Is the city planned and built for me?

Citizens’ experiences of inclusion, exclusion and (un)equal living conditions in the built environment




This paper is based on a study where four go-along interviews with a total of sixteen participants were conducted in three Swedish cities. The purpose of this study was to find out how different aspects and qualities of the built environment affected different persons in terms of experiences of inclusion and exclusion and strategies used to deal with obstacles in the environment. The study highlights the citizens' experiences and perceptions of the urban built environment, based on their individual conditions for using it, in relation to the planners' and decision-makers' visions, planning practices and construction. The participants were asked about their views on the necessary conditions for them to visit the city and its places and buildings, what barriers they might experience that either made them change routes or avoid the area completely and what kind of environments they experienced as welcoming and inclusive. The study shows that there is an ongoing multifaceted exclusion of citizens from the built environment. This situation is not in accordance with current building regulations, neither with overall societal goals and ambitions, nor with the international conventions Sweden has undertaken to follow. The study also points to opportunities to change the situation, with the help of knowledge about enablers in the built environment and how Universal Design can become an important planning variable to bring about change.

Author Biographies

Lilian Muller, Lund University, Department of Design Sciences, Sweden

Lilian Müller is an industrial doctoral student at Certec, Department of Design Sciencesat Lunds University. She is employed by the City of Lund as an accessibility advisor atthe City Planning Office, and has many years of experience working with accessibility and universal design in Sweden and in an international environment. Her current research deals with universal design and accessibility in urban planning and construction and the inequalities caused by the gap between people's abilities and the conditions of the built environment.

Emil Erdtman, Lund University, Department of Design Sciences, Sweden

Emil Erdtman is a doctoral student at Certec, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University, Sweden. He is conducting ethnographically inspired research in urban development processes in Sweden. He has for many years worked in the Swedish disability movement and looks now at the implications of involving persons with disabilities and their knowledge in design and change processes.

Per-Olof Hedvall, Lund University, Department of Design Sciences, Sweden

Per-Olof Hedvall is an associate professor in Rehabilitation engineering and design and works as Director of Certec, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University. He is also a Guest Professor in Design at Mid Sweden University. Hedvall’s work focuses on accessibility, participation, and universal design. His current research aims to create new knowledge regarding the implementation of Universal Design in Sweden. It deals with categorisations of dis/ability and gender as patterns of inequality and discrimination, people’s strategies for counteracting discrimination, and how to create categorisations that do not lead to inequality and stigma.


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How to Cite

Muller, L., Erdtman, E., & Hedvall, P.-O. (2024). Is the city planned and built for me? Citizens’ experiences of inclusion, exclusion and (un)equal living conditions in the built environment. Journal of Accessibility and Design for All, 14(1), 32–51.