Safely restarting the economy is inextricably tied to a re-thinking of every aspect of our designed environment, from homes to schools, workplaces, healthcare, hotels, streets, and parks. Four opportunities are instrumental in moving forward and in creating a better world:
- Flattening the inequality curve and eliminating disparities – COVID-19 disproportionately affects communities of color. At the same time, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 26 and the protests that ensued point to the holistic and concerted efforts that must be put in place if we are to create healthy and connected communities in which everyone can thrive. See “Landscapes of agony” below.
- Supporting health and well-being
- Enhancing space use through flexibility and adaptability, and
- Caring for the environment.
This centralized source with best practices and challenges in design interventions, vulnerable populations that can benefit from designers’ attention, research studies, and educational initiatives aims to build global synergies that position communities for healthy, vibrant, and economically sustainable futures.
INFORMATION ON VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
The COVID-19 pandemic further magnifies disparities and severely impacts vulnerable populations. See below for who is impacted and how. With this information, you can spearhead collaborations, inspire action, develop courses, and push creativity in identifying design interventions that can mitigate the pandemic’s impacts and set the foundation for a better world.
Communities of color:
- The color of coronavirus – APM Research Lab – Data updated weekly. For questions contact Craig Helmstetter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Higher risk of death from COVID19 complications – NY State Dept of Health
- Blacks and Latinos face the highest unemployment rates
- Blacks and Hispanics bear the brunt of the crisis as they are more susceptible to layoffs as well as deaths
- Rising inequality and lack of health insurance
- Health disparities and increased chronic health conditions, including HIV
- Native Americans are susceptible to the virus. Navajo Nation lost more people to coronavirus than 13 states. Lack of running water and electricity along with overcrowding are among the reasons cited for these disparities. As of May 18, Navajo Nation surpassed NY state’s infection rate.
- A story of resilience from an ER doctor and a restaurant owner.
- France’s stark divide also comes to the forefront due to the pandemic.
- Worried about being at higher risk from complications, many Black businesses are skeptical of re-opening.
- Black Americans represent 13.4% of the American population, but counties with higher black populations account for more than half of all Covid-19 cases and almost 60% of deaths. Health care access, density of households, unemployment, and pervasive discrimination are partly behind these disparities.
- Black people in the UK are four times more likely to die than whites.
- Low-income children without access to equipment needed for on-line schooling are at risk of falling behind.
- According to a survey by Goldman Sachs published in late April, 40% of black small business owners reported that they have been approved for forgivable loans during the first round of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, compared with 52% of small businesses overall. Additionally, 26% of black business owners said they have less than one month of cash reserves on hand, compared with 17% of small business owners overall. Yet, Venture capitalist Arlan Hamilton believes that now is the time to start a company.
Children with special needs:
- Children with disabilities at significant risk
- Special education one of the biggest challenges
- Homeschooling children with special needs
- Kids with disabilities struggle to adjust
- National Center for Learning Disabilities
- National School Choice Week
- Family Voices of Minnesota
- MN Department of Education
- Behavior Checker
- Autism Society of Minnesota
People with Special Needs:
This information was submitted by Darby Morris (email@example.com).
- Blind Voters Sue Michigan for not making Absentee Ballot accessible during Coronavirus
- Why Social Distancing is a Challenge for the Blind and what can be done about it
- How Vision Impaired Students are Coping with Online Learning
- The Deaf Community is Facing New Barriers as we navigate inaccessible face masks and struggle to follow news broadcasts and teleconferences
- Deaf Community and Coronavirus
- Presence / absence of sign language interpreters at news briefings, including NY.
- To Access Online Services, NJ Students with Disabilities must promise not to sue
- Designing Our World: Accessibility in Tech
- Once the Pandemic is Over, Can we keep the world this accessible?
- Bathroom Accessibility
- Toward more accessible work environments
- Inaccessible Coronavirus Information Excludes Impairment Community
- We have a Unique Opportunity to Design and Implement more Inclusive and Accessible Societies
- City Urged to Think about People with Disabilities in Curbto plan to create space on sidewalks
- Challenges that range from dealing with disabilities and autoimmune disorders to unemployment are compounded due to the pandemic.
- More than 117 million children at risk of missing measles vaccine.
- Finding ways to motivate children during lockdowns.
- Those born after 1997 will be the hardest hit by the financial fallout.
Refugees in refugee camps:
- Living in crowded conditions and having access to little healthcare and resources.
- Immigrants in detention centers.
Foster and abused children:
- Sleeping on office floors when in state care.
- With children out of school, concern is raised about the drop in class to child abuse centers.
- According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the number of reports of children being abused online soared four-fold.
- Angelina Jolie on supporting vulnerable children and domestic violence shelters.
Victims of domestic violence:
- Finding themselves in close quarters with abusers.
- Having no place to ask for help.
- For UK numbers see here.
- Read about efforts in MN and the role of University of Minnesota researchers here.
- With a ban on all public and private transport, many women in Uganda are trapped at home with a potential perpetrator, unable to travel to seek medical treatment, refuge or help.
Mental health conditions:
- Experiencing fear, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating are expected to exacerbate the pandemic’s aftermath due to extended isolation’s impacts.
- Crisis centers are already seeing a spike in calls.
- Finding new ways to cope.
- Working from home can blur the boundaries of home/work, exacerbating stress and the risk for burnout.
- Our concept of time is diluted as days blend with each other, causing stress.
- Everyone is feeling the mental health stresses of the pandemic, from health care workers to parents and children according to WHO.
- Praying to God and meditating upon Bible scriptures can reduce negative feelings like anger, grief, stress or fear.
- Facing extreme loneliness, especially if they have to fight the isolation alone.
- Most alarming numbers of dead are often in nursing homes.
- Overwhelmed staff at long-term care facilities mean some residents rely on Alexa for support.
- The pressures on women to handle work, home, aging parents, etc exacerbate the pandemic’s effects, particularly due to the loss of traditional support networks.
- Women are impacted through being on the frontlines as healthcare workers, unemployment, stress, domestic violence.
Front line responders:
- Experiencing increased risk for PTSD.
- Having a heightened sensitivity to stress, seeing their identity and support networks being challenged and their memories, such as canceled graduations, not materialize add to anxiety for the future.
- Rapid transition to online school has come with some downsides. Some teenagers lost some of this year’s learning and they had trouble planning in advance. However, online classes have been found to reduce bullying, enabling students to connect with their peers via internet tools, which may transfer to real friendship.
Cancer patients and others with chronic illnesses:
- Delaying treatments can increase fear and exacerbate concerns in patients.
This information was submitted by Raintry Salk, Survey Research Manager, Race Forward (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Living in overcrowded spaces can be precarious for their health.
- Living with increased risk in immigrant detention centers. A holistic response is needed in terms of housing, evictions, foreclosures, paid leave, sick leave, food insecurity, utility shut-offs, among others.
- Inmates giving back by making masks and PPE.
- Most alarming numbers are often in prisons.
- Over 70% of tested inmates in federal prisons have Covid-19.
- See how prison shaped an artist’s approach to life and social distancing.
- The overcrowded conditions of Kenya’s slums along with poor sanitation raise fears about the potential spread of the virus.
- Overcrowded urban centers and poorer countries around the world.
- Social isolation is very difficult in favelas outside Sao Paolo. Multiple generations are often packed under one roof and there are few public parks or other public spaces. Same goes for hospitals that can handle large and difficult cases. For healthcare, there are clinics, but no big hospitals.
- With the neon lights off in Japan’s Red Light District, Tokyo’s 300,000 sex workershave to look for work elsewhere. Some are endangering themselves by having to visit customers’ directly.
- The millions of sex workers in the US face less work and greater rish in catching the virus as well as rising potential for violence and abuse.
- With tourism gone in places like Peru and organizations such as the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco closed, weavers struggle to cover daily expenses in spite of Peru’s comprehensive approach to the virus.
- Handmade carpet weavers in Afghanistan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
- Those without a home experience additional challenges during a stay-at-home order. See what Los Angeles is doing and how the virus spread through a Boston shelter.
- See San Francisco neighborhood as tents take over.
- Need to strengthen affordability, support renters, and avoid evictions.
- It is now time to recognize housing as a right and end homelessness through policies and innovative housing solutions–Leilani Farha, UN special rapporteur on adequate housing.
- Homelessness rises, leaving cities in despair.
- The absence of people, vehicles, and camps due to the closing of safaris leaves poachers free to roam and many worry that poaching might increase.
Poor and food insecure:
- Risk of global famine, with 55 countries most at risk, including Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti.
- Racial and derogatory comments about Chinese people, limit the movements of many Asians and exacerbate the pandemic’s effects.
- Unemployment claims spiked 6,900% in NY.
- See the University of Minnesota’s Dr. Erika Lee for xenophobia in the US.
South East Asia:
- Bangladesh is a leading manufacturer of readymade garments in the world. As consumption dropped, factories are not paying their workers, many of whom are women. For more information on South Asia see the Institute for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley. Submitted by Vibhavari Jani, email@example.com.
- Indigenous tribes around the world are losing their livelihoods as tourists stay away. At the same time, indigenous villages in the amazon lack medical infrastructure to handle a crisis.
- Losing elders means losing knowledge.
- Far from hospitals and often lacking basic infrastructure along with a communal lifestyle, Brazil’s indigenous people are dying at an alarming rate from Covid-19 with little help in sight. The coronavirus has taken advantage of years of public neglect, and the mortality rate is double that of the rest of Brazil’s population.
Countries relying on tourism:
- Tourism involves 10% of the GDP and many countries around the world heavily rely on tourism for their livelihood.
Those who died:
- After morgues and funeral homes were overwhelmed, dead bodies were left in Guayaquil’s streets in Ecuador. The bodies of some of those who died, could not be found by family members.
- Overwhelmed Brooklyn funeral home, stored bodies in trucks, some non-refrigerated.
- In Italy, just like the rest of the world, many of those who died, died alone as family members could not be with them due to the lockdown. In some cases, they could not claim the body either.
- Mass graves dug up in Brazil.
- Distance Collaboration Commons (disCO-commons): Design for Social Change
With universities worldwide moving courses online in the face of the current pandemic, the situation is bringing challenges for learning and instruction for students and faculty. But this extraordinary circumstance also offers opportunities for greater distance collaboration. This survey is intended to build an open-sourced database of online materials and instructional resources in support of design for social change.
We welcome suggestions for online, open-accessed materials that support learning in community design, public interest design, design activism, and design justice in built environment disciplines including architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design and planning. For those who are available to offer guest teaching or are interested in inviting others to your courses, we also encourage you to sign up here.
The collected information is publicly accessible at https://tinyurl.com/tc5vkxt for design educators to incorporate into their courses. Interested students and the public can also access it on their own. You are welcome to submit your responses as many times as you wish if there are more materials to share. You are also welcome to edit the information you have provided especially if there are corrections.
Thank you in advance for supporting this effort! If there are any questions, please contact Jeff Hou (Urban Commons Lab, University of Washington, Seattle) firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Public spaces, humor, and social distancing
“I’ve been taken by the ways public art and humor have informed the COVID-19 experience of those in urban environments. I’m also especially interested in the many ways design is being used to encourage social distancing.” Jennifer Adler, City University of New York (email@example.com).
- Library spaces
“I am a library administrator and environmental psychologist working in NYC. The environmental research pertaining to the reopening of libraries is astounding. As I look through the collection of categories and guidelines I am struck by the absence of LIBRARIES as an environment in the re-opening documentation and discussion being addressed. I’d like to encourage the inclusion of this critical large-scale environment and place of human landing.” Amy Beth, Guttman Community College CUNY, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hate crimes and impact on space use
“To gather more information related to the use of public spaces, I would link to related news stories that might describe this. There are many reported hate crimes happening on public transportation and transit hubs (like in St. Paul last week). Places that track hate crimes are:
The IHRC will be starting a COVID-19 impact project this summer with the goal of creating a digital repository of sources that document the health, economic, and social impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities in the United States. Our goal is to document the current crisis for the historical record and to provide a publicly-accessible resource for research, teaching, creating work, and advocacy that informs community, scholarly, and public responses to the pandemic.” Erika Lee, Regents Professor of History and Asian American Studies, Director of the Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota, email@example.com.
- Safer building products
“Ask manufacturers and retailers what products are made of. It will send a message that consumers are interested. More testing and research is needed on chemicals and materials. It is possible today to use building products with safer chemicals. Exposures to chemicals of concern are linked to increased diseases and health implications, like autoimmune disorders, cancer, respiratory illnesses, fertility issues, and developmental impairments in children. These health issues also make you more vulnerable to viruses, like COVID-19. To learn how to select safer building products and decrease exposures, the non-profit, Healthy Building Network, has created a program called HomeFree.
Further reading about the link between toxic chemical exposures and COVID-19 (and other diseases):
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals weaken us
- Reducing environmental pollution
- Toxic chemicals and coronavirus deaths
- Toxic chemicals in our homes increase risk
- Confronting the chemicals worsening Covid-19”
- Coping Mechanisms that ease stress and keep people healthy and connected
Explore ways by which design can reinforce health-supporting behaviors
- Exercise, meditation, sleep, and stress management
- Battling loneliness means building strong connections to other people by building a strong connection to ourselves
- Resilience is a muscle
- University of Minnesota
GCC 3005/5005: Innovation for the Public Good: Post-Pandemic Venture Design
3 Credits | Instructors: Tom Fisher, Virajita Singh, Megan Voorhees | Term: Summer (June 8-August 14). For information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you seeking ways to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact in meaningful ways? In this project-based course you will work in interdisciplinary teams to develop entrepreneurial responses to current social and environmental problems while developing the tools, mindsets, and skills that can help you be a leader in addressing any complex grand challenge. Projects may focus on food insecurity, unemployment, housing, environmental impacts, equity issues and/or other issues that are emerging as central concerns at this time.
Community members locally and globally will serve as mentors and research consultants to teams, and we will have weekly speakers who will share their entrepreneurial and innovative work to serve the common good. By the end of the class students will have a well-designed venture plan and will be well-prepared to compete for venture funding through Acara (acara.umn.edu) if you are interested in piloting your idea.
Students are expected to use a discovery process, design thinking, ideation and input from field research in solving the challenge. A primary focus of the course is up-front work to identify the “right” problem to solve. The model should be built around the community’s culture, needs and wants, as they will need to pay for the product or service to achieve a scalable model.