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.

Everyone navigates the built environment differently, with abilities changing across a person’s lifespan. 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.

While the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are typically met in public spaces like parks, plazas, streets, and gardens in the United States, these requirements are a minimum standard for accessibility. Because of their focus on technical aspects of accessibility over experiential quality, ADA standards often result in spaces that are still very challenging for people with disabilities to access, leaving them physically and mentally disconnected from public life. Many countries do not have basic accessibility requirements.

Read more on the American Society of Landscape Architects.