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How cities can be redesigned for neurodiversity

We are living in a time of increased awareness about neurodiversity. One in 54 children has been diagnosed with autism, and the World Health Organization estimates that one in eight people in the world is neurodiverse, and with many of these conditions considered hard to diagnose, the number is likely higher. Yet, cities are still failing to reflect that diversity.

In Hudson Square—a tiny pocket of Manhattan once known as the Printing District and nestled between Soho, Tribeca, and the West Village—a new public space seeks to tip the scales in a more inclusive direction. Designed by WIP Collaborative, a feminist collective made of up independent design professionals, the temporary public art installation, dubbed “Restorative Ground” provides a supportive gathering space for people of all ages, backgrounds, and spectrums of neurodiversity.

By catering to a range of experiences, activities, and interactions, “Restorative Ground” offers a new vision for inclusive public space that draws on the architects’ research into design for neurodiverse populations. In the process, it provides a useful model for rethinking cities to better accommodate neurodiversity.

Coined in the late 1990s by Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist who has Autism, neurodiversity refers to the idea that certain developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Dyslexia are normal variations in the brain. In other words, neurodiversity is about the different ways we think, communicate, and see the world.

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