Op-Ed: Public Seating Is for Everyone

Seating in the public realm often isn’t designed to accommodate varied body types, ages, and abilities.

1 minute read

April 9, 2024, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Anti homeless bench

Laurie Avocado / flickr

In an op-ed in Next City, Alanah Nichole Davis calls on cities to consider how street furniture and public seating accommodate — or don’t — people of various body types.

For those at the intersection of factors like weight, pregnancy, age and disability, the challenge of finding suitable public seating can disrupt a sense of belonging and inhibit our ability to thrive. Something as simple as taking a walk in a park or meeting a friend for lunch may become a daunting task due to design shortcomings in open spaces.

Davis cites programs in cities like Boston and New York aimed at making public seating more accessible. Boston’s age-friendly bench initiative installs benches that make sitting and standing easier for elderly people near key destinations.  

Davis poses the argument another way: “Hostile architecture and defensive design are known for discouraging humans who might be unhoused from staying in an area for too long. But if an armrest, chair width or other seating features discourage varied body types — whether housed or unhoused residents or visitors — from sitting comfortably in our cities, isn’t that hostile, too?”

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