The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has published a new Guide to Universal Design. According to the ASLA, one billion people, or 15 percent of the global population, experience some form of disability. The new guide explores the ways in how 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. These include: accessible, comfortable, participatory, ecological, legible, multi-sensory, predictable, and walkable/traversable.

The ASLA Guide includes hundreds of freely-available case studies, research studies, articles, and resources from non-profit organizations around the world. Projects and solutions are organized around different types of public space that landscape architects and planners design: neighbourhoods, streets, parks and plazas, playgrounds, and public gardens.


As ASLA states, everyone navigates the built environment differently, with abilities changing across a person’s lifespan. The global population of people over 65 years of age is expected to double by 2050, totalling 1.6 billion people. “This guide serves as an entry point into Universal Design, asking designers to assess our existing design models and projects, and to include disabled folks as stakeholders and experts in the design process,” said Alexa Vaughn, Associate ASLA, a landscape designer at OLIN. “As a Deaf landscape designer, I am elated that landscape architects, designers, planners, elected officials, and beyond have started to think about Universal Design.”

The guide was developed with the assistance of an advisory group that includes disabled landscape architects, designers, and experts: Danielle Arigoni, director of livable communities, AARP; Brian Bainnson, ASLA, founder, Quatrefoil Inc.; Melissa Erikson, ASLA, principal, director of community design services, MIG, Inc.; Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA, partner, Gentile Glas Holloway O’Mahoney & Associates; Clare Cooper Marcus, Hon. ASLA, 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.


Via ArchDaily | Images Courtesy of James Corner Field Operations LLC / Tim Street-Porter

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