The ASLA Guide to Universal Design

Tongva Park
ASLA 2018 Professional General Design Honor Award. Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square, Santa Monica, California. James Corner Field Operations LLC / image: James Corner Field Operations

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has published a new guide to universal design, the latest in a series of guides that include hundreds of freely-available case studies, research studies, articles, and resources from non-profit organizations around the world.

Everyone navigates the built environment differently, with abilities changing across a person’s lifespan. Universal design means that everyone, regardless of ability or age, can access and participate in public life.

ASLA’s guide provides a comprehensive view of which communities are underserved by the built environment. It also offers a set of new universal design principles that address the needs of deaf or hard of hearing, blind or low vision, autistic, neurodevelopmentally and/or intellectually disabled, and mobility-disabled adults and children, as well as concerns for older adults.

The new design principles identified ensure that public spaces are:

  • Accessible
  • Comfortable
  • Participatory
  • Ecological
  • Legible
  • Multi-Sensory
  • Predictable
  • Walkable / Traversable

Universal design projects and solutions in the guide are organized around different types of public space that landscape architects and planners design:

Well-lit transit stops featuring seating with arms are located along the light rail line that runs through downtown Portland, Oregon. The floor of the trains is even with the curb edge, offering a level crossing into and out of the train. ASLA 2011 Professional Award of Excellence, General Design. Portland Transit Mall Revitalization, Portland, Oregon, ZGF Architects LLP / image: ZGF Architects LLP

The guide was developed with the assistance of an advisory group that includes disabled landscape architects, designers, and experts:

The guide was written by Ian Dillon, master’s of landscape architecture candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jared Green, senior communications manager at ASLA.

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