A fundamental tenet of modern design philosophy is creating environments and goods that speak to people’s varied experiences. This philosophy is especially important when it comes to creating neurodiverse groups. A journey that negotiates the complexities of various cognitive processes, sensory experiences, and social relationships, it is characterised by understanding, empathy, and invention. Designers may create spaces that promote inclusivity and empowerment by exploring the spectrum of neurodiversity and utilising its inherent potential.

Envision yourself meandering through a crowded city plaza, where you are encircled by vivid hues, active conversation, and the steady beat of metropolitan life. This scenario elicits emotions of exhilaration and connection in many people. Navigating such surroundings, however, can be daunting and disorienting for people on the autism spectrum. Fostering social interaction and community participation is greatly enhanced by public areas. These environments, however, can pose serious difficulties for people who are neurodiverse, including those who have autism. A few challenges they could face are sensory overload, social anxiety, and trouble adjusting to changes.  The significance of considering neurodiversity in creating public spaces is becoming increasingly apparent. Architects and urban planners are rethinking spaces to make them more inclusive and accommodating for people with autism, from parks and playgrounds to transit hubs and retail malls.

Pittsburgh International Airport’s Sensory Room Initiative

Pittsburgh International Airport’s (PIA) creation of sensory-friendly areas, such as the sensory room, has marked a notable advancement in neurodiversity design, especially for people on the autism spectrum. Aware of the sensory difficulties experienced by passengers with autism, PIA’s programs are designed to improve the surroundings by offering features like calm spaces, dim lighting, and activities that are appropriate for those with sensory issues. PIA makes sure that its designs take into account the needs and preferences of the neurodiverse community by working with advocacy groups and asking people who have autism for feedback. A dark crawl area for kids and an adult change table are among the unusual elements of PIA’s sensory room, which also has soft seating options, visually stimulating bubble columns, and soothing teal colour palettes. PIA’s sensory room is noteworthy for housing the first-ever replica aeroplane cabin in the country, which enables guests to become acquainted with the sensory elements of flying. To reduce anxiety and sensory overload for travellers with autism, these initiatives highlight the airport’s dedication to fostering diversity and accessibility in public areas. These kinds of programs show how important it is to use public areas like airports to promote diversity and inclusion.

Designing for Neurodiversity in Autism-Sheet1
Replica air cabin to perform boarding activities _© 9news
Designing for Neurodiversity in Autism-Sheet2
The lounge area considering design strategies for autistic people_©9news

Louisville Public Library’s Sensory Space Initiative

The Louisville Public Library’s creative Sensory Space is a model of inclusive design, especially for those with autism spectrum disorders. The library launched this innovative program in August 2018 with the help of a $50,000 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, providing a variety of programs catered to the requirements of neurodiverse users. Located inside the library’s Discovery Center, this area offers children and people with special needs a multisensory experience designed to improve their motor skills, focus, and ability to recognize colours. The Sensory Space, which is separated into two sections, provides tactile pleasures like interactive vibrating benches and balance beams in addition to a relaxing space with calming colours and low lighting. The library serves as a paradigm for accessible design principles across the country by empowering the community through free programs and the provision of sensory equipment. The Sensory Space provides crucial support to people with autism, dementia, learning impairments, and sensory processing disorders outside of the library through relationships with area schools and healthcare facilities. Essentially, the Sensory Space at the Louisville Public Library is a prime example of the revolutionary power of proactive design techniques in fostering social inclusion and neurodiversity celebration environments.

Designing for Neurodiversity in Autism-Sheet3
Sensory experience room at Louisville library_©Louisvillelibrary.com

Proactive design may promote empowerment and inclusivity, as demonstrated by the advancements made by projects like the sensory room at Pittsburgh International Airport and the sensory space at the Louisville Public Library. These initiatives showcase the significant influence that deliberate design can have on improving accessibility and providing meaningful experiences by acknowledging the distinct requirements of people with autism spectrum disorders. Developing inclusive design is not without its challenges. While navigating the wide range of neurodiverse experiences, designers must face the prejudices and stereotypes that support exclusionary behaviours.

As expressed by Temple Grandin, “Diverse minds are essential for our world.” Acknowledging and appreciating neurodiversity, while fostering environments that embrace inclusivity, enables us to access the limitless wellspring of human ingenuity and innovation. We begin a path of transformation when we embrace neurodiversity; a journey that breaks down boundaries and creates a society where everyone may prosper and add their viewpoints to the fabric of humanity, regardless of their cognitive processes or sensory experiences.


Morgan, M. (2023, September 21). SenseSational storytime and multi-sensory environment.

Neuse Regional Libraries; Neuse Regional Library. https://www.neuselibrary.org/2023/09/21/sensesational-storytime-and-multi-sensory-environment/

Sensory Space. (n.d.). Louisvillelibrary.org. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://www.louisvillelibrary.org/sensory#/rooms/

Kesherim, R. (2023, December 24). Autism and public spaces. Supportivecareaba.com; Supportive Care ABA. https://www.supportivecareaba.com/aba-therapy/autism-and-public-spaces

Lobos, A. (2021, April 8). From designing for autism to design with autism. Linkedin.com. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/from-designing-autism-design-alex-lobos/

(N.d.-c). Uxdesign. Cc. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://uxdesign.cc/why-designs-that-accommodate-the-needs-of-autistic-people-are-better-for-everyone-dc5fb2144b15

Designing for People with Autism (ASD). (n.d.). Nwdarchitects.co.uk. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://www.nwdarchitects.co.uk/news/designing-for-people-with-autism-asd/52

(N.d.-b). Re-thinkingthefuture.com. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://www.rethinkingthefuture.com/case-studies/a8283-school-for-neurodiverse-children-in-california-by-nbbj/#google_vignette

Designing for neurodiversity: Embracing and understanding differences. (2023, November 14).

Metropolis; Metropolis Magazine. https://metropolismag.com/viewpoints/understanding-and-designing-for-neurodiversity/

Kaur, S. (2023, November 8). Designing for neuro-diversity. Zeta Design. https://design.zeta.in/designing-for-neuro-diversity-2e01c24564e

(N.d.). 9news.com. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://www.9news.com/article/news/airport-unveils-sensory-room-inspired-by-workers-son-with-autism/507-ac23c02a-137d-48c7-8a6c-2cd530f66c74

Davis, K. J. (2019, July 24). Sensory space opens at PIT for travellers with autism and other

special needs. WESA. https://www.wesa.fm/local-headlines/2019-07-24/sensory-space-opens-at-pit-for-travelers-with-autism-and-other-special-needs




Yachi, an aspiring architect, passionately delves into documenting the intricate blend of architecture, art, and culture, resonating with historical and contemporary aspects. Zealously exploring sustainable architecture and emerging trends, Yachi is particularly intrigued by unraveling the interconnected threads between human psychology and spatial design, seeking to comprehend the holistic essence.