Streets for Diversity

Streets for Diversity is a collaborative research project run by the Royal College  of  Art’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and Intelligent Mobility Design Centre and funded by the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund. It aimed to bridge a gap in research about how neurodivergent people experience streets and hypothesised that our current streets and public realm may,  by design, exclude those of us that are neurodivergent.

“The whole thing should just be clear and safe. […] There is no beauty over function in this […] Decorate the lampposts. Like the lampposts could be a rainbow. You know what I mean? Just not the safety features, that’s all. Just anything other than the bits to save your life.” Project participant

The project invited neurodivergent citizens, researchers, champions and transport experts   to participate in a range of co-design activities. These included ‘walk and talks,’  which allowed participants to travel around in urban areas and share their reflections on their experiences in real time. The ‘walk and talks’ were supplemented by online surveys, interviews, and a co-creation workshop, which together explored the challenges and opportunities found in our urban streets.

Collecting and analysing the street experiences helped identify 14 key insights into how neurodivergent people experience and think of streets. These insights included, for example, the complexity involved with preparing to go out on the street; dealing with unpredictable situations when out; and the tools that neurodivergent people have developed to manage the sensory landscape of the street.

From the insights, the researchers were able to draw out 12 design opportunities that could help to make our streets more accessible, comfortable and joyful for neurodivergent people including improvements to the physical environment, improvements using information and communication systems, designing to support independence  on  the  street  and opportunities to connect and celebrate our different minds and bodies.

The methods, insights and design opportunities were compiled into a report and an animation was created to illustrate some of the challenges experienced by neurodivergent participants discovered in the project.

 Visit the project webpage

 Read the report here

 Read an easy read version of the report here

We will be sharing our findings from this project at a webinar during Neurodiversity celebration week 2024

Tuesday 19 March, 12:30-14:00

 Register your interest here.

Authors and Researchers:

  • Stephanie Pau, Research Associate
  • Dr Katie Gaudion, Senior Research Associate, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design
  • Dan Phillips, Innovation Fellow, Intelligent Mobility Design Centre

Advisory Board:

  • Andy Cope, Director of Evidence and Insight, Sustrans
  • Dr Chris McGinley, Senior Research Fellow, The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design
  • Dan Campsall, Chairman, Agilysis
  • Jean Hewitt, Senior Inclusive Design Consultant, Buro Happold
  • Jon Adams, Artist, researcher and founder, Flow Observatorium
  • Kate Allen, Chief Executive, Ategi Limited
  • Liz Pellicano, Professor of Autism Research, University College London
  • Orla Fahey, PhD candidate, Royal College of Art
  • Roger Mackett, Emeritus Professor of Transport Studies, University College London
  • Ross Atkin, Director, Ross Atkin Associates
  • Sarah Simpson, Director Mobility & Infrastructure, Royal HaskoningDHV
  • Suzy Charman, Executive Director, Road Safety Foundation
  • Tim Chapman, Adur & Worthing Councils

About Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design

The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design (HHCD) is the Royal College of Art’s largest and longest-running centre for design research. It is an international leader in people-centred and inclusive design – the process of designing products, services and systems for ease of use by the maximum number of people – design thinking and creative leadership. The

Centre regularly works with government, business, academia and the third sector.

Founded in 1991 and endowed by the Helen Hamlyn Trust, the purpose of the Centre is to conduct design research and projects with industry that will contribute to improving    people’s lives. The Centre takes an interdisciplinary approach, which is based around the activities of three research labs – Age & Ability, Healthcare, Inclusive Design for Social and Business Impact. Each lab has developed its own empathic and  innovative  research methods, working in partnership with a wide range of business, industry, government, academic and third-sector partners.

About Intelligent Mobility Design Centre

Intelligent Mobility Design Centre (IMDC) leads research at  the  intersection  of  people, mobility and technology within a complex and changing urban and global environment. Established from a renowned centre of excellence in automotive design, the IMDC’s  mission    is to create a new mobile future for  social,  environmental  and  economic  good  through design and research.

The IMDC is an interdisciplinary centre exploring, experimenting, prototyping and evaluating new mobility and automotive transitions via the synthesis of design and research methods.       It integrates design and technology with insights into people and the social, environmental   and economic context to enable a 360 view on the design of future mobility.

Uniquely, the IMDC incorporates the Intelligent Mobility MA programme, bringing together researchers and students to cultivate excellent research and design outputs. Via the MA programme, it is pioneering new teaching in a subject area traditionally focused on design skills rather than research focused.

About Rees Jeffreys Road Fund

Rees Jeffreys Road Fund is a grant making charity set up in 1950 by visionary road campaigner William Rees Jeffreys. His goal was that roads should be safer but also provide a more pleasant experience for everyone using or impacted by roads.

The Fund’s objectives are to foster improvements in the engineering, management, design and use of roads to deliver safer, more environmentally sensitive, more aesthetically pleasing and more enjoyable outcomes for all road users. The Fund does this principally by funding projects, research and events; and awarding bursaries to individuals pursuing relevant professional qualifications.

Chair of Trustees Ginny Clarke  said,  “At  the  Rees  Jeffreys  Road  Fund  we  believe  roads really matter to all of us, whether we’re making journeys as drivers, passengers, pedestrians   or cyclists. We welcome this new research which will help professionals responsible for the design and management of footways and roads to consider the needs of neurodivergent people.”

About William Rees Jeffreys

The Fund was founded by William Rees Jeffreys (1872-1954), the first Secretary of the Road Board, which was the precursor of the Department of Transport. He was a lifelong campaigner and was known as ‘the British Ambassador for Good Roads’. Read more about him on the Rees Jeffreys website About William Rees Jeffreys – Founder of RJRF –

 Rees Jeffreys Road Fund