With 1 in 5 Australians having a disability, disabilities either directly or indirectly affect a large portion of the population. However, our environment, particularly in dense cities, can still take steps to improve inclusivity and accessibility for everyone.
Shifting our mindsets
Firstly, changing the way we look at increasing inclusivity and accessibility needs to occur, as many of the practices currently focus on equipment and aid accessibility. While physical accessibility is crucial within a city environment, time should also be spent understanding the need to improve everyone’s inclusivity, such as those with non-physical disabilities.
When the needs of everyone are in mind when developing cities, it has the potential to provide opportunities for all. This increase in opportunities can provide a better quality of life, economic growth and improved socialisation. However, there is no one size fits all approach when thinking about developing an environment that promotes inclusivity and accessibility. Nonetheless, there are general strategies in which cities can adopt to increase their levels of accessibility over time. Some of these strategies are outlined below.
Several environmental factors can be addressed to increase the level of wellbeing amongst the individuals within the community. One is simply increasing the level of plant life and greenery within a community, as research demonstrates the link between exposure to nature and improved wellbeing. In practice, some cities have begun to implement this strategy by including additional vegetation within high traffic areas and providing increased accessibility to parks and nature walks.
Addressing the noise of a city
Similarly, issues such as noise pollution can also affect the level of accessibility to public spaces. For example, for those who have noise sensitivities, a large city’s sound can have a negative impact on their wellbeing. Thus, several countries have begun to combat this environmental issue and minimise noise pollution. Dense areas of plant life and greenery, as well as solid barriers, can significantly reduce highway noise due to vegetation absorbing more of the sound.
Moreover, certain supermarkets have recently begun to offer ‘quiet hours’ to those who may find low-sensory shopping a more enjoyable experience. Early reports have shown the rollout of this practice to be successful in making their stores more accessible and inclusive.
As you can see, accessibility and inclusivity take on many forms, and there is no singular recipe to ensure all people within all communities feel safe and included. However, through community consultation and planning, which aims to increase sustainability, safety, and inclusivity, we can continue to make a tangible difference to our population’s level of wellbeing.