Transport infrastructure co-design toolkit

Public transport infrastructure in Queensland is undergoing significant design changes using co-design methods. The new Cross River Rail project embraced the concept of co-design to ensure new and upgraded infrastructure is fully accessible. The result is a transport infrastructure co-design toolkit as well as accessible trains and stations.

Co-design of large-scale public transport infrastructure spans several stages in the design process. Consequently, embedding a culture of co-design across the organisation is essential in the planning, development and implementation stages.

Image from the Toolkit

New train in a new tunnel with workers looking on. Cross River Rail Co-design toolkit.

The authority responsible for the project collaborated with the disability community and established strategic priorities to support ongoing infrastructure design.

Accessibility agenda

First there needs to be an accessibility agenda – finding out the diversity of accessibility challenges. That means establishing ways of working with the disability sector to drive decision making. However, there is a risk that some of these priorities disappear in pre-project activities such as feasibility studies and technical requirements. Some decisions made at these stages cannot be changed as they lock in key aspects of the design.

A culture of accessibility

An organisation-wide culture of accessibility is essential for the success of projects. Without this culture change the potential for “gaps” in the travel chain will arise for travellers. Sharing information across the different transport organisations and contractors and consultants is a must. By consolidating the knowledge base across the sector, it eventually gets easier to create inclusive public transport projects.

The title of the Toolkit is, Embedding Accessibility Co-design into the Delivery of Public Transport Infrastructure. The document is the result of research collaboration between the Hopkins Centre and the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority. The outcome has established a clear set of priorities for continued support of changes including those already underway. They key element is co-design with the disability community.

Toolkit contents

There are three parts to the document: Context and background, Outline of the co-design process, and Facilitating the co-design process. The appendices have extra detail and additional resources.

The Appendix on co-design mindsets appears to follow the theory of the once popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Nevertheless it does indicate that different people think differently – a concept aligned with Universal Design for Learning. It means people should be given the opportunity to express their thoughts in different ways.

The video below gives an overview and showcases some of the innovations in design. For more about accessibility, visit the Cross River Rail website where there are more videos with transcripts.

Mapping the inclusive city

Statistics capture many important measurements which are reported as facts, but who chooses what to measure and how it is measured and counted? If the lives of some people are left out of the research questions their facts become invisible. So researchers in the Netherlands took up the issue of inclusive data collection. The project was about mapping the inclusive city by engaging people with disability as co-researchers.

Improving the relevance and quality of research beyond statistical approaches, requires the involvement of community members with ‘the problem’. Image from Heeron Loo’s website.

Two women and two men are talking outside a building in the sunshine.

The research team, including people with disability, explored issues of accessibility in urban spaces. The digital map-based tools worked well and provided insights into accessible locations. However, it is not known if these locations are welcoming and inclusive. The notion of inclusion within places mapped needs a new design thinking cycle for all researchers.

Mapping accessibility is a different endeavour to mapping inclusion, and this research team has opened up the potential to find ways to map inclusion. Accessibility is an essential first step. Getting around is one thing, feeling welcoming with a sense of belonging is another. Urban design features and the attitudes of fellow citizens have an important role to play.

The title of the article is, Mapping the inclusive city: Engaging people with disabilities as co-researchers in Groningen (the Netherlands).

Traditional social research methods are discouraging of involving people with (intellectual) disabilities. This is largely because of governance issues relating to ethics committees. However, participatory research methods with people with disability are more acceptable. The article outlines the participatory research method emphasising the equal participation of all parties involved in the process.

From the abstract

Given the lack of collaboration with people with disabilities in (spatial) decision-making processes, our aim was to develop and test a method that allowed for the involvement of people with disabilities in community development, and in particular in mapping accessibility and inclusivity in various places and spaces in the city of Groningen (the Netherlands).

In this project, we collaborated with an organization that provides housing and care for clients with acquired brain injury, deafness with complex problems and chronic neurological disorders. We describe our approach and experiences in participatory research, focusing on the opportunities and challenges in developing and implementing a data collection method that enabled us to involve people with a disability as co-researchers.

Accessibility at bus stops

A research paper from Chile takes a similar approach. Instead of conducting a physical access audit, the researchers asked people about their bus stop experiences. It is another way of finding out how well access standards promote inclusive environments. Getting to and from the bus stop and boarding and alighting the bus all have to work together.

The researchers conclude that legislation and standards are insufficient to overcome gaps in this part of the travel chain. Consequently, people with disability are not afforded equal conditions.

The title of the paper is, Perceptions of people with reduced mobility regarding universal accessibility at bus stops: A pilot study in Santiago, Chile. You will need institutional access for a free read of the whole paper.

An orange articulated bus approaches a bus stop on a main road.

From the conclusions

This research is part of an interdisciplinary work that seeks to study universal accessibility for people with mobility impairments from different perspectives. From Engineering, it is important to highlight the relation to the dimensions of the space used, while in Occupational Therapy, it is relevant to include the perceptions when participating in the occupation.

The results contribute to the lived experiences of people with disability. They reveal the barriers, challenges, and opportunities that influence successful participation in mobility in the community. In conclusion, there is a lack of regulations regarding the characteristics of spaces. The perceptions of people with mobility impairments must be brought into the design to guarantee the right to move in equal conditions.


Citizen design science as co-design

Co-design strategies vary according to the context and complexity of the project. Co-design processes are not new – academics have carried out participatory action research (PAR) for many years. Often these studies are about solving a social problem. New versions of co-design are emerging as a means of democratising design decisions. Citizen science is a version of co-design that has its roots in environmental monitoring. This method is now used in urban planning and design.

The transformation of a car park into a multifunctional public space is the subject of a citizen science paper from Turkey. The authors explain the project and how they went about engaging with citizens. The co-design process relies on communication between designers, residents, visitors and the local authority.

An additional outcome of the project was to establish a Citizen Participation Unit within the municipal authority to facilitate citizen coordination.

Graphic depiction of the Citizen Design Science framework.

A key element of successful co-design is finding ways to design with non-designers through every stage of the project. Establishing a common language is essential for understanding the needs and thoughts of all participants.

Local residents provide information and issues about the area to expert designers who then evaluate and document the information. To ensure participation of citizens who are blind or have low vision, 3D and relief formats of design elements were provided. Using roundtable discussions and digital mapping, two conceptual designs were provided to citizens for voting.

Citizen Design Science

Citizen design science is a synthesis of citizen science and design science that uses a bottom-up approach. The authors break down the process into three parts:

  • Citizen science – type of data collected from participation
  • Citizen design – citizens actively design
  • Design science – translation of citizens’ ideas into designs by expert designers

The study showed that people without prior design knowledge are able to work constructively with professional designers.

Four photos here. Top two show three dimensional modeling of concepts. Two bottom photos show people sitting at tables outdoors discussing designs.

The title of the paper is, Co-Design of a Public Space and the Implementation: Atakent (Car) Park. The paper has several illustrations of the project.

From the abstract

Citizen Design Science is a co-design strategy for urban and architectural systems that uses design tools for citizens’ observation, experience, and local knowledge. The strategy improves the planning, design, and management of cities, urban habitats, and architectural structures.

This study is about the transformation of Atakent Car Park Area into a public space using a co-design process. Using design science data, two conceptual urban design projects were prepared. This included 178 local citizens’ wishes, needs, and suggestions about the area. Participating citizens were asked to vote for their preferred project and the selected conceptual design was implemented.

The remarkable aspect of this study is the engagement of a layperson without prior design knowledge in utilizing active design tools to establish a common language with a professional designer. Despite the efficacy of this common language facilitated by the tool, it has inherent limitations.

Engaging people with intellectual disability in research

People with intellectual disability continue to be excluded from research practices. This is often due to social and economic factors such as limited education opportunities and access to services. Exclusion is easily perpetuated when you add systemic bias to the list.

Ethics approval processes often view people with intellectual disability as “vulnerable”. This makes their inclusion more difficult for researchers.

Four people are seated at a table but their faces are obscured. One is writing on a notepad. A coffee mug and laptop are on the table. Including people with intellectual disability.

The design of research methods systemically excludes people with disability and other marginalised groups. Consequently, their voices are unheard in health, employment, education and independent living research.

According to an article from the US, approximately 75% of clinical trials have directly or indirectly excluded adults with intellectual disabilities. Just over 33% of the studies have excluded people based on cognitive impairment or diagnosis of intellectual disability.

New methods needed

In response to the ethics and research design challenges, researchers are finding new ways to adapt their methods. The article discusses three approaches:

1. Adapting research materials and processes into individualised and accessible formats.

2. Adopting inclusive research participation methods.

3. Community participation and co-researcher engagement.

Although inclusion strategies are making progress, researchers are lacking helpful guidance. Consequently, including people with intellectual disability in research in a meaningful way requires more work.

The title of the paper is, Inclusive Methods for Engaging People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Research Practices. This is a short paper and easy to read.

Technology and wellbeing

A related article on co-designing with people with intellectual disabilities looks at developing technologies. Here is an excerpt from the abstract:

Involving people with intellectual disabilities on issues relating to their mental wellbeing is essential for developing relevant tools. This research explores the use of inclusive and participatory co-design techniques and principles.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities participated in a co-design process via a series of
workshops and focus groups. The workshops helped participants explore new technologies, including sensors and feedback mechanisms that can help monitor and potentially improve mental wellbeing. The co-design approach developed various interfaces suited to varying ages.

The title of the article is, In the hands of users with Intellectual Disabilities: Co-Designing Tangible User Interfaces for Mental Wellbeing.

People with intellectual disability and support workers

Abuse of people with intellectual disability focuses on extreme forms of violence at the expense of everyday indignities. Humiliation, degradation, and hurt have a negative effect on identity and makes it more difficult to recruit research participants.

An article by a group of Australian researchers recommends taking action to support both workers and people with disability for improved wellbeing. Here are the key points from their article:

  • Everyday harms are the little things that upset people, such as making unkind jokes about you, being ignored, or disrespected, are not treated as abuse
  • In our project, we called this misrecognition.
  • We looked at when misrecognition happened between young people with disability and their paid support workers.
  • Much of the time, people did not intend to cause harm, but the other person was still hurt by the things they did or said.
  • We can improve the way that people with disability and support workers work together if people understand how their actions affect other people.

The article is titled, Recasting ‘harm’ in support: Misrecognition between people with intellectual disability and paid workers.

Theatre, research and intellectual disability

This study aims to demonstrate how disability theatre contributes to inclusive research practice with people with intellectual disability. The title of the article is Disability Theatre as Critical Participatory Action Research (CPAR). Here is an excerpt from the abstract:

This article describes how self-advocates (individuals with intellectual disability), theatre artists, researchers, and a community living society create social justice disability theatre as critical participatory research. It demonstrates how disability theatre can contribute
to and advance inclusive research practice.

Disability justice-informed theatre as CPAR has direct relevance to people with intellectual disabilities. It also offers a platform where self-advocates’ diverse ways to communicate and be in the world are honoured. Mentorship generates opportunities for self-advocates to learn, practice, and develop research skills.

The theatre creation process (devising, developing, and refining scenes) is research in itself where tensions are recognized as sites of possibility. Future research should explore strategies, and protocols for power sharing and problem solving within disability theatre.

Working from home: co-designing a housing toolkit

Working from home is one way people make a living in developing countries, but are their homes designed for this? One way to get a more suitable design is to involve the occupants in the design process. Researchers from the UK and Thailand used a co-design method to devise a housing and livelihood toolkit. The research explored the connection between ageing, housing, and livelihood for low income residents.

Housing for older people means much more than a physical dwelling space. Often it is a lifetime home and in developing countries it has to support their livelihood. Many older people and women depend on their home for their livelihood.

A woman is holding a straw broom in a footway between housing on both sides.

Klong Toey, which is located near Bangkok,, was the subject of the study. Bangkok Port Authority owns the land and wanted to evict residents to expand port facilities. Residents were offered cash compensation to relocate to new 24 storey apartments on the outskirts of the city. The affected families thought that moving out of the port area will take away their livelihood.

Co-designing in the context of low-income housing

Most of the literature on co-design comes from Western economies. Researchers needed to explore the ties between neighbourhood, housing, and livelihood using adapted methods. The outcome was a design toolkit whose purpose was to serve at a catalyst for design options. These were based around live-work housing and neighbourhood design for flats and houses.

Three livelihood groups emerged from the co-design workshops: service, cooking, and stocking/storing. Service is typified by hair salons, grocery stores and laundry. Cooking needs space for food preparation activities and dining space. Stocking and storing is for jobs that include recyclable waste and online selling. These three livelihood types formed the basis of the design toolkit.

Residents can use the toolkit to advocate for improvements to the living and livelihood conditions rather than being relocated. Other stakeholders – landowners, policy-makers, designers and community organisations can also use it. The toolkit helps stakeholders to identify, understand, and propose inclusive solutions acceptable to all.

Western housing design should also incorporate the concept of working from home. The COVID pandemic highlighted that homes need to have flexible space for work activities.

The title of the paper is, Co-designing a housing and livelihood toolkit with low-income older people for future housing in Klong Toey, Bangkok, Thailand.

Residents found the co-creation activities gave them the chance to imagine their own living and working space. The toolkit gave them a well-founded instrument for advocacy and negotiation.

A man and a woman stand behind a street stall selling cooked food.

From the abstract

This paper is about a research project involving low-income older people in Klong Toey, Bangkok. The aim was to co-produce a design toolkit to guide the development of live–work housing for low-income older people in Klong Toey.

A three-day co-design workshop was held with local stakeholders to develop design alternatives for their live–work activities. The researchers engaged with the users as facilitators and translators to produce design options that informed the toolkit.

The toolkit was developed under the overarching AgeingHood project. It was inspired by the unique housing and livelihood needs of the older people of Klong Toey, who often run small businesses from their own homes. Ageing, housing and livelihood are interrelated aspects of the lives of low-income older people in this area of Bangkok.

The project also led to impacts such as supporting residents’ live–work needs assessment and positive engagement and collaborative working with various local stakeholders.

Engaging with local communities

Co-creation and co-design processes are gaining traction in urban regeneration projects across the globe. A study of three different urban regeneration projects in three countries shows the flexibility and value of this method. Successful implementation of equitable and inclusive public space also depends on a multi-sectorial approach.

The three cities in the study were Dhaka in Bangladesh, Maputo in Mozambique, and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The research group consisted of an architectural firm, and academics from three universities in the relevant countries.

Seven challenges emerged: inclusive mobility, housing, climate change, local economy, governance, gender and participatory planning. The one thing the case studies have in common is the value of engaging local communities.

Aerial view of Dhaka city in Bangladesh showing densely packed apartment buildings.

The case studies offer different situations for learning and are explained in detail. The participative process revealed a stark imbalance in the inclusion of girls, women and marginalised groups in planning processes. The researchers repeat the call by others to include a diversity of user groups in co-creation methods.

Rapid urbanisation and inadequate public transport in the Global South has lead to half the people having their mobility restricted. This means they are less likely to access employment, education and recreational facilities.

Public space is often a place for trade and commerce in the Global South. Informal economies sustain livelihoods where there is little demand for labour. While this type of economic activity can revive public space, it can also foster unjust distribution of public space.

The title of the article is, Creating Resilient Public Spaces – a Global Perspective on the Conditions for Integrated Urban Development.

From the abstract

Inclusive and sustainable design is crucial for creating equitable and climate-resilient urban environments. This paper presents a research project that involved case studies in three cities on three continents – Dhaka, Maputo, and Santo Domingo.

A participatory design process was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and 2022 through academic urban living labs in our partner cities. Urban design solutions for regenerating public space were co-created with local communities.

This approach aimed to ensure that the proposals were holistic and responsive to the specific needs and aspirations of the local communities. The case studies encompassed sites reflecting diverse urban contexts. The urban lake of Shahjahanpur Jheel in Dhaka, public spaces surrounding the centre of Maputo, and a central expressway in Santo Domingo.

Researchers identified the needs and aspirations of local populations for these places. Co-creation opportunities and place-making events empowered residents and local entrepreneurs to take an active role in the transformation of their neighbourhoods.

Established participation tools were adapted to each local context and new techniques were developed for specific user groups. Young professionals were included in the design process through cooperation with local universities. Academic partnerships and the cooperation with local city administrations also supported capacity building and
knowledge exchange.

The results of the process included integrated urban strategies, urban designs, architectural solutions, and cost estimates for implementation. We identified seven overarching challenges that need to be addressed. They were, inclusive mobility, housing, climate change adaptation, local economy, governance, and gender-sensitive and participatory planning.

This paper presents how the challenges were identified and addressed through the applied research approach for the design of public spaces in Dhaka, Maputo and Santo Domingo.

Healthy and inclusive neighbourhoods in Florence

Participatory action research was at the centre of a project for the Municipality of Florence in Italy. The focus was on green and public spaces and involved several different stakeholder groups. The outcome was the creation of a “health map” with design ideas to enhance the neighbourhood.

Co-planning activities involved citizens and researchers used different methods and tools at different times.


As recognised in the scientific literature, the topic of healthy cities needs to be addressed at the neighbourhood scale, as health has a place-based dimension. The contribution is based on the Quartieri Sani Hub (Healthy Neighbourhoods Hub) ongoing research, aiming to investigate the issue of health and wellbeing through an integrated approach based on spatial and social knowledge, in order to define strategies and design scenarios for an inclusive and healthy neighborhood.

The paper presents the methodological approach defined within this research project for merging different aspects of the healthy city, leading to the definition of a transdisciplinary and multi-scalar conceptual framework in which the characteristics of the built environment that promote healthy lifestyles are systemised.

Inclusive Design Wheel for transport

The University of Cambridge’s Inclusive Design Team, have applied their Inclusive Design Wheel to transport. As with many frameworks, it lists a step-by-step process, but with a twist. It is a co-design process. The key principle of the Inclusive Design Wheel is that the process is highly iterative and involves users.

The Inclusive Design Wheel for Transport consists of four phases of activity: Manage, Explore, Create and Evaluate

The Inclusive Design Wheel for transport showing the four phases of the framework.

The Wheel is flexible and it is not always necessary to carry out all activities in every iteration. Successive cycles of Explore, Create and Evaluate are used to generate a clearer understanding of needs.

Each of the four phases is broken down into guiding tasks. For example, in the Explore phase, engage with users, examine user journeys, and capture wants and needs. In the Create phase, involve users, stimulate ideas, and refine ideas. In the Evaluate phase, agree success criteria, gather expert feedback and gather user feedback.

The Inclusive Design Wheel is a detailed online toolkit. While some of the steps appear obvious, the step-by-step process keeps you on track. This is a useful tool which can be applied in other contexts.

The underpinning research

The Inclusive Design Team completed their Dignity project on digital access to transport. They worked in four European cities to see how best to help travellers and providers. The aim of the project was to see how all stakeholders can help bridge the digital gap. They did this by co-creating more inclusive solutions using co-design methods. Their Inclusive Design Wheel is the result and is applicable to all aspects of public transport.

The evolution of paper-based train and bus timetables to digital formats has benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, digital formats offer more detailed information to help plan journeys. On the other, the amount of information can be overwhelming – that is, if you can find what you are looking for. And if you don’t have access to digital services then this format is of no use at all.

At first glance the Inclusive Design Wheel looks complex. The research team used feedback from the research project to fine tune the framework to its current form.

A graphic showing a complex circular chart with many elements. It looks very academic and take time to read and perhaps understand.

The Dignity report is long, comprehensive, and uses academic language. It details the methods in all four cities: Ancona Italy, Barcelona Spain, Flanders, Belgium, and Tilbug Netherlands.

Universally designed infrastructure planning

An aerial view of a new highway junction with overpasses.

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 regardless of  who owns it, runs it or controls it. It is about good city governance. Planners need to do three things:

  1. consult and engage citizens early in infrastructure planning
  2. improve quality and access of citizen engagement at the strategic planning stages
  3. use more sophisticated strategic planning tools and practices to improve decision-making

The original article was in The Conversation. 

Digital first and last mile

A young woman is sitting in a bus shelter and looking down the road. The shelter is lit and has an information board.

Many car trips in Australia are less than 2km. So there is room for a re-think in personal e-mobility and digital solutions.  The Future of Place organisation recently ran an online workshop on the digital last mile. It drew together technology and data solutions to support first and last mile experience. The key question was what does the last mile of the future look like? It therefore follows: will everyone be included in the digital first and last mile solutions?

Four guests gave their expertise to the workshop. Katherine Mitchell reminded us that regular commuters have high levels of digital literacy. But not everyone has a smart device. She focused on accessibility, safety, confidence and wayfinding.

Damien Hewitt posed the idea of bus stops offering more local information, not just about transport or timetables. Stephen Coulter discussed the opportunities for micro-mobility and e-mobility. With 12 billion car trips of less than 2km made each year it’s time for transformation.

Oliver Lewis advocated for a greater level of digitisation to manage assets for real time experiences for users. He also introduced the idea of “Digital Twins”. An example of a digital twin is a digital 3D model of a real physical object or process. It helps predict how a product will perform.

Workshop participants gave their ideas via a process of “card-storming”. The results were captured in a document on the Future of Place website. 

Design justice in engineering courses

Typical engineering courses have plenty of design content but they lack concepts of design justice. Engineers have done much to improve lives for the better. However, there are instances where the opposite occurs and unintentional harms are caused. Time to introduce the concepts of design justice into engineering courses, according to a recent paper.

Using a design justice lens, the inequities in the built environment come to light. Design justice seeks to address the ways in which design decisions perpetuate systemic injustices.

A six lane highway through an urban area.

The paper describes how undergraduate students were tasked to assess an established neighbourhood where major highway now divides what was a thriving neighbourhood. Students were asked to review the case using principles of design justice.

Principles of design justice

The 10 principles of design justice are compared to the Engineering Code of Ethics. This is important because engineering ethics are about engineer practice, not who they design for. For example, avoiding conflicts of interest is not the same as being collaborative and a facilitator of design. The list of principles focus on the users of the design and introduces elements of co-design. These principles shift the focus from their skills as engineers to their skills of listening to and understanding users.

Self reflection on the learning

The author tracks the methods used and then uses direct quotes from students to highlight the learning. Here are two examples:

“The real lesson of the exercise though is just how big of an impact design can have on people and how long that the impact can be felt even generations later.”

“I have been aware that design can cause unintended harm but have never had a list of principles to reference when creating a design. I can now use this list to create just designs in my life.”

A group of men in hard hats, and with tools in their hands, stand near a bulldozer in an urban road. A run down apartment block is in the background.

The principles of design justice are a good framework for engineers and others involved in design. The engineering profession is seeking ways to improve diversity and inclusion within their ranks. Now it is time to ensure diversity and inclusion is part of their everyday activity.

The title of the paper is, Incorporating Design Justice Activities in Engineering Courses, and good for all built environment educators.

Teaching engineers empathy

Universal design and empathetic design for engineers discusses similar issues. Here is an excerpt from the abstract.

This article explores the relevance of universal design and empathic design in education. Universal design focuses on creating accessible and usable products, environments, and systems for individuals with diverse abilities.

Empathy involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others, encompassing cognitive, emotional, and compassionate empathy. Teaching empathy to engineers is emphasized as a crucial aspect. By developing empathic skills, engineers gain a deeper understanding of user needs and perspectives, leading to more inclusive and user-centered design solutions.

Effective communication techniques such as asking open-ended questions, active listening, observation, and perspective-taking are explored. The article also explores methods for measuring empathy, thus enabling engineers to assess the effectiveness of their empathic design approaches. The challenges facing students, teachers, and university authorities in implementing such courses are also bulleted.

Spatial justice and creative co-design

Inclusive design concepts go beyond codes and standards. This requires new approaches using creative practices according to Janice Rieger’s new book. She presents creative co-design methods well beyond standard workshop techniques. For designers in any discipline these techniques shine a light on spatial justice and creative co-design methods.

The case studies centre on museums, malls, universities and galleries illustrate co-design methods applicable to other public places. The book exposes ableism in architecture and design and stimulates debate about current practice. Rieger challenges and expands our understanding of power in architecture and design that creates injustices.

Using a justice-based lens the case studies in each chapter have take-aways for creating inclusive, universally designed places and spaces. The language in this text is generally for professionals and scholars.

Perspectives of power leads the discussion followed by issues of ableism and how to design differently. Here Rieger uses her experiences of using short films and multisensory storytelling. Part 3 looks at constructing inclusive experiences followed by a look at spatial justice in the future.

The title of the book is, Design, Disability and Embodiment: Spatial Justice and Perspectives of Power. The book is available for purchase from the Routledge website with access to a preview and the table of contents.

From the Overview

This book explores the spatial and social injustices within our streets, malls, schools, and public institutions. Going for a walk, seeing an exhibition with a friend, and going to school are conditional for people with disability.

This book stimulates debate and discussion about current practice and studies in spatial design in the context of disability. Case studies of inclusive design in museums, malls, galleries and universities challenge and expose the perspectives of power and spatial injustices that still exist within these spaces today.

The international case studies purposely privilege the voices and perspectives of people with disabilities, to expose the multisensorial perspectives of spatial justice in order to understand inclusion more holistically through embodiment.

This book is for anyone in the design or arts who want a world where spatial justice is possible. It offers a new perspective of spatial design through critical disability studies, allyship and codesign, where tangible approaches and practices for inclusive design are explored.

From Rob Imrie’s review of the book

Highly regarded researcher and author Rob Imrie has written a review of Rieger’s book in Disability & Society. He writes of her challenge to the power of ableist architecture and the bias towards sight and seeing. Here are two pertinent extracts from Imrie’s review:

“For Rieger, echoing earlier work by Oliver (1992), about the need for emancipatory research, there can be no such thing as inclusive design based on data generated by conventional social relations of research, in which disabled people are objects of the process. Rather, what is needed is a transformation in the conduct of research, in which disabled people participate in a process of co-design. While the book describes a variety of co-design projects, I wonder if these are sufficient in tackling disablism and spatial injustice?”

“[Rieger’s observations] raise the question of how far design professionals are willing or able to cede control, and embrace a different set of relationships with their clients and users? More importantly, how will such changes transpire, given that much of the design of space is channelled through corporate development companies, in which architects have little influence?”

Community driven design

Architectural competitions can bring design quality to cities. But the design competition process misses the opportunity to engage deeply with the public. And that means social value could be missing too. The process of community driven design competitions addresses unequal access to design decisions and cultivates social ties.

“Design has a role in building social capital. During a design competition, there are opportunities for placemaking and designing in social connectors.” Georgia Vitale

Image: 11th Street Bridge Park. Courtesy OMA + OLIN

An aerial view of 11th Bridge Street Park which spans a river. It was community driven design.

Community consultation takes many forms, some of which are perfunctory while others are more meaningful. That is, meaningful for the public – the users of places and spaces. The judges of architectural design competitions are other architects. So how does community consultation and engagement fit into this process?

Vitale’s article explores the drawbacks of limited or no meaningful public participation or interaction with users of the building or place or other stakeholders in design competitions. This is at a time for an increased need for social capital to be included in the planning and design process for more socially sustainable communities.

Social infrastructure, shared spaces and streets, and public transport are the outputs of design. However, community engagement with diverse community members helps create new connections. it also encourages people to become involved in the lives of their neighbours. That’s the social benefit of community driven design competitions.

Case Study

Vitale uses 11th Street Bridge Park DC as a case study. The goal is to knit together the two communities on either side of the river. And that’s without displacing people in the marginalised neighbourhoods on the eastern bank.

Bridging community and design: a new way forward is the title of the article in The Fifth Estate. See the original article for links to cited research and case study.

Accessibility Toolbar