Planning inclusive communities: Stage 1

Planning inclusive communities begins with asking the right questions. For example: What makes an inclusive community? What stops communities being inclusive? When we say community, what do we mean? And what does inclusive mean?

Lisa Stafford’s research project sought to answer those questions and more. Her research heard from 97 people aged from 9 to 92 years. Some had a disability or long term health condition, and others were their family members or allies. The findings are presented in a reader friendly format rather than an academic article. 

People standing in front of large paper with graphic harvest (drawings) from community chat about inclusive communities
Image from Planning Inclusive Communities website

Findings from Stage 1

The thoughts and experiences from participants with and without disability shared many aspects in common. Here are some of the points in brief.

An inclusive community is about people where everyone is valued and belongs. Everyone is valued and respected regardless of their culture or background. That means communities must be planned for all people – built for equity, fairness and accessibility. Inclusive communities are happy places where people have choices and safe spaces to have fun and socialise. So how do we make it happen?

The answer is planning together from the very beginning. People with disability, diverse groups, government and urban planning practitioners should all be involved. 

The Planning Inclusive Communities website explains the project in plain language with lots of graphics. There is also a link to an Easy English explanation of the project. The video below also gives an overview.

The title of the full report is What Makes Inclusive Communities? Meanings, Tensions, Change Needed and is downloadable in Word. It gives more detail about the background to the research and the findings. 

Stage 2 of this research project will identify people who want to help make change and create a plan for inclusive communities. 

Here is a quote from the website that has more information. 

“I feel like it’s all about everyone being able to equally engage in the environment in the community. For people with disabilities there is a lot of restraint and they can’t engage as much as other people. It’s also like equality is not enough, it should be equity so everyone has what they need to be able to engage in that community. Because I feel like a community is about people and engagement, but also being able to access and work around a community.”

Planning Inclusively: Make Communities Just for All

View from high building in Brisbane overlooking building roofs and the Brisbane river and bridges. Jacaranda trees can be seen in the street.Urban planning is a highly contested and politicised area to work in. The talk is that planning is about people, not roads and buildings. But when do users – people – get a say in planning? Only at the end when plans are put on exhibition. Then you need to be an expert to understand them. Planning inclusively is to make communities just for all. 

Lisa Stafford, in a briefing paper, asks how well do we consider human diversity in planning cities and regions?  Planners and bureaucrats would rarely even consider the concept of “Ableism” in their designs. That’s why we still have marginalisation by design. The lens of the average or the “normal” person is rarely put aside for a lens of diversity. 

Graphic with four circles: one each for exclusion, separation, integration and inclusion.Social planning can drive inclusive communities because it operates from a justice framework. Participatory planning is one way to work towards inclusion. 

The tile of Lisa Stafford’s paper is, Planning Inclusively: Disrupting ‘Ableism’ to Make Communities Just for All.  She has four recommendations at the end of her easy to read paper. Briefly they are:

      1. Adopt an approach of planning for all
      2. Apply spatial justice thinking to planning
      3. Embed universal design as a core planning principle
      4. Re-emphasise the social in planning

Editorial Introduction 

“Disabled people continue to experience exclusion by design in our everyday spaces, infrastructure and services, which has been magnified through the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, there is an opportunity for urban and regional planning practitioners, researchers and disabled people to come together to advocate for and create inclusive, sustainable communities for all. However, to make this transformative, we must first critically question how well do we really consider human diversity in planning cities, towns and regions? This question is examined in this briefing paper by contesting entrenched challenges like ‘ableism’ before providing fundamental starting points for planners in planning more inclusive and just communities for all.”


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