Saturday, November 16 is the launch of 7 Senses Street Day, a national event to enhance Australian streetscapes and bring common sense back to neighbourhoods
Tobias Volbert of Playscape Creations and Linda Cupitt of Miovvn Consulting hope the event will ignite a sense of community and demonstrate that neighbourhood streets should be much more than traffic channels.
The inaugural event is seeking participation from people across the country to organise an event or activity in their local community to bring people together. In doing so, the event co-founders hope it will create a push for the creation of happier, healthier neighbourhoods which encourage interaction and play while including people of all abilities and wellness.
The event will focus on residential streets, which have effectively become channels for cars as opposed to safe havens in which children can interact with the community and play outdoors.
“My motivation for creating a national day is to challenge councils to make our residential streets more inclusive through improved sensory engagement,” said Volbert. “Essentially I want this to be the trigger to slow down traffic but not from an engineering perspective using things like speed bumps or signs, but rather by populating the streets which creates uncertainty for drivers and forces them to slow down.”
Participation in 7 Senses Street Day can range from hosting a local street BBQ to assisting a neighbour with a social event, or simply doing a sensory-based activity on the footpath with family.
Volbert is passionate about returning residential streets to children and genuinely aims to engage all seven senses through his landscape designs.
A 7 Senses Street is a street designed to engage, excite and enhance the senses, including not only sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch but also the vestibular and the proprioceptive. The vestibular sense deals with balance and movement while the proprioceptive senses are found in the body’s joints, muscles and tendons.
7 Senses Street Day aims to showcase preventative barriers that certain families experience which prohibits participation in an active daily life and how the community can address these issues. Accessibility is a significant barrier to community engagement for many families caring for a person with a disability which is why 7 Senses Street Day aims to include all abilities and degrees of health.
“I want this day to be a day for parents or carers of disabled children to get together and share their stories,” said Volbert. “From there we can implement changes that address their concerns in the community by integrating things such as better way-finding or tactile maps.”
Australia’s population is expected to increase by 15 per cent by 2030 with the rate of disability growing exponentially. Sensory disabilities are also on the rise. By the same year, Brisbane’s population will include one in four people with a non-physical disability. Currently one in six Australians is affected by loss of hearing. By 2024, impairments such as blindness and low vision are expected to double.
Taking these statistics into account, with active engagement by local communities we can change the purpose of the street from car transit to a connector and enabler, fostering interaction and play amongst all who live there.
“The growing rates of sensory disability such as blindness, autism or hearing loss, and the increase in mental illnesses mean that communities will need to change,” said Volbert, noting that councils should be the ones to champion this change and that it should start sooner rather than later, in line with estimated health statistics for the future.