Universal Design Symposium celebrates connected cities

by Megan Barclay

7th November 2016

The Universal Design Symposium hosted by the Auckland Council on 26th October was the second in a three year period.  This year was a significant step-up from the inaugural symposium in 2013.
The Symposium was established to bring together leaders and agencies responsible for designing and developing Auckland’s places and spaces, to resume a conversation on Universal Design for Auckland and its ongoing development.
The display area of the Universal Design Symposium showcased some of the best stories of what's going on in Auckland- including LifemarkIt’s exciting to note how much has changed since the first Universal Design Symposium in 2013.  The Auckland Council have a dedicated team focused specifically on Universal Design and delivering places and experiences around Auckland that are accessible to all.  The Auckland Design Manual team situated in the Auckland Design Office at Auckland Council has been collaborating with a diverse group of agencies across many disciplines and professions to focus the Auckland Design, including Be. Accessible, Lifemark Design, Blind Foundation, CCS Disability, the Architects Institute of New Zealand, Maori design focused teams from Nga Aho networks, and many other experts in designing for all.
The highlight of the event was the launch of the much awaited Auckland Design Manual – a collaboration between many agencies and the Auckland Council Design team.  You can find out more about it on the Auckland Design Manual site
The Auckland Design Manual is a strength-based collection of exemplar case studies that feature good design referencing design principles that include Universal Design, design for health, activity and wellbeing, Maori design, design for sustainability and safety, and design that ensures everyone can enjoy all that Auckland has to offer.
It’s a fantastic resource for us all, and has a couple of excellent videos which really showcase what the Auckland Design manual is really about – the first illustrates Auckland’s vision for accessibility and the second describes Universal Design in a nutshell.

It was absolutely inspiring to hear from speakers who are passionate about design that is good for everybody. The emphasis was on how public places and how spaces can be developed to create connected cities and neighbourhoods, as well as ensuring that housing is developed to be future oriented and relevant.
Valerie Fletcher from the Institute of Human Centred Design in Boston was the keynote speakerHearing from Valerie Fletcher of the Institute for Human Centre Design in Boston, USA at the Symposium, reinforced for me that Auckland, and New Zealand are not alone in our desire to shift a focus from the last 30-50 years of compliance focused design and development, to be more about human beings and what will sustain them, their whole of lives whilst protecting the environment.
The audience was diverse, with design professionals from across many different sectors, architects, urban planners and international experts, but all engaged in the same outcome- creating great experiences for Aucklanders.
Those from overseas were here to both share their own experiences as well as learn from the vision that Auckland has to become the most liveable and accessible city. It reinforced for me that we are on the right track, and we are uniquely lucky to have such a visionary guiding document- Auckland is on a journey to creating something magical.
If you wish to find out more about how you might create greater accessibility for your project we're happy to help– contact the Be. Welcome team at or