Inclusive Design

furniture & interiors

Despite the growing inclusion of disability access in office interior design making workspaces more inclusive to those with disabilities and invisible illnesses is still relatively new ground. According to a study from

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Despite the growing inclusion of disability access in office interior design making workspaces more inclusive to those with disabilities and invisible illnesses is still relatively new ground. According to a study from parliament.uk, 7.9 million people in the UK (between 16-64) identify as living with a disability. This amounts to 19% of the potential working demographic in need of a workplace that supports and aids them in their daily functions.

Small steps have been made by businesses, local councils and other organisations to adapt, such as the implementation of wheelchair access ramps. However, a disability can obviously go beyond wheelchairs and limited motor functions. The question is what kind of features can be implemented into your workspace to create a more inclusive environment for all types of people.

Here are some useful features that an organisation can implement into its design to better aid those facing physical challenges and disability.

Who needs inclusive design?

Providing a space for all workers is not only important for us as individuals, but it also gives businesses access to a wider, more diverse, talent pool full of skilled, experienced workers. Unlike some workplace design trends where the organisation would have to compromise financially or spatially to benefit their staff, inclusive design provides a ‘win-win’ situation for both parties.

Another important distinction to make is the fact that disabilities aren’t always just physically limiting but encompass a wide range of mental health and learning difficulties. Inclusive design’s benefits span over a wide range of workers, with no definitive section benefiting more than another. A multitude of features and installations can create a better working environment for a plethora of people, through audial, physical and sensory changes.

How can we integrate this into your design?

Making corridors wide enough to accommodate two wheelchair users at the time is a way of redefining best practice spatially, and creates an easier, flowing workplace for such a user without the constricting paranoia of ‘taking up room’. In a similar way, make all office spaces and surfaces more accessible to those more physically limited by having adjustable and/or multi-height surfaces (like sit-stand desks), in places like desks and utility areas. Another practical solution which would make your workspace more physically accessible to anyone would be door handles that can be operated using the ‘closed fist’ test, meaning it doesn’t need a firm grasp to open, and can be opened with minimal effort.

As we’ve already discussed, some challenges faced aren’t just physical, with many workers either openly or discreetly struggling with sensitivities related to sound, sight, and mental health issues across a wide spectrum. With research from Willis Towers Watson’s Health and Benefits Barometer showing that 1 in 10 full time office workers are considered to be ‘neurodiverse’, a large portion of workplace could benefit from small changes that you make.

One such change would be to redesign the basic colouring in your décor to be more friendly to certain colour sensitivities. Calm and natural themes do a lot to reduce stress and anxiety, you can read more about this in our blog regarding biophilic design. Maybe a full renovation isn’t really in your power at the moment though, so a policy change could have more impact and be easier to rollout. Things like a pet policy, which allow workers to bring in certain pets to help with stress and relaxation could support your workers. Another such policy would be to introduce more agile or flexible working schemes into your organisation, allowing those with different needs to find more accessible hours that suit their schedules.

These changes are a great way to advertise your commitments to creating an inclusive workplace and will work in your favour to inspire new talent to your team.

The Seven Principles of Inclusive Design:

A way to audit your organisation, in terms of whether you have a space that invokes the ideals of inclusive design, is to follow the ‘Seven principles of inclusive design’. This set of qualities that now defines inclusive design as a whole is the perfect way for your organisation to determine how you fair in terms of how accessible and friendly your workplace is. So, what are these seven principles?

  1. Equitable use: Does the design of your workplace come across as useful and enticing to those with diverse abilities?
  2. Flexibility in use: Does your design accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities?
  3. Simple and intuitive use: Is your design easy to understand regardless of the user’s skills or experience etc.?
  4. Perceptible information: Does the design communicate necessary information, regardless of the user’s sensory abilities?
  5. Tolerance for error: Is your design minimising risks due to the possibility of accidental or unintended mistakes?
  6. Low physical effort: Can the design be used efficiently and comfortably with minimum effort and fatigue?
  7. Size and space for approach and use: Are you providing enough space for reach and manipulation regardless of the user’s body size, posture or mobility?

By contending with these basic, fundamental principles, you can start to make changes today, however small. If you’d like to know more about inclusive design and how best to implement these sorts of features within your organisation, then get in touch today with our team and let’s see what we can do together.