Committee Article

Autism and Urban Planning: Thesis

One of the topics at the September 2nd Ten Minute Tuesday will be Autism and Built Environment. Join us for more discussion!
A City for Marc
The generation of diagnosed autistic children is aging, calling on needed research for what will happen to autistic
adults. Cities are outfitted to non‐autistic people, typically created for an idealized individual without disability or
limitation. Urban environments add to sensory overload, have limited mass transit accessible to those with
neurological disabilities, provide few affordable housing units, offer very little employment opportunity, and have
no green spaces designed for those with autism or other differences. Typical urban design does not take into
account the landscape and urban affordances needed by adults with autism.
This project synthesizes a toolkit including the following needs for adults with autism: vocational training, life skills,
mental and physical health support, employment, public transportation and affordable housing.
Using the initial theoretical urban systems toolkit, I conducted an evaluation and synthesized proposal for
Nashville, Tennessee, a large city that ranks within the nation among the lowest for cost‐of‐living (e.g. groceries,
housing, and utilities). The outcome of the evaluation and synthesis is a diagrammatic infographic conveying
existing and needed services within Nashville, as well as connectivity of needs for adults with autism. From the
diagrammatic proposal, the initial theoretical urban systems toolkit is revised, reflecting upon the findings through
the evaluation of Nashville, Tennessee.  
The final theoretical urban systems toolkit and diagrammatic proposal for Nashville, Tennessee provides
exploratory research for city planners, architects, and landscape architects to design for cities inclusive of adults
with autism, as well as other neurological disabilities or limitations. This additional layer of design not only
contributes to the social and environmental well‐being of individuals with autism, but also contributes to the
entire urban community. Urban design as an approach to planning for adults with autism contributes a new
disciplinary perspective to the discourse on planning for a maturing autistic population.


Publish Date: 

Monday, August 25, 2014


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