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Creating a More Equitable World through Inclusive Design: A Conversation


I recently had the pleasure of recording a podcast with Toby Mildon, where I got to share my passion for inclusive design.


Our discussion focused on creating more inclusive and equitable places, products, and services, ultimately contributing to a more equitable world for all.


I kicked off the podcast by introducing myself and explaining my work. As an inclusive design activist, I aim to make technology, products, and environments accessible to everyone. It might seem like a daunting task, but it means helping teams design inclusive physical or virtual reality experiences, buildings, or hybrid working environments, and creating user-friendly digital tools. My goal is to ensure that people of all backgrounds, cultures, and abilities can benefit from the latest innovations to make their lives a little bit better and easier.



My background is in architecture. I worked as an architect and later transitioned to research roles in academia and industry. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in different countries across Europe and the States, and I’ve worked on some exciting projects. I founded startups, most recently the Metavethics Institute, which focuses on the inclusion and ethical challenges of virtual reality and augmented reality environments.

I also work with various companies and academic institutions, such as Stanford and the University of Cambridge.


Through my journey, I’ve come to understand that inclusively designed environments and products are essential for creating a better, more equitable future for all.

One of the key points we discussed was why there isn’t a stronger demand for inclusive buildings.


I explained:

My research at the University of Cambridge found that many building owners are unaware of the benefits of inclusive design. This lack of awareness translates into fewer requests for inclusively designed buildings. People often don’t realize how valuable and powerful inclusively designed spaces can be for everyone, not just those with disabilities.
As a result, the scarcity of client and project owner awareness becomes a dominant driver for the lack of demand for inclusively designed buildings, facilities, workplaces, schools, museums, and more.

We also talked about ensuring spaces and products are designed inclusively. I emphasized the importance of empathy.

Understanding the value of inclusive design often comes from firsthand experience.

Tools like the Inclusive Design Canvas, which we developed, help designers empathize with diverse users. It's about mapping out a wide variety of needs and creating a more inclusive design process. We also developed a tool to help designers, facility managers, and building owners assess how good a design is. This tool helps identify points of exclusion and offers opportunities to improve the design.



For those looking for resources, I highlighted some of our key tools.

The Inclusive Design Canvas is available for free on our website.

We also created a tool to measure and assess the social return on investment of inclusive design. This is the IDEA Audit tool.

This tool helps teams collect data on people’s perceptions of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility in a specific workplace.


By fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace, building, or facility, we can increase happiness and satisfaction. Managers can also see better returns on investment through improved productivity and reduced turnover rates, enhancing brand reputation.


Finally, I shared my thoughts on what inclusive growth means.

Inclusive growth is about making workplaces inclusive and accessible, ensuring principles of equity and diversity for all. It means creating a world where everyone has equal opportunities to participate, contribute, and thrive. The hybrid working pattern, which grew exponentially since the pandemic, has led to unequal opportunities for many employees. We need to break down barriers and ensure no one is left behind regardless of their background, abilities, or circumstances. Inclusive growth is really about creating these equal opportunities in both the physical world and the virtual or hybrid world where we currently live.


If my conversation has inspired you to learn more about inclusive design and how to make workplaces and buildings more inclusive, visit my website at matteozallio.com or my page on the University of Cambridge website.

There, you will find resources, articles, academic papers, and case studies to delve deeper into the topic.



You can also download the Inclusive Design Canvas I mentioned and listen to the podcast episode on Apple or Spotify.

For further information and resources from Toby and his team, visit mildon.co.uk.

Let's make the world a more inclusive and equitable place to live.



 

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