Why inclusion, equity, diversity, and accessibility matter
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Inclusive spaces are not an option.
They are the norm.
Designing living spaces that accommodate everybody’s needs is challenging [link].
When we design an object, a piece of furniture, a living space, a technology, an experience, we have to ensure that the design process allows creating solutions that meet people’s needs and aspirations.
We can consider the design process similar to an equation with variables such as form, fit, function, cost, sustainability, safety, and with a particular multiplier coefficient that affects people’s inclusion.
A shift towards the design of more accessible buildings has already happened and in recent years knowledge of Inclusive Design grew significantly. However, we can still witness inequalities in our society and the living spaces and buildings we spend most of our life in, seem to be still not designed to guarantee inclusion, equity, diversity, and accessibility for all.
Therefore, how can we really design environments that guarantee inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility for all?
A research project I'm currently working on at the University of Cambridge and with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), aims to tackle these imperative challenges by targeting inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) as standards to guarantee environments suitable for all the population.
The main goal of the research is to map the challenges of the design process and identify points of exclusion in people’s experiences.
A previous qualitative study highlighted some of the challenges that design practitioners face on a daily basis. We found that accessibility is overall recognized and embraced in architectural practice, however, the adoption of Inclusive Design is limited so far. On the other hand, Inclusive Design, initially intended to look at functional interactions, finds nowadays a natural extension of its definition in equity and inclusion. Additionally, education and awareness compose one of the major themes to further develop with the goal to infuse an inclusive mindset among all the stakeholders.
These are some of the early-stage results collected from several interviews run with architects, design managers, and access consultants across North America and Europe. They set the foundations upon which to build a large-scale questionnaire to understand how to help designers to design living spaces that guarantee inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.
With this research we are looking for people involved in the design and building industry from North America and Europe to participate to a study (https://bit.ly/3x2B1B1) to help shaping the future of inclusive and accessible buildings and living spaces
To tackle the imperative challenge of guaranteeing inclusive environments for all it is important to ensure that real-world concerns and experiences emerge and inform the creation of tools to support design practitioners, facility managers, and the final users: the people.