ASD Publics: Playable cities for all

Raquel Colacios (ES), Blanca Calvo Boixet (ES)

ASD Publics and PAtB are pioneering initiatives aimed at enhancing the design and accessibility of public spaces for neurodiverse children, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD Publics employs a holistic approach, incorporating nature-based solutions and innovative design strategies to create sensory-friendly environments. It employs a collaborative co-creation methodology involving autistic children, families, urban practitioners, policymakers, and autism experts. The project has developed design guidelines to promote inclusivity and sustainability, raising awareness and empowering the Autism Community in the process.

PAtB, building on ASD Publics, focuses on enhancing the accessibility of public play spaces, particularly toy libraries in Barcelona. Collaborating with the Autism Community, city officials, and designers, PAtB prototypes and tests autism-friendly play infrastructure, adapting both structures and toys. It aims to deepen understanding through real-world testing and open engagement events, providing open-access design manuals.

Both initiatives highlight the significance of citizen engagement, interdisciplinary collaboration, and data-driven decision-making in addressing neurodiversity and public space accessibility. By leveraging collective expertise, they envision vibrant, inclusive environments that celebrate diversity and promote well-being. ASD Publics and PAtB serve as models for community-driven urban planning, inspiring cities globally to embrace neurodiversity in their designs.

We extend our sincerest appreciation to all the families and children who participated in the research activities of the project. Our heartfelt thanks go to our collaborators Aprenem Autisme and Escola Industrial de Sabadell for their invaluable involvement. Lastly, we express gratitude to the New Europe Bauhaus and the European Institute of Technology for their generous support of the project.

Raquel Colacios (ES) Raquel is an architect and urban designer, she holds a PhD by the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Barcelona. She is co-founder of the firm Taab6 in Barcelona. She is currently a researcher at TURBA research group at UOC Barcelona, and assistant professor at UMEA University in Sweden, visiting lecturer at KU Leuven and TU Darmstadt. Her research and line of action is based on architectural and urban design as a tool for social and environmental justice.

Blanca Calvo Boixet (ES) Blanca Calvo-Boixet is a researcher and PhD student at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. She focuses on the inclusion of vulnerable people in city-making from the lenses of architecture and urban planning. She co-led the project ASD Publics, which aims to improve public space for children with autism and their families.

The ASD Publics project in Barcelona embraces citizen science principles, actively involving autistic children and families in intervention design of parks and playgrounds. Collaborating with the Aprenem Association engages participants from IGAIN's patient pool and Play Aut the Box phase, fostering ongoing collaboration. Empowering autistic individuals as co-creators promotes inclusivity and understanding, echoing the ethos of citizen science in amplifying diverse voices.