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north texas’ first residential community for adults with intellectual delays will open in 2018

Catherine Saunders

As North Texas is set to welcome one of their first communities built for adults with intellectual delays, we asked one of the project designers, Elizabeth (Liz) Decker, about what this project means to her.

The Backstory

As a student at Kansas State University, Liz conducted her master’s research on how we can better create urban environments that are inclusive for people like her younger brother, Marc. Marc is an adult living with autism.

As an outcome of her research, Liz developed a toolkit (displayed below) that helps designers and planners make cities more inclusive for adults with autism.

Liz used Nashville as her test city for the urban toolkit. As a city, Nashville uses form-based zoning code, which means it focuses on the buildings’ physical form, in addition to the land use. The city had other perks: residential services, a strong job market, and good transportation.

“My project views cities from a larger perspective and demonstrates that cities lack connection of services for autism,” Liz said. “It is not enough to view a city within a few blocks and suggest placing a building or park; without seeing the vision of an inclusive city as a whole, the design falls short of successfully connecting the needs of adults with autism. Though this project is not typical of landscape architecture, it portrays the discipline’s range of scale and thinking, revealing the spectrum of what landscape architects can do.”

Fast-Forward Just a Few Years

A couple years out of school, Liz is now working to design a project that will soon come to life in the real world and not too far from where she calls home.

On the project…

Liz: “God is good. It has been such a blessing! How the project came about and how these types of developments are gaining ground (similar to what I emphasized for during my research at K-State). What stirred my interest is due to my little brother (now 22) with autism.”

Where her passion comes from…

Liz: “Once adults with disabilities reach 21, the buses stop coming (no more schooling help for families) and they are set out into the world. Most individuals live at home and not many are able to find work, or even if they do find work, they are placed into a job that does not utilize their skill sets. Like most college-aged kids, who wants to live at home? It is that time in your life where you want to socialize with your peers.”

On the day she received the call…

Liz: “When the potential client left me that voicemail about reading my book and telling me about Daymark, my heart skipped a beat. This is actually one of a few other developments I have heard about popping up around the DFW area. The client’s vision is the type of development many parents of individuals with neurological disabilities dream of – a safe place, with caretakers to watch over their young adults, healthy food, walkability to downtown amenities, community events, and transportation to downtown Dallas! Florida has been the number one state for these types of developments and care and it is exciting to see DFW taking a step in the right direction for a growing number of individuals. It is only a matter of time before other states catch on.”

An Aspen Heights project, The Daymark Living community is set to open in 2018.