Universal Design

December 7, 2013, 11am PST
Alison Prato speaks with architect Chris Downey, who lost his eyesight five years ago following surgery to remove a brain tumor, about how his approach to design and his experience of the city have changed.
TED Blog
November 19, 2013, 2pm PST
Amendments to Vancouver's building code adopted in September will require lever handles on all doors in newly built housing beginning next March. Could such code changes soon be adopted far and wide?
The Vancouver Sun
June 12, 2013, 5am PDT
Americans are living longer and changing the demographic profiles of our cities in the process. Planners are just beginning to understand how our streets and systems must adapt to accommodate this trend.
The Atlantic Cities
September 5, 2012, 10am PDT
It's not just the Sun Cities of America that are planning for how to meet the needs of the country's coming bulge in its over-65 population. Ryan Holeywell highlights how some cities are adapting their built environments for an aging population.
Governing
Blog post
April 14, 2011, 11am PDT

Most professions have special responsibilities to society. Physicians are expected to observe the Hippocratic oath. Police officers must apply the law fairly and refrain from abusing their power. Lawyers and accountants are expected to offer accurate advice and protect client confidentiality.

And planners? We have a special responsibility to consider all perspectives and impacts. When evaluating public policy questions most people ask selfishly, “How does this affect me?” Planners, in contrast, should ask selflessly, “How does this affect the community, particularly disadvantaged and underrepresented groups?”

Todd Litman
March 10, 2010, 7am PST
Slate continues its series on wayfinding with the little-known story of the symbolic conflicts among the U.S., the former Soviet Union and Japan over how to direct people in a time of crisis.
Slate
Blog post
October 12, 2009, 8am PDT

I spent the last week teaching a professional development course for young planners in Buenos Aries, Argentina. It’s been a wonderful experience – my students are smart and enthusiastic, and Buenos Aries is a vibrant city with old-world charm. The buildings, plazas and old statues are beautiful and dignified, although a little frayed around the edges.

Todd Litman
Blog post
February 17, 2009, 4pm PST
A week ago I spent some time with Enrique Peñalosa, urban strategist and provocateur. North Americans don’t often look south for innovation, but Peñalosa made remarkable changes in the public environment as Mayor of the city of Bogotá, Colombia. Nearly impeached for his actions to push cars aside in favor of people, now he is invited to provoke and inspire others.  “We have Environmental Impact Statements; why don’t we have Human Impact statements,” is a sampling from last week.
Barbara Knecht
Blog post
August 23, 2007, 8am PDT
“I have always thought that design can be a form of social activism,” says Don Meeker, environmental graphic designer and co-creator of “Clearview” typeface. This small but radical quotation was buried in an article from the 8.12.07 NY Times Sunday magazine (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/magazine/12fonts-t.html) on the redesign of highway sign typeface. Meeker, James Montalbano, and a team of collaborators understood that it was the design of highway signage that was contributing to highway fatalities. They applied an understanding of human psychology and function to the solution of a “civic issue.”

Radical idea. It’s called Universal Design. Or social activism.
Barbara Knecht
Blog post
July 24, 2007, 10am PDT

Should Segways be allowed on sidewalks? Should all bicycles travel only in designated bike lanes? Should motorized scooters be treated as if they are wheelchairs? Where should rollerblades, skateboards, adult tricycles, bikes with trailers or kick scooters travel? The world of personal mobility is expanding. And so is the pressure in favor of alternatives to the grandaddy of personal mobility -- the automobile. In spite of its importance as image-maker and status-definer, a car is just a method for getting a person from Point A to Point B. Moving people -- that’s its basic purpose.

Barbara Knecht
Blog post
June 25, 2007, 10am PDT

“Getting” Universal Design creates an “Aha!” moment. Experiencing Universal Design creates a “Wow!” moment.

Barbara Knecht
Blog post
April 23, 2007, 7am PDT

On the Sunday that the April Nor’easter dumped the second highest rainfall ever recorded in Central Park, I waded to the New York Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center. I wasn’t there to see the mighty floor show of preening cars inside the convention center, I went to see the Taxi ’07 exhibition outside on the wind and rain swept lower roadway. For anyone who has tried to hail a taxi in a Manhattan rainstorm, visiting the exhibition on that Sunday raised a familiar feeling: nearly a dozen yellow taxis in sight, not one of which was going to pick me up and whisk me away to dry land.

Barbara Knecht
Blog post
March 22, 2007, 12pm PDT

In spite of my sense that we are heading pell mell into the gloom of global warming, catastrophic conflict and hopeless mediocrity, I’ve noticed a hopeful trend. Beauty and happiness have been rehabilitated from irrelevant to necessary.  It may not be an avalanche, but proponents are showing up in unusual places: a book by an environmental conservationist, another by an historian philosopher, and a Mother Jones article about the economy.  Can this portend a trend?

Barbara Knecht