Inclusive design

Inclusive design is a subject that stretches far and wide across the environment. It can be applied on a micro scale (for example, when considering door handles). It can also be applied on a much larger scale, such as when considering redeveloping an area to provide for a new community (for example, responding to the needs of low-income families or specific faith needs).

Although many of the key concepts largely impact disabled people, inclusive design also facilitates equality when considering the effects of age, gender, pregnancy, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

Universal design is also now recognised as a key concept, reflecting many of the principles and emphasis of the meaning of inclusive. In some circles, the two terms are used interchangeably. However, others advocate that ‘universal’ is the preferred term, as it does not imply a finite state with a number of ‘add-ons’, but rather an ever-widening concept that is all-embracing. For now, the term ‘inclusive’ is still more relevant and popular, and is used in this isurv section.

A summary of current legislation and standards is included in this section, as well as important updates and forthcoming changes in the field of inclusive design, news and events.

It also discusses developing concepts, including how the language around the subject has changed.

A key driver for providing inclusive design is that disability directly affects over 1bn people in the world. In the years ahead, disability will be an even greater concern because its prevalence is on the rise. This is due to ageing populations, as well as the increase in some chronic health conditions according the WHO’s 2011 report World Report on Disability.

Attempts at understanding disability are based on two models:

  • the medical model – viewing disability as a curable problem (for example, a hearing impairment is treated with a cochlea implant) and
  • the social model – focusing on changing the person's environment (for example, teaching and using sign language in schools under suitable lighting and background conditions).

Over the last 50 years or so, changes in the approach and attitudes adopted towards disability have been evident in the terminology and associations used not only by the public but also in statutory provisions and design guidance, for example Designing for the Handicapped and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (CSDPA).

This section is maintained by Liam Proudlock of Proudlock Associates.