Commentary: Avoiding Ableism in 15-Minute Cities

One author calls on planners to challenge assumptions that exclude people with mobility challenges and other disabilities.

1 minute read

November 21, 2023, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Ground-up view of man using wheelchair waiting to board a light blue bus.

romaset / Adobe Stock

In a piece in The Conversation, Ronald Norman Buliung presents a new take on the 15-minute city, a planning concept that promotes walkable, compact neighborhoods. For Buliung, the approach “relies on ableist assumptions.”

“The 15-minute city relies on residents’ abilities to walk and bike. This raises several questions: What if a resident’s body doesn’t walk or bike in what is considered a normative sense? What if someone uses a mobility device or moves at a slower pace? What if a resident requires public or school transportation vehicles to be adapted? ”

Buliung argues that the existing regulatory frameworks governing accessibility “reveal an emphasis on physical disability and serious limitations in terms of revision and enforcement.” Thus, “It would therefore be foolish to rely on such a relatively inflexibly narrow regulatory environment to make up for any ableist limitations of planning concepts used to shape sustainable, inclusive urban futures.”

Noting that disability is often an afterthought in planning, Buliung suggests that, from the beginning of the planning process, planners should “consider what cities or neighbourhoods might look like when designed with disability in mind.”

Monday, November 20, 2023 in The Conversation

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

"It's The Climate" sign over street in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Oregon Town Seeks Funding for Ambitious Resilience Plan

Like other rural communities, Grants Pass is eager to access federal funding aimed at sustainability initiatives, but faces challenges when it comes to meeting grant requirements.

February 18, 2024 - The Daily Yonder

Close-up of bottom half of stroller being pushed onto sidewalk with no curb cut by person in jeans and brown shoes.

How Infrastructure Communicates Values

The presence and quality of sidewalks, curb cuts, and other basic elements of infrastructure can speak to much more than just economic decisions.

February 23 - Strong Towns

Greyhound and Amtrak buses at a temporary bus terminal in San Francisco, California.

Despite High Ridership, Intercity Bus Lines Are Eliminating Stations

Riders on the ‘forgotten stepchild’ of the U.S. transportation system find themselves waiting for buses curbside as Greyhound sells off its real estate in many U.S. cities.

February 23 - Governing

Buffalo, New York

Buffalo Residents Push Back on Proposed Cap Park

State and local officials say the $1 billion project will heal neighborhoods divided by the Kensington Expressway, but community members say the proposed plan will exacerbate already poor air quality in the area.

February 23 - Bloomberg CityLab

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.