Go-along techniques inform design

There’s nothing like getting instant feedback as people negotiate the built environment. Go-along techniques inform design because they really get to the key points. Some of the exclusions are only obvious when pointed out and that’s valuable information.

The go-along technique is where researchers walk with the participant and observe the barriers they experience as they encounter them. The dialogue that ensues provides rich information about design – how to do it and how not to do it.  

Image taken from the research paper 

Researchers in Sweden used this method and found there is an ongoing multifaceted exclusion of citizens in the built environment. This is despite current building regulations. Also, it doesn’t meet the aim of inclusion and international conventions. 

However, there are opportunities to change this with knowledge about enablers in the built environment. The researchers point universal design as an important planning variable to bring about change.  

The research paper has a lot of excellent information, much of which planners and disability advocates hear anecdotally. This paper documents the issues well and in detail. 

The necessary enablers

Benches, or seating were the most mentioned during the go-along activities. These are a decisive factor for spending a day in the city centre. People would walk more if they could also sit. 

Access to public toilets was also critical. Finding them, having access, and in some cases, navigating payment systems all pose problems. Again, another factor in visiting the city. 

People who live outside the city centre need flexible mobility systems – public transport, plus being able to use a car and then parking the car. 

Lighting in public places, clear signage and orientation board were also important along with handrails in challenging environments. 

Planning process needs a re-think

The researchers argue that there is an urgent need to rethink the planning processes to account for human diversity. It’s essential to move away from notions of an ‘average’ person or the idea of normal.

There is a gap between what building regulations state as accessible and the the lived experience of accessibility (or inaccessibility).  As the researchers say,

 “The pointing out of the necessary enablers is important knowledge to achieve accessibility also in an overall, entire-city-perspective. The concept and practice of Universal Design is a key to pursuing such a development.”

The title of the research paper is, Is the City Planned and Built for me? Photos highlight some of the key issues experienced by participants. There is a lot of really good information in this paper. 

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