Inclusive design

Inclusive design is the process by which places are planned, designed and built, managed and used, with people like us in mind. It creates places which we can all use with ease and dignity and where we have a sense of belonging.

Sign language graphics on classroom wall at Dalry Primary School.

Sign language graphics on classroom wall at Dalry Primary School. Photo by Dirk Buwalda.

The key points of inclusive design are that:

  • good design is inclusive design
  • diverse people are at the heart of inclusive design
  • design flexibility and choice are key to inclusive design.

Relevant design

Design affects how we access and use a place, how we feel about it, and whether it serves our purpose or not. It is about the physical as well as the psychological aspects of a place. A building that is easy to get to and move around is just as critical as a one which feels welcoming or just good to be in.

We have moved beyond accessible design. The diversity of disability means thinking wider – about all sensory and physical impairments, learning disability, mental health and neuro-diversity.

Inclusive design puts people at the centre of the design process because we know what works best for us. People means everyone – women and men, younger and older, from different backgrounds, ages and cultures, black and white, disabled and non-disabled, lesbian, gay and straight.

Majority design

We are designing for the majority of people and the majority is diverse. Good design contributes to health and well-being, and feeling safe in public spaces. It can lessen the impact of poverty and deprivation. It can strengthen communities by encouraging voluntary mixing and mingling within neighbourhoods and between groups.

Inclusive design helps build socially cohesive and economically sound communities.

Careful design

Houses, nurseries, schools, offices, factories, shops, hospitals, town halls, high streets needn’t be frustrating to use if we are involved in their design and build, management and use. It is often simple ideas which transform a place from one to be avoided into one to be enjoyed.

Navigating high streets with two small children and a buggy; going shopping with an elderly parent; waiting in A&E with a disabled youngster – these are not ‘special situations’. Careful design can help take the stress out of them.

Read about inclusive design in practice.