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Universal Design

  • Date Updated: August 2019

Inviting everyone to participate in public life leads to designing and building an inclusive public realm that is accessible to all. 

It is important to note that people’s abilities are changing across a person’s lifespan and that everyone navigates the built environment differently. Applying more widely universal design principles will help the global population of people with physical, auditory, or visual disabilities, autism or neurodevelopmental and/or intellectual disabilities, or neuro-cognitive disorders to face less challenges when navigating the built environment.

While the legal requirements of disabilities texts are are typically met in public spaces like parks, plazas, streets, and gardens, usually these requirements are a minimum standard for accessibility. Because the spaces are designed to meet criteria on technical aspects of accessibility over experiential quality, it often result in spaces that are still very challenging for people with disabilities to access, leaving them physically and mentally disconnected from public life. 

Landscape architects and designers can collaborate to apply universal design principles to create more inclusive spaces for underserved communities. It is also important to collaborate with disabled architects who will have a deep knowledge of environments designed without them in mind and to make the next project more inclusive. Finally, people with disabilities are often limited in the distances they can travel so including walkable or wheelchair paths on wide sidewalks will allow those with limited range to manage and maintain many aspects of their lives independently. 
 

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