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Architecture student designs inclusive city to better serve people with autism

by Dawn Grosvenor

When you imagine an inclusive city, what do you see? For Elizabeth Decker, an architecture student at Kansas State University, she saw somewhere that better served people with autism.

For Elizabeth’s master’s project in school, she chose to design a city that would enable adults with autism to live, work, and strive independently. Elizabeth was inspired by her brother with autism; she wanted to better understand him and his needs.

Below is one of Elizabeth’s project designs:

Architecture student designs inclusive city to better serve people with autism

Elizabeth’s city focused on incorporating specific recommendations, such as:

  • Affordable housing
  • Health centers offering life skills
  • An abundance of green space for sensory relief
  • Vocational training opportunities
  • Farmers’ markets and other outlets that offer healthy food
  • Public transportation, linking important facilities and providing easy travel
“The most important feature for an inclusive city is the connection of autism-related services.” Elizabeth told Mail Online. “It is not enough to view a city from a few city blocks and suggest placing an affordable apartment complex or park, because in order to develop the inclusive city, one has to view the city as a whole network of services.”
Along with knowing her own brother’s experiences with autism, Elizabeth interviewed others on the spectrum to gain insight.
She also found it important to incorporate the importance of added job opportunities for adults with autism, especially in areas where people on the spectrum tend to strive.
Coincidentally, Elizabeth chose Nashville, Tennessee as her test city for her inclusive design, which is where Future Horizons will hold our autism conference with Dr. Temple Grandin this summer! She felt that the city of Nashville already had key elements from her inclusive design, from the farmers’ market to numerous disability services.
Even though redesigning a city entirely from scratch isn’t exactly an option, moving toward inclusion is definitely possible. As Elizabeth noted, this begins with looking at what already exists in a city, and then considering elements that could be incorporated to make improvements.
Has your image of an inclusive city changed? What recommendations would you make if you were the designer?


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