American Society of Landscape Architects publishes guide to universal design

August 21, 2019

By Antonio Pacheco
Aug 21, 2019

Tongva Park and Ken Gensler Square, Santa Monica, California. Image courtesy of James Corner Field Operations LLC / Tim Street-Porter.

Tongva Park and Ken Gensler Square, Santa Monica, California. Image courtesy of James Corner Field Operations LLC / Tim Street-Porter.
If we want everyone to participate in public life, we must design and build an inclusive public realm that is accessible to all. Public life can’t just be available to the abled, young, or healthy.
The sizeable global population of people with physical, auditory, or visual disabilities, autism or neurodevelopmental and/or intellectual disabilities, or neuro-cognitive disorders will face greater challenges if we don’t begin to more widely apply universal design principles
 — American Society of Landscape Architects

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has published a guide to universal design meant to set the bar for universal accessibility in the landscape architecture realm beyond the largely quantitative requirements stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A statement announcing the guide written by Ian Dillon and Jared Green explains: “ADA standards, because of [their] focus on technical aspects of accessibility over experiential quality, often result in spaces that are still very challenging for people with disabilities to access, leaving them physically and mentally disconnected from public life,” adding, “Landscape architects and designers can apply universal design principles to create more inclusive spaces for underserved communities.”

According to the guide, “All public spaces should be physically accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical, cognitive, or mental ability. Specific areas of public spaces shouldn't be designed for people with specific disabilities; all public spaces should work for everyone.”

The guide goes on to explain that all public spaces should be designed to be comfortable for a wide range of occupants; that they should be “co-designed with people with disabilities;” that they “incorporate design elements that can be accessed through different senses” with regard to navigation and way-finding; and that they should de designed to be walkable and traversable rather than auto-oriented, among other recommendations.

The full guide includes sections on applying the lessons of universal design to the design of neighborhoodsstreetsparks and plazasplaygrounds, and gardens

The guide was crafted by an "expert advisory panel" that includes: Danielle Arigoni, director of livable communities, AARP; Brian Bainnson, founder, Quatrefoil Inc.; Melissa Erikson, principal and director of community design services, MIG, Inc.; Emily O’Mahoney, partner, 2GHO; Clare Cooper Marcus, professor emerita of architecture and landscape architecture and environmental planning, University of California, Berkeley; Danielle Toronyi, OLIN; Alexa Vaughn, Associate ASLA, Deaf landscape designer at OLIN. 

Universal Design Guide: