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How Can Design Drive Inclusivity?

What if our environments were designed to support us at all stages of life? Is it possible to create homes and urban landscapes that better enable us to stay socially connected, move freely, and age with dignity in the neighborhoods we love? What would this look like?

These are some of the questions that the Northwest Universal Design Council—partnering with Jensen Hughes, Washington Assistive Technology Act Program, and Age Friendly Seattle—will pose at the 2023 Seattle Design Festival (SDF) Block Party. A park installation, titled “How can design drive inclusivity in our homes and neighborhoods?” will spark curiosity about what small design features might make a big difference in people’s lives.

The 2023 SDF Block Party is a two-day street fair celebrating the ways design affects our lives. This is an opportunity for the design community and the public to come together and interact through large-scale design installations and design activities all centered around the festival’s 2023 theme: CURIOSITY.

The Block Party is a free event that takes place on Saturday, August 19, and Sunday, August 20 (10 a.m.–7 p.m.) at Lake Union Park (860 Terry Ave N, Seattle).

The Block Party installation and demonstration area is two-fold: a full-scale model bathroom will feature universal design elements, and guided tours of the Lake Union Park area feature accessible routes.

All festival goers will be able to interact with the model bathroom and experience a range of design components that enable people of all abilities to perform daily activities comfortably and safely without compromising aesthetics. Universal Design anticipates human diversity and proactively incorporates flexibility and adaptability to accommodate the changes people experience over their lifetime. As our population ages, an increasing number of people will live longer and age with or into disabilities. Most people would like to age in place, but accessible housing supply is relatively limited. As Seattle grows and develops more housing, we have an opportunity to be forward-thinking and design homes to work for all.

The guided simulated experience tour will develop participants’ awareness of how people of different abilities navigate our urban landscape. The tours are available to anyone who works in the greater field of design, from urban planning to interior design. Tour participants will be led on pre-planned routes while wearing blindfolds, using a walking cane, or seated in a wheelchair. Accessibility consultants will provide guidance and narration throughout the tour, helping participants understand how design elements can either help or impede someone’s ability to move freely in our community. The goal is to inspire industry professionals to be considerate of all abilities in their designs.

The model and demonstration will be entirely accessible to people using mobility devices and our tours focused on accessibility in the urban built environment will also be led by people who experience disabilities themselves.

The Northwest Universal Design Council (NWUDC) is an advocacy network with a mission to educate others so they can recognize, own, and promote good design for everyone.

Jensen Hughes is a code compliance consulting firm assisting developers, owners, and architects. They guide removal of additional access barriers through advocating for inclusive design opportunities that meet more individuals’ needs and improve overall experiences of the community and end users.

Washington Assistive Technology Program (WATAP) provides a comprehensive continuum of services and resources to help Washingtonians with disabilities of all ages to make informed decisions about assistive technology and to provide alternative means of acquiring the technologies they need.

Age Friendly Seattle is a City initiative to make Seattle a great place to grow up and grow old.

The Northwest Universal Design Council, Jensen Hughes, Washington Assistive Technology Act Program, and Age Friendly Seattle invite you to join the festivities, learn more about Universal Design and become an advocate. If you would like to help out at this year’s Seattle Design Festival, you can sign up for a shift online.

Carli HokiContributor Carli Hoki is a Seattle-based interior designer who serves on the Northwest Universal Design Council. C Hoki Design specializes in accessible and Universal Design.

Image of downtown Seattle sourced from

Posted in Arts