New design guidelines from the American Society of Landscape Architects show us how to build them

By Diana Budds. Published in Curbed, on August 28, 2019

The fight for more equitable cities is taking to the streets—literally. New street design guidelines from the American Society for Landscape Architecture (ASLA) articulate why.

Last week, ASLA released universal design guidelines for neighborhoods, streets, parks and plazas, playgrounds, and gardens—a range of scales and projects for which landscape architects are regularly called upon to design. By creating this best-practices guide, ASLA is making it easier for designers from all disciplines, elected officials, and everyday people to understand what an inclusive and accessible public realm looks like. More importantly, the guidelines are a call to action.

“If we want everyone to participate in public life, we must design and build an inclusive public realm that is accessible to all,” the guidelines state. “Public life can’t just be available to the abled, young, or healthy.”

ASLA’s universal design guidelines consider physical disabilities like limited mobility, blindness and low-vision, and Deafness and hardness of hearing; people with neuro-cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; those with neuro-developmental disabilities, like autism; and aging people. ASLA defines universal landscapes as accessible, participatory, comfortable, ecological, predictable, multi-sensory, walkable, and predictable.

“Access to public space truly is—and always should be—a civil right,” says Alexa Vaughn, a Deaf landscape architect who consulted with the ASLA on the guidelines. “If we continue to design and plan cities that are inaccessible to certain people, we are committing a serious injustice towards these people. This is about guaranteeing the right to public space to all, regardless of dis/ability.”

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