Inclusive suburbs for mind and body

There are several good guides on planning and designing cities and suburbs. But how many are unwittingly based on ableist and ageist polices and plans? If they are based on a narrow body type of “young, adult, fit white male” then they are likely ableist. This narrow view makes other bodies and minds invisible and therefore excluded. Lisa Stafford challenges the planning community to be change-makers in creating inclusive suburbs for mind and body.

“Realising this vision will require a drastic shift in the way we think, in our planning and design systems, and in our ways of working.”

Aerial view of an expanse of a housing estate. Inclusive suburbs for mind and body.

Stafford’s article in Cities People Love, explains how ableism plays out in policies and planning systems. When change doesn’t come from those in power, the advocacy has to come from citizen action. Citizen advocacy for disability inclusion has been running for 30 years, and the fight continues. If planners take a universal design mindset, so much more could change for a significant proportion of the population.

5 Elements of inclusive planning

Here is a brief overview of Stafford’s key elements for inclusive planning.

Human diversity is valued and embedded in all aspects of planning. To be inclusive, planning must that humans are diverse in both mind and body across the lifespan.

All people centred public planning processes and decision (urban governance). Collaborative processes encompass a diversity of minds, bodies, ages and languages for all people to be actively involved.

Inclusively designed spaces and infrastructure are assets of a community with equity at the core. This means moving beyond compliance with minimum standards to a performance-based planning approach informed by universal design.

Planning for connectedness between nature, people and place. Infrastructure such as footpaths, seating, public spaces, community green spaces, and treed streets, supports encounters and gatherings that help build and strengthen a sense of place and belonging.

Vibrant places and experiences. Vibrant places give a sense of fun, friendliness, creativity, and participation. A diverse cross-section of people are attracted to vibrant and accessible places where they feel comfortable to stay longer.

The lived knowledge and experience of affected citizens should guide design processes. Everyone learns from co-design processes.

People on a fun run with two older adults being pushed in wheelchairs.

Stafford invites planners to reflect on the five elements and become leaders and change-makers. “Planning for equity and inclusion in our suburbs is the only way we can create fairness of access, and uphold everyone’s rights to live in the suburbs and participate fully in everyday life.”

The title is, Making suburbs inclusive for all our bodies and minds, on the Cities People Love website.

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