writings of these individuals, who have contributed to and shaped the growth of the field over the past three-plus decades, trace the growth and evolution of Environmental Gerontology and provide understanding of, and insights on, the role of environments for older adults and an aging society at multiple levels.
Three articles were published in Accessibility in the Laboratory about creating inclusion in school and research laboratories. Good to see this topic discussed as it broadens our thinking about universal design and where it needs to be applied (that is, everywhere). The first is about accommodating students with disability in chemistry teaching laboratories. This is especially important now that the STEM subjects are being promoted and encouraged. The second is focused on the modifications that labs might need to undertake. They include people with reduced hand strength in their discussions. The third is about invisible, or not readily observable, disabilities that need to be considered. They discuss stigma and other challenges students face in the lab. Each chapter can be purchased separately if you don’t have institutional access for a free read. The book is published by the American Chemical Society. Here are the full titles:
Laboratory Safety for All: Accommodating Students with Disabilities in Chemistry Teaching Laboratories
Accommodating Persons with Physical Disability in the Lab
Hidden or invisible disabilities and Laboratory Accommodations
Architect Mary Ann Jackson has written a thoughtful article about built environment practitioners and their continued lack of understanding of our human diversity. She points out that little is known about the extent of inaccessibility and that legislation is all very well, but it doesn’t reflect the real lives of people. Her article explores the question of how might an understanding of models of disability and human rights inform the improvement of access at a neighbourhood scale? She argues that built environment practitioners must engage with users, with people with disability to inform their understanding of what makes (unintended) barriers to access and inclusion. Sadly, nearly forty years on from the Year of Persons with Disability we are still having this conversation – hence Mary Ann’s paper. You can download the full text from the link. There are links to related articles on the page.
Ref: Jackson, M.A. Models of Disability and Human Rights: Informing the Improvement of Built Environment Accessibility for People with Disability at Neighborhood Scale? Laws 2018, 7, 10.