PhD defence: Marie Christoffersen Gramkow
Marie Christoffersen Gramkow defends her thesis,
Designing accessible and health-promoting green spaces for people with mobility disabilities
Professor Ulrika Karlsson Stigsdotter, IGN
Associate Professor Anna Bengtsson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Research Director Camilla Ryhl, Universal Design Hub/Bevica Fonden
Associate Professor Anton Stahl Olafsson (chair), IGN
This Ph.D. project investigates how people in Denmark with mobility disabilities use green spaces, what barriers they experience, what they wish for from green spaces, and how landscape architects accommodate this when they design green spaces. The project also shows how landscape architects can use a process model that uses inputs from users, research and other relevant sources to design green spaces that are health promoting and accessible for all.
The need to create accessible green spaces has grown from the fact that urban areas now house over half the world's population, which has severe negative impacts on citizens’ health. The World Health Organization and the United Nations (UN) see urban and green spaces as an answer to these health issues, as research shows that exposure to green spaces such as gardens, parks, and forests can improve our health. Indeed, a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 11.7) states that all countries should offer universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible green spaces, particularly for women and children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. However, in Denmark, we know that people with mobility disabilities visit green spaces less frequently than the able-bodied population. This project focuses on finding solutions for people with mobility disabilities because they represent a large portion of the one billion people globally who live with a form of disability (mobility disabilities impact one-third of the Danish population living with disabilities).
Using inductive qualitative research, this Ph.D. project collected data through interviews with landscape architects and people with mobility disabilities. The project found that physical barriers such as uneven trails, steep slopes, poor parking facilities, and a lack of information prevent people with mobility disabilities from visiting nature as frequently as they wish, and also that more personal barriers including lack of self-confidence and others' views of one's abilities were at play. The project found that when designing accessible urban and green spaces, landscape architects face a number of challenges, including inflexibility in Danish building regulations and a lack of research on and education in accessibility. One way to help landscape architects to design green spaces that are health promoting and accessible is to use a model in the design process that enables them to convert research into practical design solutions.
A digital version of the PhD thesis can be obtained from the PhD secretary Anne Marie Faldt at firstname.lastname@example.org