Who Are We Building for? Tracing Universal Design in Urban Development

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2023 Jun 22:303:3-9. doi: 10.3233/SHTI230392.


Despite laws, policies, and political visions to create cities and societies for all, barriers still exclude people from using buildings and public places. The commitments made in global agreements such as the Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development require significant changes in urban planning to meet the variety of needs and conditions in the population. Implementing Universal Design (UD) in urban planning processes is one important step towards a society for all. Three recent studies in Sweden focused on UD in the urban development - how, where and what factors that supported or impeded UD along the planning and construction processes. The whole process, from signs in visionary programmes and development plans to process-related factors and visible results in the completed buildings and places, were analyzed from a UD perspective. The findings highlight three critical areas to pay particular attention to, when implementing UD in the built environment: Competing and contradictory interests, Critical choices and aspects and Images of the user. These challenges need to be addressed by all actors involved, together in a in a goal-oriented work, to reach common understanding on how an inclusive built environment can be designed and realized.

Keywords: Accessibility; Disability; Sustainability; Universal Design; Urban Development.

MeSH terms

  • Built Environment
  • Cities
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Humans
  • Universal Design*
  • Urban Renewal