Tuesday 23 March 2021

Most Autistic People Don't Like Curved Walls


Image shows a Twitter poll which asks whether autistic people preferred straight or curved walls, inside buildings.  A clear majority preferred straight walls. Over 1000 people chose an option.

Above, a poll result from Twitter.  I'd asked whether autistic people preferred walls that were straight, or curved, inside buildings.

As you can see, there were a lot of responses.  As some had only asked to 'show results', their answers need to be discounted - but the figures are very clear.  About three times as many autistic people prefer straight walls in their buildings, not curved ones.  Yes, it's not a scientific randomised sample.  But it's huge.

Why on earth am I talking to you about walls?  Because for the last 15 years or so, people have been told that autistic people like curved walls.

How did they know this?

They knew this because someone made a building with curved walls, and observed some autistic children in a particular high-support care setting were putting their hands on the curved wall and following it round.  This, they thought, proved that 'autistic people' approve.

No it doesn't.  I put my hands on a wall when I'm not at all sure how to navigate that space, when I'm disorientated.  It's not to say, "Oh what a lovely wall, I prefer this one".

So, I looked for formal academic research into this.  Research using proper big trials of lots of autistic people, asking them for their views on wall design and making real evaluations of quality of life and accessibility, using provable measures.  Autistic people of all levels of support needs.  Autistic people of different ages including older autistic people of retirement age.  Autistic people from different ethnic minorities.  Autistic people of different genders.


Nothing at all.

Well, nothing I can readily find as a researcher, anyway.

Yet, everywhere I look, there are documents telling me that autistic people like curved walls.

Look at the Twitter thread itself and some of the comments under it.  Some autistic people do like curved walls.  The majority spoke out very strongly against them.


I am glad to be working with groups who are now asking some autistic people what they think about buildings.  Who are listening.  Who are learning.  But we have endless buildings constructed  - or being constructed - with these wretched curved walls, with teams all agreeing with each other that the Autistic People Like Curved Walls. That it helps with 'movement' of autistic people.  A bit like cattle being herded, perhaps?  After all, a well known engineer designed cattle-moving tracks that were curved, to help the cattle move more towards a terrifying end goal.  Let's hope that this isn't anything to do with getting autistic children to keep moving towards treatments they don't want, or activities they can't bear.

"Perhaps severely autistic people like curved walls and it's only you 'high functioning' autistic people who can vote, so it's just your point of view", some say.


So the evidence that autistic people with high support needs would like curved walls is...?

And the evidence that people who can vote in a poll would have a totally different viewpoint is....?

There isn't any, is there.

No research had been done.

Ask them.  Enable communication.   It's not that hard, actually.

 I hope the people in these new buildings manage to cope.

A curved corridor, one side made of curved glass.

Thank you for reading.