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The State of Inclusive and Accessible Buildings: Where Are We Now?


Designing objects, living spaces, or experiences should always aim to meet people’s needs and aspirations.

In recent years, the focus has increasingly shifted towards sustainability and supporting the comfort and well-being of occupants in architectural design.

Despite these advancements, more work is needed to develop safer and more accessible buildings.

A prevalent misunderstanding of Inclusive Design among architectural professionals often leads to buildings that fall short of meeting the needs and expectations of a diverse audience.

So, how can we design environments that guarantee inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility for all?

In a multidisciplinary study I led with Professor P John Clarkson we found that while accessibility is generally recognized in architectural design practice, the adoption of Inclusive Design remains limited, largely due to a lack of education and awareness among designers, architects, and clients.

An infographic showcasing part of the results of the research.

The study uncovered that a significant portion of clients (41.6%) are only requesting legal and regulation compliance, suggesting a gap in client awareness regarding the broader aspects of Inclusive Design.

This presents an opportunity for education and advocacy within the architectural community.

Three significant constraints were identified that need to be addressed for wider adoption of Inclusive Design practices - project budgets, client perception of value, and limited client awareness.

The study also highlighted the importance attributed to Continuing Professional Development (CPD), technical documentation, and evidence-based literature, indicating a willingness among practitioners to engage in ongoing education and stay informed about Inclusive Design practices.

Image showcasing a group of three people. From the left a person on a wheelchair, in the center a person standing and to the right another person on a wheelchair.

The research highlighted the need for continuous education and advocacy in the architectural community.

It also pointed towards a lack of knowledge about tools, software or frameworks for exploring the user journey and a shortage of tools to evaluate inclusion, accessibility, equity and diversity.

To address these challenges, we developed the IDEA Toolkit.

This toolkit is designed to advance Inclusive Design in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) sector and across different organizations.

It comprises the IDEA Audit, a post-occupancy evaluation tool, and the Inclusive Design Canvas, tools that enable stakeholders to identify inconsistencies and address challenges with bespoke action plans and through a data-driven software to improve the built environment and promote a culture of well-being.

The IDEA Toolkit represents a significant advancement in the field of Inclusive Design.

It seeks to democratize the process of understanding the value of Inclusive Design by increasing awareness about inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility across all people and geographies.

It offers the potential to become a form of social sustainability for future generations.

By addressing these challenges, we can strive towards a future where every design inherently embodies principles of inclusivity, diversity, equity, and accessibility, thus fulfilling the targets set by the United Nations with the Sustainable Development Goals and enabling communities to thrive.

To learn more, check all these other articles who described our work:

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