The current design of public space limits access by people with neurodiversity (intellectual disability, autism, mental illness, acquired brain injury, and ageing associated). Navigation can be enhanced through development of design principles for public spaces for people with neurodiversity or sensory differences in touch, taste, sound, sight, smell and proprioception, and in vestibular realms. Globally, there is no current comprehensive and concentrated research into the relationship between neurodiversity and the built environment.

Miriam Taylor and Cindy Nicollet from QCIDD in collaboration with A/Prof Kathi Holt-Damant from QUT in 2012 undertook a sensory mapping pilot in Logan with a small project fund from Logan City Council. The project utilised a mixed-method approach that included an international sensory profile, an urban experience survey and observational recordings during an urban walk in Logan Central (south of Brisbane, Australia). Four neurodiverse and four neurotypical participants undertook all three aspects of the research. The combined results for both the neurodiverse and the neurotypical group were mapped across the seven senses mentioned above. The most common barriers experienced by both groups were loud noises, bright colours, flashing lights, heavy traffic, and crowded spaces. Whilst these are features are typical to many urban spaces, and also experienced by people who are neurotypical, the experience for people with neurodiversity is amplified by their sensitivity. Many people with neurodiversity are said to experience significant movement disturbances which impede communication, spatial sense, proprioception and movement through space. If a person’s ability to sense their body in space is compromised by the features of the urban space, could this stress amplify the sensory challenges experienced? The researchers posit that if we can enhance ease of movement through urban spaces, then we achieve more inclusive design. If movement is the key factor to sensory responses, then spaces can be manipulated to reduce sensory demands.

New collaborations are emerging with Logan Regional Development interested architects and app designers. We have developed project plans for an app to be piloted, a website to be called "NeurodiverCity", and comprehensive research which includes autonomic measures.