Inclusive design is not niche. It’s for all of us, from babies to grannies and everyone between. All good design should be inclusive.
(This document by CABE provides a good summary of the principles of Inclusive Design in the built environment: Principles of Inclusive Design).
Accessible design can be a little more specialised, to enable access for people with specific requirements.
However either way you go, if you design for those with the greatest accessibility needs, it’s highly likely that you’ll end up with a building or product that is easier and more accessible for everyone!
My daughter EJ is the catalyst that started my campaign journey, to join the push for progress towards a more inclusive society (for her future) through enabling more comprehensive access. Part of that, I think, has to be to talk about inclusive and accessible design more often. To encourage all people to think about how inclusive their homes are, and the places and spaces they visit.
I think the mainstream media and the design industry have a huge role to play here, and I think we can also learn a lot from the way that eco design has become a mainstream issue. My feeling is that inclusive design and accessibility are, and have to be seen to be, a critical aspect of sustainable design!
Of course everyone’s needs are different, so good design should allow for those differences, provide alternatives, be flexible. If you are young, fit, able it’s easy to be oblivious to how our buildings and environment can put up barriers for some, but find yourself with a temporary disability, or when you try pushing a pram or pulling trolley suitcase around, suddenly things can seem very different.
We are seeing progress in attitudes to accessible and inclusive design, particularly in the public realm and publicly accessible buildings, as well as in new-build housing standards, although of course there’s a long way to go! However, there are a few exceptions to this which fall within my particular areas of interest…. or perhaps that should read areas that impact our lives the most!
Namely, houses and toilets!
With a background in housing design I’m really interested in new accessible housing standards, and this is most definitely an important aspect of my campaigning. However, even if we were to build all new housing to accessible standards, it will still only affect a small proportion of homes in the UK! The majority of people live in ‘re-used’ houses, which means that many people are living in homes inappropriate to their needs. People are making do, or are waiting on housing lists for the rare accessible council/social housing homes to come up (putting extra pressure on an already overwhelmed system), or have to make adaptations to their existing home (an added expense purely due to disability or illness, which results in more applications for Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) and again puts pressure on an overwhelmed system).
As designers we have a crucial role to play in producing places, spaces and homes which welcome people of all abilities and there needs to be a greater emphasis in considering all needs, now and in the future. When it comes to housing, we shouldn’t only think about our own needs but also the needs of those we’d like to welcome into our homes, those of our friends and family.
So in terms of home design there are actually several different campaign themes I’m interested in, including:
- Accessible housing standards: Pressing for new multi home developments to meet Lifetime Homes Standards (or new Part M4(2)) as a minimum.
- Home Adaptations: Obtaining better access to holistic design advice, particularly for the more complex, projects falling within the Disabilities Facilities Grant process.
- Make Inclusive Housing Mainstream! Promotion of the inclusive design approach for refurbishment & extension projects in existing homes. Encourage people (disabled or not) to think about improvements to accessibility in their home in the way they would think about improvements to energy performance.
- Accessibility Ratings?: Easier access to accessible housing to buy or let! I’m interested in the idea of some sort of accessiblity ratings system for finding a home to buy or rent (there is a rating system for finding accessible holiday lets, so why not one for finding a home to live in?).
The other major issue that impacts our family directly is a lack of appropriate accessible toilets. Toilets with a changing bench and hoist:
- Changing Places Toilets I’m very actively involved in the changing places toilets campaign and am really excited to see that (after a long campaign!) building regulations are being adjusted to require changing places to be installed in larger buildings and venues. This is a massive step forward, but the campaign isn’t over, there’s still a lot of awareness to raise among owners of existing buildings and buildings that don’t quite fit the criteria.
I’d love to hear from anyone working on campaigns and initiatives in these areas, or with other ideas to make accessibiilty ‘mainstream’ and inspirational!
Find me on twitter: @inclusivehome or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org