Walkability in neighbourhood design

Wide footpath in a shopping strip which has a veranda overhead. There are planter boxes and a seat.Health professionals cite the lack of walking as a major factor in poor long term health, but do planners consider this in their schemes? But more importantly, do they consider the breadth and diversity of the population? This topic is of particular interest to Lisa Stafford and Claudia Baldwin. Their latest publication, Planning Walkable Neighborhoods: Are we overlooking diversity in ability and ages? tackles this issue head on. This article is available through Sage Journals and requires permissions for the full article. 

Abstract: Despite growing numbers of studies on planning walkable neighborhoods, few have included people with diverse abilities across the age spectrum. This article demonstrates a need for more inclusion of human diversity in walkable neighborhoods research to better inform policy, planning, and design interventions that are spatially and socially just for all ages and all abilities. Our study addresses this through a critical review of the literature, highlighting existing research practices, known person–environment influences on walkability, and limitations within current knowledge. We recommend future integrated and inclusive research directions to encapsulate diversity of abilities and ages in walkable neighborhood studies.

Planning neighbourhoods for all ages and abilities: A multi-generational perspective by Stafford and Baldwin was posted previously.

Dr Lisa Stafford is a director of CUDA.


Who do we design for? A planning perspective

Planning Institute of Australia logoThe following abstract from an article by Robina Crook in Planning News is short but gives a good idea of what the full article is about. The article, Universal Design: Who do we design for? is free to those with institutional access, or you can purchase for $4.00

Abstract: At its core, urban design is about creating places for people, yet we seem to continue to exclude. Perhaps not willfully, but excluding all the same. Without considering all, we risk condemning the most vulnerable of our community to an unsustainable, inaccessible world. The late Stella Young, Australian Journalist, Disability Rights Activist and Comedian put it succinctly; “My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn’t accessible.” By embracing Universal Design Thinking our urban places can accommodate everyone; you, me, young, old and those with disabilities.

Citation for the article: Crook, Robina. Universal design: Who do we design for? [online]. Planning News, Vol. 43, No. 4, May 2017: 8. 

Planning News is the monthly journal of the Planning Institute of Australia Victorian Division.


Inclusive Cities: Safety and access audits go hand in hand

Street scene in Leichhardt, Sydney

The way we design the environment affects the way we behave in it. Winston Churchill is well known for his quote, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”. This is why designing universally is so important. Designers of the built environment are now expected to design for accessibility, safety, and reductions in criminal behaviour among other factors. A study carried out in Dehli, India analysed both access checklists and safety of women checklists and found a lot of commonality.

They found that  90% of the safety audit parameters covered accessibility issues as well. in the context of designing safer and smarter cities, the authors conclude; “The study is an eye opener, which shows that “inclusiveness” and “safety” have so much commonality that a new set of parameters can be developed that can over-encompass the dual needs and help us strive for a “Smarter city” to live in.” Proponents of universal design would say that this is universal design thinking, because it is inclusive thinking. If thinking inclusively, then safety of everyone as well as removal of architectural barriers will be considered in the design process and throughout the project.

The authors are, Parama Mitra and Suchandra Bardhan in, Proceedings of International Conference Green Urbanism GU 2016.


Integrating art, healing and wayfinding

A boy sits on a chair and in front of him is a giant heart shaped apple sculpture with red hearts and other bright colours on it.Healthcare environments are under the design microscope now that there is a growing body of evidence to show how design is linked to well-being. The SEGD website has three interesting examples showing how art reduces stress for everyone, including staff, and improved clinical outcomes. The design project manager for the Seattle Children’s Hospital said, “It’s important to understand that hospital environments are places where people live”. The three examples are:

  1. Integrating Art and Wayfinding: Seattle Children’s Hospital
  2. Community and Storytelling: Antelope Valley Medical Center
  3. Empathy and Engagement: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Neighbourhoods for every age

Shows the street of a new housing development with driveways for cars but no footpath for peopleTwo case studies are used by Lisa Stafford and Claudia Baldwin to illustrate the need to utilise universal design principles in neighbourhood planning and design. Using the experiences of children and older adults they discuss how universal design is the bridging concept for joined up thinking for greater liveability for all ages. However, entrenched practices based on compliance leave no space for the application of voluntary guidelines whether for one age group or another. Designing universally requires the involvement of users of all ages and abilities in the design development stage. Inviting them to comment at a later stage assumes only cosmetic changes are needed to the “grand design”.

The authors mention universalism, a concept raised by Rob Imrie who claims that some UD advocates are ambivalent about specialist designs, and due to the political landscape, overcoming barriers will take more than just universal design concepts. The authors agree with Imrie that applying universal design principles in urban planning processes is not therefore the answer to everything. Also, more research is needed in this field to sort through the issues of politics and practice, and disability justice.

Planning neighbourhoods for all ages and abilities: A multi-generational perspective, is an academic paper. It has several photographs illustrating the findings and the points made. You can also download Imrie’s paper from ReseachGate

Dr Lisa Stafford is a Director of CUDA.


Neighbourhood design important for inclusion

shows roof tops of a development in a greenfield area. Photo taken from the top of a hill looking downA recent article published in The Conversation about inclusive communities suggests neighbourhood and urban planning have a key role in promoting diversity, and through diversity comes safety and inclusiveness. This is particularly the case for adults with an intellectual disability.

The authors stress the “main issue is not the type of accommodation, but its location. The neighbourhood, its design, and the community of people who live there are all significant factors for supporting safety and inclusion.” And surprisingly the exclusion of cars (in terms of thoroughfares) via a return to the cul-de-sac is seen as a significant design principle to reconsider for inclusive neighbourhoods. Preliminary results found three critical aspects for designing an inclusive neighbourhood:

  1. actual and perceived safety within the street and neighbourhood
  2. access to services and amenities via walking, cycling or public transport
  3. inclusion in community life and local neighbourhood activity.

This post was submitted by Nicholas Loder, Deputy Chair, CUDA.


Mobilising Design

Dark blue cover of the book Mobilising DesignDesign of movement in terms of pedestrians, cyclists and transport systems is the subject of the book Mobilising Design. The book chapters are written by various academics and should be of interest to both theorists and practitioners wanting to understand how design impacts on the way people move around in various environments and in various ways. For example, the “Legible London” chapter covers wayfinding systems and pedestrian mapping. “Being wheeled through the hospital” chapter looks at people’s spatial experiences in movement. 

The book takes a multi-disciplinary approach to design incorporating, geography, sociology, economic history, architecture, design and urban theory. There are many case studies demonstrating the diverse roles of design in cities, in buildings, transport infrastructure, and through work and leisure activities. 

This recently published book is available for purchase and is edited by Justin Spinney, Suzanne Reimer, and Philip Pinch. It is part of the Routledge Studies in Human Geography. The Table of Contents lists the broad spectrum of contributors and topics.