Landscaping with universal design

A garden with water features and lots of plantings around a curving footway. In the background a woman is being pushed in a wheelchair.Compliance with legal requirements in public spaces is rarely enough to guarantee access for everyone. A focus on technical aspects often results in spaces that are still challenging for many. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a Universal Design page where they list some of the disabilities and impairments regularly overlooked. For example, dementia, deafness, vision loss, and autism. The classic 7 Principles of Universal Design are re-jigged to suit landscape design: 

      • Accessible
      • Comfortable
      • Participatory
      • Ecological
      • Legible
      • Multi-sensory
      • Predictable
      • Walkable/Traversable.

More detail on the above list is on their web page.You can also find more resources on their website including one specifically on Universal Design: Parks and Plazas with some nice case studies too. 

Inclusive play spaces: Yes I can.

children and adults are on a spinner. Some children are siting and one person is in a wheelchair. There are three seats on the spinner as well.The arrival of Liberty Swing showed that children with disability should be considered in play spaces. But play space design has come a long way since their introduction. Children like to play together and it was the Touched by Olivia Foundation that started a grass roots movement to move from isolated and exclusive equipment to designs where all children could interact. ABC News has more on this story.

To help people with the concepts and design of inclusive play spaces, NSW Government has devised Everyone Can Play guideline. This document takes inclusive thinking a step further and considers parents and grandparents. Convenience for carers are key for getting children to the play spaces and the amount of time they spend playing. There are three key elements that must be considered in an inclusive play space: Can I get there? Can I play? Can I stay?  These three elements basically sum up a universal design approach to almost anything. The short video sums up the concepts.

See also the post on Camp Manyung for the ultimate in inclusion.

Designing parks that people use

A young woman and man are walking their dog in an urban park.Public parks can work their magic only if they give what people they need. People use green spaces in cities in different ways depending on their community’s historical experience and cultural standards. Access to parks is strongly linked with better health outcomes so it is important to design them in context. But the mere existence of a park does not ensure a community benefits from it. In an article for The Conversation, Thaisa Way covers the history of parks, importance of easy access and cultural relevance.  Lots of links to research papers within the article titled: “Parks work for cities, but only if people use them”. And that is a question of design. 

Just add grass and a fence

before and after greening. vacant lot with overgrown vegetation and after with grass and a tree.Some major cities have neighbourhood lots that lay vacant for some time. It seems that a small investment in a fence and some grass can make quite a difference to the people that live nearby. The article, The case for building $1,500 parks, reports on a new study shows that access to “greened” vacant lots can reduce feelings of worthlessness and depression, especially in low-resource neighbourhoods. Using radomised control trials, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania observed cause and effect between access to green vacant lots and improved mental health. There were other benefits too such as decreased violence. The picture shows the before and after effect – simple and cost effective solutions. To find out more go to the article on the FastCompany website by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan. The original research report can be found in JAMA Network Open. Looks are everything.