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.”

Planning action tool from an inclusive perspective

A diagram with five balloons. In the centre is Design for All. On the outside are the other four elements, multifunctional users, quality of life, sustainability, and inclusive planningThe principles of Design-for-All are used for the basis of an efficient and effective planning action tool in this academic paper from Italy. It brings together quality of life, multi-functional spaces, environmental sustainability, and inclusive urban planning strategies. The claim is that Design-for-All approach “represents a solution for matching people needs to urban environmental quality improvement”, and that inclusive planning strategies can support an ecosystem services network. You will need institutional access for a free read. The title is, Anthropic space and design for all. New knowledge paths for urban planning strategies.  The paper originates from Italy which may account for some of the heavy language.

AbstractNowadays city environment shows the presence of a mixed variety of elements, as natural, semi natural and anthropic components that build up both structure and connections of the urban context. This specific structure shapes and directs space and its functions strictly connected with their sustainable potential uses and sustainable development opportunities. The lack of rules and proper planning methods produces inefficient use conditions by resident citizens, entropy, functions’ reduction of ecological networks and deep environmental impacts. The consequence comes out to be a great widespread life quality decrease in urban areas. These thoughts lead the authors to rethink the definition first and then the place concept own interpretation, as a theoretical reference approach and in a particular way of the urban place, as an anthropic action useful in a multidimensional relationship analysis. Based on these considerations, the aim of the paper is that to introduce design for all as an efficient and effective planning action tool able to get sustainable operating strategies to match both people needs and urban system quality of life protection and enhancement in a long term timeline analysis.

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 regarless 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. 

Can UD create social sustainability?

aerial view of a big city with skyscrapersApplying the principles of universal design at the formation stage of planning can lead to harmonious, accessible, sustainable and healthy cities.This is the conclusion of a European study. The study looked at the design and development of city space from the perspective of the varying levels of human capabilities. The overall aim of the research was to raise the quality of urban planning, and to develop tools for healthy cities compatible with the principles of sustainability. You can download the PDF of Sustainable Urban Development: Spatial Analyses as Novel Tools for Planning a Universally Designed City, by Joanna Borowczyk, in EconPapers, 2018, vol. 10, issue 5, 1-16.

The compassionate city

A brick terrace house fronts the footpath and has lots of pot plants in front of it.The Dutch idea of the Woonerf has been picked up again, this time by Jenny Donovan of La Trobe University. Using some graphics, she shows how design can affect our decisions to either walk, drive, use public transport or not, and whether you feel welcome in the environment. She covers the key elements of a Compassionate City where various design elements can meet the needs of a range of people and create more harmonious behaviours. There are several links in the article to other related reports and articles. The article originates from The Conversation.  

Hobsons Bay Universal Design Policy Statement

Three circles in blue sitting inside one another. Centre light blue is minimum BCA compliance. Next circle is extension for Australian Standards, and third all embracing circle is for universal design.
Graphic from the Universal Design Policy Statement

Hobsons Bay City Council is situated south-west of Melbourne with a significant stretch of coastal area. As with many local councils in Victoria they are keen to embrace the principles of universal design in their planning policies. As part of their access and inclusion strategy they plan to implement universal design principles in new buildings, buildings with significant upgrades, retrofits of existing buildings, features and public open space. They started with a Hobsons Bay Universal Design Policy Statement.

The policy statement includes a table where the 7 classic principles of universal design are translated into specific guidelines for council staff. The policy statement discusses the myths, regulatory framework and how to implement universal design, and how to go beyond compliance. 

A short document and a good template for other councils to use. Policy statements don’t need to be long and wordy. This one gets to the point.