Universal Design – Do You Believe in Magic?

by Louis on December 23, 2009

…from the Lovin’ Spoonful to:

And you know something is happening
But you don’t know what it is..
Bob Dylan

The wonderful magic of Universal Design is unanticipated corollary benefits. Closed captioning is a really clear example. Including those with hearing difficulties to mainstream media was the intended outcome. Reading TV in bars and airport waiting areas is unanticipated benefit for ALL. I am not sure, but doubt that the planners expected such widespread and common use of this innovation. That is Universal Design.

In building design we typically cite the use of ramps for strollers and wheeled suitcases. Same thing. Widespread use of unanticipated benefit.

We may not be so aware of corollary benefits at the community level. AARP’s livable communities definition is not too specific about benefits:
“A livable community is one that has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life.”

Community planning that works for older residents – essentially neighborhoods where walking and rolling are useful parts of the transportation mix – are Universal Design. The benefits – connections to shopping, activities and additional transportation accrue to many. If it works for those who can no longer or don’t care to drive, it works for younger folks too. If older folks can get to the store so can kids, giving them opportunities for usefulness, activities and exploration that seem like they are from a wistful, bygone era.

Neighborliness is facilitated, too. Walking always encourage friendliness. That works for all regardless of age and physical situation.

Walk and Roll communities are sustainable communities. The more people who can get someplace without their personal car the fewer auto miles, carbon and traffic we endure.

An incredible wealth of thinking on this topic is available at the Lifelong Communities Charrette pages of the Atlanta Regional Commission. I welcome you to study there. Put in some time with the written reports, vidoes and graphics. Then we can share our thoughts and excitement and bring Universal Design unanticipated corollary benefits to communities and lives all over the world.

This is the Magic of Universal Design.

Peace and Happiness to all,

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