It’s time to see the bigger picture: Designing for inclusivity

There are many opinions when it comes to what constitutes Inclusive Design and varying levels of how designers cater for the general public with this in mind. However, with the British Standards Institute defining inclusive design as: “The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible … without the need for special adaptation or specialised design.”[1] there are real strides to be made in ensuring that inclusive design really is inclusive.

Understanding and enabling

Interior designers and architects alike have many things to consider when it comes to designing accessible spaces. Whether it is shared facilities like libraries, schools, museums, parks, shops, offices or individual residential spaces – there are a range of needs to be addressed. Much of society still caters for a public without restrictions – yet with factors differing from physical and mental capabilities, to age, identity, income, language to name a few – there is a need to acknowledge user diversity.

Accessible spaces mean many things to different people. To be able to feel included in the experience shared within a space can be crucial to how many people visit, attend or reside in a place. Aside from ensuring that people can access the properties with easy entry, wide doorways, clear signage etc. – there is also a need to factor in acoustic details, lighting, levelled areas, audio descriptions & braille, clear images to aid understanding, gender neutral washrooms and many other adaptions that can make people feel welcomed.

Art by: Nick Slater

Small change – big gains

Designing for inclusivity can open up a world of benefits. Tailored designs originally created to provide for certain needs often show a real benefit for all. Modular, moveable furniture has enabled people to adapt spaces for different purposes. New layouts in offices, schools, libraries etc. – that break away from the traditional format, have allowed people to feel more engaged and relaxed within potentially intimidating environments. Tactile surfaces, pavements, exhibitions have allowed people to use their others senses to appreciate a space or alerted an often-distracted society to pay attention to possible dangers.

From a business perspective, thinking about what people need, and taking on board community feedback, has many benefits. Firstly, ensuring equality of experience and accommodating for as many as possible in turn expands the customer reach. It also gives a unique approach to design that will stand out among others – displaying a more considered thought process towards inclusivity.

Art by: tubik.arts

Thinking Creatively

Planning beyond the mere accessibility element, and thinking towards the experience of a user, will offer true value to design. Thinking about providing for all rather than adapting existing designs, will provide a unique feel that appeals to many. For someone with visual impairment including a range of textured flooring, to define spaces, will make navigation far easier, but with textured surfaces to explore as part of exhibitions will allow a fully immersive experience that allows the individual to be part of the experience. For those who experience social anxiety, digital consoles providing services or smaller, enclosed workspaces may provide the comfort needed to visit and feel confident. Giving individuals furniture which can adjust in height and position also removes barriers and makes each person feel that they belong.

Some examples of great, inclusive designs include:

  • The Catalyst (Newcastle) home to the National Innovation Centre for Ageing – which is designed for ease of navigation. It has specialist adaptions with tiered furniture, wide walkways, lighting and enlarged signage to cater for a range of needs.
  • Regent Park Aquatic Centre (Toronto) – offering an open plan, visually connected space making it welcoming to all. There are also no separate changing rooms – all are common rooms with private cubicles catering for all gender identities.
  • Bikurim Inclusive School (Tel Aviv) noted as the first inclusive school provides the children with space for meditation as well as offering flexible design that is accessible for all children promoting equality and inclusivity. https://educationsnapshots.com/projects/10692/bikurim-inclusive-school/

The gradual shift towards inclusive design is clear. With Ikea launching This Ables service – providing small 3D printable add-ons that make everyday furniture more accessible to all – there is hope that designing for diversity is becoming more prominent.

If you would like to discuss creating a more inclusive work, learning or residential space then please get in touch at hello@sceneinteriors.com or call 0161 327 3045 for more information.


[1] What Is Inclusive Design? https://www.inclusivedesigntoolkit.com/whatis/whatis.html


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