Hopeful in Seattle -- But Not Quite Universal Design

Seattle is a great destination! (Full disclosure: I grew up there.)

Those who promote inclusive destination development look for allies and compatible models. The Great Places movement emerging from the work of the Project for Public Spaces holds promise.

Although Universal Design did not seem to be addressed at the at the recent Great Places meeting in Seattle, the overall philosophy allows for it:

There seemed a similar consensus that this is a non-ideological (or "post-ideological") movement that has genuine potential for common cause with groups all over the political spectrum. The foundation of Placemaking is the principle that the people living, working and hanging out in a certain place are the people who know that place best and should be centrally involved in making decisions about its future. This message appeals to both conservative ideals of decentralized government and progressive values of community empowerment. Though the current constituency of the movement is mostly left-leaning--and it may alienate some fervent pro-market conservatives--there is every reason to believe it will attract social conservatives and people in the middle of the political road.

But if a group is absent from a public space does that make them ineligible to make decisions about its future under this approach?

In ecology there is a concept called "indicator species" that may be useful here.

Indicator species signal the health of a place through their presence or absence. When people with disabilities are disproportionately represented, or noticeably absent, in a public space the first thing to examine is design. How is tha niche making use of the principles of Universal Design?


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