London Street Accessibility Tool

The City of London Street Accessibility Tool is like an educational access audit report. It shows street designers how street features impact on the different needs of pedestrians. The focus is on people with mobility impairments and wheelchair users, which means everyone wins.

The tool recognises that there are sometimes competing needs: what’s good for one group might not be good for another. Co-design is the best way to find the trade-offs to prevent unintended exclusion.  The tool comes in three parts: two Excel spreadsheets and a PDF downloadable from the City of London website.

A photo showing a footpath lined with black bollards with white tops from the Street Accessibility Tool.
Road and footpath image from the City of London Street Accessibility tool.

Two photos from the “Instructions for Use” PDF document.

Doing the analysis

The PDF document begins with a table of different pedestrian types with and without assistive mobility devices. They cover mobility, sensory and neurodiverse conditions. There are three steps for using the tool.

The case study for the tool is London Wall, a street in London. A 500m long section is analysed for accessibility and is split into six sections. Each section has detailed access advice for improvements with photographs overlaid with dimensions and text to illustrate issues.

Down to the detail

The first spreadsheet has detailed dimensions, colours, and placements for elements such as tactiles, street furniture, and kerbs. All the necessary technical detail is here. 

What pedestrians said

The second spreadsheet is a route analyser and has a column of photos with user feedback about the issues they see. The feedback sheet highlights the “why” of planning and design. It provides insights for planners and designers in a way that that is missed in 2D drawings.

The direct quotes from people with disability provide the necessary insights for planners and designers. However, those responsible doing the actual construction should also have this information. All the access planning and designing goes awry if the “why” isn’t understood by all involved. 

Here are two quotes from the spreadsheet on route comments:

I feel quite wary. This is an unmarked crossing as far as I can see, I can’t see any wait signs. Somebody has stopped for me I can see a cyclist, I’m now onto some more tactile paving, this is the sort of crossing I am totally unfamiliar with. Person using a white cane

This is all fine but the paving stones are a little even so I’d be looking down and watching my speed so I don’t knock into one. Person using a wheelchair

A page of photographs of a section of London Wall in the City of London Street Accessibility Tool.
A page from the London Street Accessibility Tool

Ross Atkin Associates and Urban Movement for the City of London Corporation developed The City of London Street Accessibility Tool (CoLSAT).

Safe public spaces for girls

Public spaces aren’t equal places. That is, some people don’t feel safe or welcome in particular places. It seems this is the case for teenage girls. According to some Swedish research, public spaces aren’t used equally by girls and boys. So creating safe public spaces for girls is a challenge for urban and landscape designers. 

A night time image of a swing set comprising large rings. They are illuminated in purple and blue.
Swing Time – Höweler+Yoon. Photo by John Horner

Until the age of seven, boys and girls use public facilities, such playgrounds, on an equal basis to boys. According to a 2020 Girl Guides UK survey, 62 percent of girls aged 11-21 years said they didn’t have an outdoor sport or facility they felt safe to use. What would encourage them to go out? Safer places, less catcalling and more things to do they said. 

Teenage invaders?

Girls like to use swings but they are placed with the equipment for young children. If teenagers use them they are seen as invaders – not welcome. Branko Miletic in Architecture and Design magazine says,

“Come to think of it, teenagers are seen as invaders in most public spaces: they are too old for playgrounds, don’t have the money for malls or cafes, and also run the risk of harassment in public facilities overrun by boys and men. But they also yearn for physical activity and movement, connecting with friends, having fun conversations, walking and biking, and indulging in sports and games at their own pace, without being judged or commented upon in a public space.”

Multi-use areas such as skate parks, basketball courts and kickabout areas are designed for ‘young people’. However, boys and young men tendt to dominate these areas. Boys tend to dominate single large spaces while girls are more comfortable in broken-up spaces. In terms of seating, boys want to watch the action while girls like to face each other to talk. 

Ask the girls

The answer, of course is to involve girls in the design process. Ask them what they want in a public space. A local authority in Sweden together with architects constructed a model designed with girls. The design revealed a preference for places with colour, sitting face to face, protected from weather, and to see without necessarily being seen. 

Public spaces must cater for all ages. It’s not just about physical activity, it about social interaction and feeling safe. It would be interesting to do a similar study with older people so we can create intergenerational spaces too. 

The title of the article in Architecture and Design is, Designing safe public spaces for teenage girls.


Singapore’s Universal Design Index

Singapore embraced universal design principles in their building code in 2006. The government recognised the importance of designing buildings and homes for everyone. Similarly to other nations, Singapore’s population is ageing and some thoughtful planning was needed. Singapore’s universal design index is an assessment tool with star ratings for user-friendliness.

For building designers aiming to go beyond Australia’s minimum standards, this guide has specific design information to help. Plain language and lots of photos make this an easy to read document.

Front cover of the Guide to universal design index.

Singapore’s Universal Design index (UDi) guide assists architects, designers and building owner to understand the framework, procedure and applicability of the UDi. It has explanatory notes and photo examples that aid awareness and understanding. The guide is published by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority. It builds on other universal design guides, and the Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment.

It’s about being user-friendly

I took this photo of a sign at Gardens by the Bay in 2016. It is an attempt to show that universal design is not just about disability. Editor.

Sign showing symbols for wheelchair access and baby stroller access

The UDi provides indicators on the level of user-friendliness for each key user groups. The specific user groups are people with disability, older people, families with young children and expectant and nursing mothers.

The four key user groups: people with disability, older people, families with young children, expectant/nursing mothers.
User Group graphic from the Universal Design Index.

The guide is a building assessment tool with star ratings. The aggregate level of user friendliness across the user groups provides the Universal Design Index rating. This indicates the level of universal design implementation achieved.

A chart showing a five star rating from one indicating minimum compliance, to five indicating all groups considered.
User-friendliness rating scale as shown in the UDi guide.

And there is detail

This comprehensive guide has specific design details on circulation, wayfinding, sensory impairments, sanitary facilities and elder-friendly rooms, residential features, hotels, serviced apartments, and more. Some of the photos, such as sanitary facilities, and hotel rooms, look very disability-specific, but there are some good design ideas too.

In essence it is a relatively easy to read building guide presented as a self-assessment tool. It covers every design element you can think of in public buildings and residential settings. It’s also an exemplar of plain language that other guides could follow.

Dementia and Planning

An older man sits with his back to the camera in a cafe. Urban planning for dementia allows people to get out and about.Most people living with dementia live at home in the community, not in a facility. Dementia develops over time and people experience it differently. With the right supports they can live independently for several years after diagnosis. Thoughtful urban planning and design is part of the web of community supports. Samantha Biglieri discuses dementia and planning in her short article.

The title of the article is, Dementia and Planning: Expanding accessibility through design and the planning process. It covers walkability and land use strategies, wayfinding, and urban design for comfort and safety. Unique landmarks in the form of street furniture and public art can go a long way in orientating everyone.

Planning specifics

Biglieri makes the following suggestions:

    • A short irregular grid pattern of streets to create identifiable intersections.
    • Streets with ample space for pedestrian with wide buffer zones between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
    • Variated architectural styles within the same development. Vary the landscape to provide unique landmarks. This includes mixed land-use, different styles of street furniture, public art and vegetation. 
    • Development of memorable landscape features, open public squares and community facilities that promote social interaction and a sense of belonging. 


Contrary to popular belief, over two thirds of Canadians with dementia live in the community as opposed to congregate living. This begs a question that has not been adequately explored in planning practice or academia: How can we as planners who deal with land-use, community design, and public consultation every day, understand and meet the needs of people with dementia (PWD), who are citizens just like everyone else? After examining existing work on the relationship between the built environment and PWD, I argue a dementia-specific approach to planning practice and research is needed in the Canadian context. 


Equity and Inclusion by Design

Diversity, equity and inclusion is easy to talk about, but how do you make it happen? Society and businesses make commitments to the concepts, but it needs more than policies. The WELL Building Standard is about diversity, equity and inclusion by design within the built environment.

The WELL Building Standard is a building certification that focuses on human health and wellness. The assessment method encourages active lifestyles, and building features such as natural light and good air quality. The Standard includes a set of strategies focused on improving quality of life through the design. The Standard now includes the The WELL Rating™.

Jack Noonan writes in Sourceable that when we design for inclusivity, everybody benefits. Two hundred advisors from 26 countries devised the The WELL Equity Rating™. This rating framework is designed to help organisations meet their diversity, equity and inclusion goals.

The WELL Equity Rating™ was developed through a design thinking approach. This included problem solving in collaboration with people from marginalised groups.

Coloured chart of the WELL Building Standard listing, Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, Mind

The WELL Rating™ gives organisations a framework to improve access to health and wellbeing and address diversity, equity and inclusion. It contains more than 40 features spaning six action areas:

  • User experience and feedback
  • Responsible hiring and labour practices
  • Inclusive design
  • Health benefits and services
  • Supportive programs and spaces
  • Community engagement
High rise building atrium looking down the levels that all look the same.

Find out more on the WELL Equity Rating™ website.

WELL also addresses topics such as housing equity, modern slavery and issues of domestic violence. A new feature for the next edition will include colonisation and acknowledgement of traditional custodians of the land on which we live work and play.

The title Noonan’s article is, Driving Equity and Inclusion Through Better Design and Practice.

Wayfinding signage manual

University campuses have much in common, including the likelihood of getting lost and disorientated. This is largely due to the way each campus evolves with new buildings placed wherever land is available. That makes architectural wayfinding strategies impossible to follow. So if a university campus can come up with a good way of orientating people, it should be good for other situations.

There are a large number of buildings present on Edith Cowan University campuses which cannot be changed to accommodate intuitive, architectural wayfinding practices.

Edith Cowan University access and mobility map.

Wayfinding is essential for helping people to get out and about. Getting lost is not just inconvenient, it is stressful – especially if it causes a late arrival. The Wayfinding Signage Manual for Edith Cowan University outlines how and where signs should be used, designed and built. It is a technical document with a destination hierarchy, application strategy and graphic standards. An access and mobility map and an active transport map are also included.

Wayfinding and signage for walkers

The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads also has a guide for people walking. This is another technical document offering specific guidance to wayfinding professionals. While walkers (and wheelers) have specific requirements they need to be woven into signage for cyclists. Well-designed wayfinding and signage encourages people to walk using routes that are safe.

People walking have specific wayfinding needs different from those riding bikes or motorists.

Pedestrians are walking towards the camera. They are on a wide walkway. Some people are looking at their phones. They are dressed for warm weather. There are buildings on each side of the walkway

The guide for people walking has a section on accessibility and lists several design elements to support accessible wayfinding signage. The wayfinding manual developed by the Cooperative Research Centre is referenced in this document. Although it was researched and developed in 2007 it remains an excellent reference.

Getting around QUT

Similarly to Edith Cowan University, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has a wayfinding signage manual. This rather lengthy document is also technical and was published in 2022. It begins with a wayfinding masterplan, signage principles and accessibility. It’s good to see accessibility at the beginning of the guide – this aspect is often left until last.

Planning walkable neighbourhoods in Queensland

Front cover of the guide showing a montage of pictures: a tree-lined pathway, a group of new homes, children on a cycles on a cycle path.. Planning walkable neighbourhoods.New residential developments in Queensland must be walkable and encourage physical activity. Specific legislation requires among other conditions, connectivity, footpaths and street trees. Blocks must be no longer than 250 metres and residents must be within 400 metres of a park or open space. To help with planning walkable neighbourhoods there’s a guide. 

This move is supported by the Street Design Manual for Walkable NeighbourhoodsAnd Walkable, should also mean Wheelable. The manual is designed to help engineers, designers and planners to design more walkable and liveable residential areas. It was prepared by the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia in conjunction with the Queensland Government,

The guide covers open space, lot design, street design, active travel, public transport, landscaping and much more. At 160 pages is it comprehensive. There is a brief mention of people using mobility devices, children, older people, and parents with strollers.

Practice Notes

Front cover of the practice notes. A set of practice notes was added to the guide in 2020 and they are supported by real life examples. They cover:

    1. Walkable and Legible Neighbourhoods
    2. Increasing Trees
    3. Contemporary Lot Topologies
    4. Designing for Small Lots
    5. Rear Lane Design
    6. Design for Cyclists
    7. Building a Street Cross Section
    8. Traffic Volume

The second part on design detail was not available on the website at the time of writing. 


Smart Cities Playbooks

This post has four different smart cities playbooks. They are by UNHabitat, the Smart Cities Council, 3Gict’s Smart Cities for All, and the fourth is by two urban planners.

UNHabitat – People-Centered Smart Cities Playbooks webpage introduces a series of playbooks as basic components of their smart cities program. The aim of the playbooks is to empower local government to take a co-design approach to digital transformations. This is so that cities can work on sustainability, inclusivity and human rights for everyone. The playbooks are titled:

  • Centering People in Smart Cities
  • Assessing the Digital Divide
  • Addressing the Digital Divide
  • Shaping Co-creation and Collaboration
  • Infrastructure and Security
  • Building Capacity
A city skyline at night against a backdrop of a computer circuitry board.

Connected Games Playbook

The Smart Cities Council is on the front foot preparing their thinking for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They are focused on the digital aspects of the Games and have devised two smart cities playbooks.

Smart Cities Playbook No 1 sets the digital scene for the Games covering transport, facilities, housing and urban development.

Smart Cities Playbook No 2 provides guidance on the development of a South East Queensland Regional Data Strategy. Data is one the most valuable assets within the region but is undervalued and under utilised. The Strategy should support good governance and lead the implementation.

Five Pillars of Inclusive Smart Cities

A smart city uses communication technology to enhance liveability, workability, and sustainability. While the tech gets smarter it’s not getting more accessible. The most significant barriers to inclusion are lack of leadership, policy, and awareness, and limited solutions. James Thurston lists the five pillars in the Smart Cities for All Toolkit as:

  1. Strategic Intent: inclusion strategy and leadership
  2. Culture: citizen engagement and transparency
  3. Governance & Process: procurement and partnerships
  4. Technology: Global standards and solution development
  5. Data: Data divide and solutions

The Smart Cities for All Toolkit empowers city leaders and urban planners to make their programs truly “smart” by being inclusive and accessible by design.

Toni Townes-Whitley, Vice President, Microsoft.
cover of Smart Cities Toolkit.

You can see a 13 minute video of one of James’ presentations that covers similar ground. 

Busting myths about smart cities

Chelsea Collier and Dustin Haisler’s Smart Cities Playbook begins with myth-busting. The myths include: it’s all about technology; it’s only for big cities, it costs a lot; and only governments can do it.

The second part of their playbook focuses on best practices covering infrastructure, people and intelligence. The third part introduces seven steps to a smart-er community with practical worksheets for guidance.

Smart cities and intercultural inclusion

For an extension of smart city thinking, see a paper from Europe which addresses issues of migration and cultural inclusion. The title, is, Design-Enabled Innovation in Smart City
Context. Fostering Social Inclusion Through Intercultural Interaction

Inclusive and accessible street guides

Which street guide is the best? Well, that depends on which perspective you are coming from. Urban designers, transport planners, pedestrians and drivers all have a stake in streets. Here are four inclusive and accessible street guides from previous posts for reference.

If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.

Attributed to Fred Kent
five lane city highway full of cars.. We need car free zones.

Global Designing Cities website has the Global Street Design Guide available for download. The guide has sections for designing streets for kids, and implementing street transformations. Launched in 2014, the Global Designing Cities initiative takes an international view. The website has a series of short films, and a guide for designing streets for children.

Front cover of the guide. It is blue with white text. It has outlines of pedestrians trees, buildings and transport

A Citizen’s Guide to Better Streets takes a holistic look at street design from land planning and zoning to streets as public spaces. The main concerns of traffic engineers, such as safety and function are also covered. The guide was published in 2008 but the issues are current today. It is on the website.

logo of 880 cities initiative.

The Guide to the Healthy Streets Indicators from the UK has information and checklists in an easy to use format. It focuses on walkability without the express inclusion of people using wheeled mobility, but alludes to them. The guide covers feelings of safety, places to stop and rest, not too noisy, shade and shelter, easy to cross roads, and pedestrians from all walks of life.

Front cover of the guide to healthy streets indicators

The American Society of Landscape Architects promotes green, universally designed streets. These safely separate pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, and public transport and use strategies to reduce reckless driving behaviour. The video below indicates the sensory overload that busy streets can create for some.

Prototype of a universally design street with separate pathways for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Designing cities with AI: Should we?

A long view down a street with houses and cars on each side. Designing cities with AI - should we? Facelift is a new AI system that allows urban planers to redesign the look of city streets. 

A FastCompany article explains how volunteers from 162 countries rated Google street images. Then the data was put through the AI process. The results were obvious – plazas are beautiful and construction sites aren’t. The next step was to create an interactive tool to generate before and after images – Facelift. Urban planners can use this tool to improve the design of existing places. But there is a question about this: is it beautification or gentrification? 

The title of the FastCompany article is, AI can now design cities. Should we let it?  

Autism and sensory overload


Post pandemic public spaces

The Post Pandemic Public Spaces documentary series is about the future of our public spaces and the influence of the pandemic. The documentary was produced as part of the the work of the Urbanism faculty at TU Delft.

Eight researchers discuss their views on the future of our public spaces in a series of interviews. The researchers walk the streets as they describe the lack of accessibility and unequal access to public space. The video is subtitled in English.

This video focuses on mobility. Other videos focus on behaviour, challenges, and the final one concludes the discussion.

For more post pandemic videos, go to the TU Delft webpage

We can all agree that the COVID 19 crisis has affected everyday life. It has forced inhabitants to change their routines and thus the use of public spaces and amenities.

A cityscape with a foreground of parkland and woodland.

From the abstract

The fourth episode of the series presents the topic ‘Inequality’. In line with last episode, it is important to remember how mobility relates to (in)equality. The measurements taken during COVID-19 outbreak, such as social distancing and staying home, has shown that not everyone has or can have the same pattern, and/or is able to have equal patterns.

Public spaces in different neighbourhoods have different qualities. The pandemic has shown that not everyone lives under the same conditions and has equal access to public spaces. Distances to recreational (green) spaces can differ greatly, there is unequal safety along the routes. Places to sit and stay and relax are also not equal.

Public space is subject to power structures and the distribution of resources, and are unequal almost by definition, and consequently access isn’t available for everyone.

Urban design and the wellbeing of older adults

The photo shows the facade of an old red brick building with an assortment of graffiti and tags. There is a doorway and in front is a rubbish bin

Keeping mobile and active whether walking, riding or using a mobility device, is essential for staying connected and maintaining good mental health. The effect of poorly designed and maintained environments has a negative effect on the mental wellbeing of older adults. If getting out and about is restricted because the environment is not accessible, or perceived as unsafe or unpleasant, this can lead to depressive symptoms.

The title of the article is, Neighbourhood Amenities and Depressive Symptoms in Urban-Dwelling Older Adults.

Gillepsie, LeVasseur, and Michael conclude their findings “support public policy to promote neighbourhoods with diverse amenities as a means to support mental health in older adults”.

The lack of diverse amenities within the neighbourhood was associated with depression among those older adults with greater mobility. Among those older adults with low mobility, we observed no difference in depression by amenity diversity.

Accessibility Toolbar