Inclusive design

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

Although many of the key concepts impact largely on 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 to be a key concept reflecting much of the principles and emphasis of the meaning of inclusive: in some circles it is used interchangeably although 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 will be used in this isurv section.

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

It will also discuss developing concepts including how the language around the subject has changed.

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

Attempts at understanding disability are based on 2 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 in statutory provisions and design guidance, for example 'Designing for the Handicapped' and 'Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act'.

This section is maintained by Liam Proudlock of Proudlock Associates.