GamingX was pleased to have had the opportunity to engage in a discussion about neurodivergence and neurocapabilities with brilliant city makers experts and their personal experiences in designing for neurocapabilities needs to provide valuable insights into how we can create more inclusive and accessible spaces for all individuals.
Nourhan started with some basic information about what is Neurodivergent and what is Neurotypical, as we love after our discussion to call “ Neurocapabilities” which refer to the range of cognitive skills and abilities that individuals possess, including but not limited to attention, memory, language, perception, and problem-solving. These capabilities can vary widely across individuals and can be influenced by factors such as genetics, environment, and experiences. Understanding neurocapabilities is important for designing products, environments, and services that are accessible and inclusive for all individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. By considering neurocapabilities in design, designers can create products and spaces that are more effective and inclusive, promoting equity and social justice for all individuals.
Professor Nick mentioned his work in PEARL at UCL on How do they design spaces that are enjoyable and accessible for everyone, both within and beyond traditional design considerations. A question was posed to them by Oxford University, who asked them to consider how autistic individuals experience their environment. According to Oxford’s research, supermarkets are one of the most challenging environments for people with autism due to the harsh lighting, loud sounds, and crowded spaces. By better understanding how autistic individuals experience their environment, we can work with supermarket operators to create more inclusive and accessible spaces that meet the needs of all individuals, regardless of their neurocapabilities. How to design a city that is inclusive to accommodate the social species we are. During our discussion, Professor Nick mentioned the concept of “Humane” design, which involves designing products, spaces, and services that prioritize the well-being and dignity of individuals. The goal of Humane design is to create environments that are conducive to human flourishing and that promote social justice and equity. A concept I truly loved.
Kelsy Zleavor shared her own experiences with depression and discussed how she found solace in a park near her home during the COVID-19 lockdown. She explained that through spending time in this space and eating outside, she was able to recognize herself and her needs. This highlighted the importance of designing public spaces that address the livability of mental health experiences, which requires a paradigm shift towards a biophilic approach. Kelsy conducted 25 interviews with individuals who have depression to identify design elements that worsened or improved their experiences. The resulting mental landscape amendments are not top-down principles, but rather suggestions she called amendments, and changes that can be adjusted to be more participatory and inclusive. By prioritizing the needs and experiences of individuals with cognitive disabilities or mental health conditions, we can create public spaces that foster healing and enhance the well-being of all individuals.
Gooitske shared her perspective on seeing the world upside down and how everything can be learned through doing. She also emphasized the importance of involving children in the decision-making process of city design and how they can be the “bosses” of our cities, especially on test grounds. Gooitske conducts participatory research to understand how people use public spaces with children, and her focus is on creating child-friendly cities that are inclusive and accessible for individuals with disabilities. She works with diverse groups in the city of Groningen to create a better city for all through test grounds and involving everyone, including children with disabilities. By sharing development tools and involving diverse groups in the decision-making process, we can create cities that are more inclusive, equitable, and accessible for all individuals.
During our discussion, we heard from our own Rozina about her experiences in the education system and how it inspired her to co-design with children. She observed a lack of creativity and segregation between neurodivergent and neurotypical students in mainstream education. She emphasized the importance of co-design in building settings that are inclusive and focus on abilities rather than disabilities. Rozina also shared her perspectives on the friendship bench and the need for more discussions on inclusive design aspects. She believes that creating a truly inclusive society is a constant battle that requires us to consider inclusivity in all aspects of city making, policy making, education, sports, and culture. By prioritizing inclusivity and co-design in all aspects of society, we can create a more equitable and accessible world for all individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
Our discussion on neurocapabilities was incredibly important, as it highlighted the need to prioritize the diverse needs and experiences of all individuals in design. By understanding how different individuals experience their environment, we can create more inclusive and accessible products, spaces, and services that promote equity and social justice. Our conversation touched on various topics, including designing for neurodivergence, creating child-friendly cities, and co-designing with individuals with disabilities. It is essential that we continue to have discussions on neurocapabilities and how to design for inclusivity, as it is a crucial step towards creating a more equitable and accessible world. We need to prioritize research and education on this topic to ensure that designers and policymakers are equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to create products and spaces that meet the diverse needs of all individuals.