Designing inclusive cities beyond accessibility by using a 7 Senses Design Approach

  • The 7 Senses (smell, taste, touch, sound, sight, balance, and perception of body in space) approach to design is a simple yet versatile framework to improving a person’s sensory engagement with outdoor and public space environments. Current design and accessibility practices rarely consider the requirements of people with non-physical disabilities. Despite the growing prevalence of neurological and mental health disability, there is no design guidance for best practice. The health and occupational therapy sectors better understand the barriers to participation and this knowledge needs to be translated to the design sector. 7 Senses is an adaptable approach that addresses this gap, whilst improving the design of built environments.
    In the last two and a half years, several events and case studies have been researched and developed to provide guidance to the built environment industry to consider the needs of all Australians in the design and redesign of outdoor and public spaces. The 7 Senses design approach provides insights to the design needs of people who experience neurological, intellectual and mental health disability amd addresses their needs in the design of our cities. In addition, the approach benefits the carers and families of persons with disability who mutually experience isolation and exclusion. This will result in greater all round participation for families on the fringe and provide opportunities for access and inclusion previously denied to them. Finally, there is significant ‘all of community’ benefit that results due the increased health benefits of reducing barriers to service access and social isolation.
    There is a growing demand for inclusive, multigenerational spaces and play spaces. This presentation will provide background information regarding the activities in Australia and the wider understanding of non-physical disabilities, sensory and motor development, and some statistics and trend data. The focus will be on the key elements of inclusive design beyond accessibility and access codes using examples for best practice success for sensory public spaces.


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