Inclusive design – why it’s important we create accessible environments

Stephen Richardson and George Penrice
Published on: 15th February 2019

So just how important is it to be inclusive for your customers? Stephen Richardson, partner in our in-house architecture team comments:

Well, to answer that question, you may want to ask yourself how important it is to you to immediately be able to do what you want to do when you want to do it? Especially in today’s world where people are so used to getting what they want when they want it - being inclusive is a huge plus. Your customers need to have the confidence that you can be depended on and that the environment you have created does not create an unnecessary level of stress or anxiety for them as they go about their day to day lives.

How can inclusivity define the customer experience? Customers place a lot of value on being able to go about their lives without the unnecessary obstacles of poorly designed spaces. With an increasingly competitive market it is easier to lose a customer (or customers) than gain new customers. A bad customer experience can spread like wild fire and can result in poor reviews and decreased customer satisfaction.

So what can be done about it? The starting point has to be the user. Consideration of inclusive design from the outset can help but it’s much more than the environment that needs to be considered. A confident and approachable front of house team, a dog-friendly policy or a responsive kitchen team when faced with dietary requirements can each have a positive impact on the customer experience.

Design
Every design decision has the potential to include or exclude customers. Inclusive design emphasizes the contribution that understanding user diversity makes to informing these decisions, and thus to including as many people as possible.

Population diversity was first introduced from the perspective of ability variation, but has been further broadened to consider diversity associated with different real-world contexts, lifestyle, aspirations, gender, and past experiences - ‘it’s normal to be different’ (Lange and Becerra, 2007).

Truly Inclusive design needs to be considered from the outset and can’t be “bolted on” at a later date. It needs to consider how the users needs fit into the design and requires an understanding of diversity within the population and responding to this diversity through design decisions. Failure to correctly understand the requirements of the user can result in products that cause unnecessary frustration and exclusion, which reduces commercial success.

The British Standards Institute (2005) defines inclusive design as: ‘The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible ... without the need for special adaptation or specialised design.’

There is often the perception that the design process should be shortened in order to reduce cost and shorten delivery timescales. In reality, the true costs of bad design will emerge later in use and has the potential to cause irreparable damage to the brand image through customer frustration.

The risk of bad design

Good design can happen by accident, but a rigorous inclusive design process mitigates business risk and ensures repeatable design success. Understanding the diverse range of user needs can reduce the risk of undesirable and costly problems later on. Adopting good, inclusive design principles early in the conceptual design stage will save time and money in the long run with changes occurring on site or following completion costing significantly more, causing unnecessary project overrun or worst case unnecessary downtime when the establishment is in use.

Opportunities - Understanding ageing populations

The demographics of the developed world are changing; longer life expectancies and a reduced birth rate are resulting in an increased proportion of older people within the adult population. 18% of the UK population is aged 65 and over (ONS 2017) and is the fastest-growing age group projected to grow by 20.4% over 10 years and by nearly 60% over 25 years in England.

As people age, they often experience declining sensory, motor or cognitive capabilities. Yet increased age is also often associated with increasing satisfaction with life. Where previous generations accepted that capability loss and an inability to use products and services came hand in hand, the baby-boomer generation now approaching retirement are less likely to tolerate products that they cannot use. Typically, people are viewed as being either able-bodied or disabled, with products being designed for one category or the other. In reality, capability varies continuously, and reducing the capability demands of a product results in more people being able to use the product and improves the user experience.

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North East leisure industry - what a wonderful year

What a strange and unusual year the last 12 months have given us, with continued upheaval in the casual dining sector; a long hot summer and an unexpected run by England’s football team in the World Cup contributing to a strong performance from the pub sector – and, of course, the dreaded ‘B’ word having an influence (but not necessarily in a bad way). Click here to read the full supplement

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What a strange and unusual year the last 12 months have given us, with continued upheaval in the casual dining sector; a long hot summer and an unexpected run by England’s football team in the World Cup contributing to a strong performance from the pub sector – and, of course, the dreaded ‘B’ word having an influence (but not necessarily in a bad way).

Click here to read the full supplement [fulltext] =>

Here in the North East, we witnessed a myriad of events, ranging from the Rugby League Magic Weekend to Ed Sheeran playing St James’ Park and the Great Exhibition of The North.

While different, they all drew visitors to the region in increased numbers, with the Great North Run continuing to generate an estimated £24m for the regional economy. The success of the Newcastle Falcons’ Big One at NUFC was also clear, with the fixture returning in March, when we will see the Falcons taking on Sales Sharks at St James Park.

The last 12 months were also a strong year for new openings, from the grand – the long anticipated return of the Spanish City after a £10m redevelopment; to the modern – the opening of the Stack on Pilgrim Street in Newcastle and the By The River Brew Co on Hilgate Quay, Gateshead; to the traditional – the opening of the new £4m, 30 bedroom Amble Inn by the Inn Collection; to the micro, with the opening of the Front Street Tap House, Monkseaton, a micropub with a focus on rum and craft ales and everything in between.

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Architecture & Design

View Architecture Website Sanderson Weatherall’s architecture department provides a high level of expertise both in design and technical solutions. Our goal is to work closely with our clients to understand their requirements and help achieve their ambitions through realistic design.

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View Architecture Website

Sanderson Weatherall’s architecture department provides a high level of expertise both in design and technical solutions. Our goal is to work closely with our clients to understand their requirements and help achieve their ambitions through realistic design.

[fulltext] =>

Working in unison with clients, we pride ourselves on our competence to fully understand their needs and develop this into a logical working brief. The finer detail is important and with our extensive understanding of both construction detail and development cost control, we provide innovative, yet achievable solutions.

The right design in the correct context is of vital importance and shapes the way in which we work and play. We aim to reduce the complexity and provide our clients with coherent designs that serve their purpose. We are providential to have sufficient experience to deliver and converse in all conventional sectors of architecture. We have a wealth of experience in all key areas of design development which allow us to develop projects from concept to completion.

Our Services

  • Feasibility and Conceptual Design
  • Masterplanning and Urban Regeneration
  • Commercial Office Design & Spatial Planning
  • Retail Design
  • Hospitality and Leisure
  • Residential
  • Commercial & Residential Interior Design
  • Conservation and Listed Building Design
  • Historic Church Design & World Heritage Site Works


We can assist our clients through all stages of architecture, from Appraisal, Design Development, Technical Design, Tender issue through to practical completion. As a company we recognise the importance of sustainability and pride ourselves on achieving ISO 14001Certification. We aim to assist our clients on understanding the significance of sustainable design and the conservation of fuel. We strive where appropriate to advise and integrate specific materials, technologies and systems into our designs which can be supplied from an approved sustainable source in order to minimise our effect on the environment.

As a department within a multi-disciplinary practice we have distinct advantages over our competitors, being able to offer our clients a wider knowledge base on property matters so we can ensure that all aspects of a development can be accommodated. From land purchase to funding, we work as one consultant to ensure all your requirements are addressed.

 

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Wellbeing at work: the impact office design has on your health

For many of us, a large portion of our day is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so it’s no surprise our work environment can have a huge impact on our quality of life.  Our architecture team have put together their thoughts on how your office and its design features might be helping or harming your health.

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For many of us, a large portion of our day is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so it’s no surprise our work environment can have a huge impact on our quality of life. 

Our architecture team have put together their thoughts on how your office and its design features might be helping or harming your health.

[fulltext] =>

Temperature

Studies suggest that high temperatures in the office are less tolerated than low temperatures, with a 6% reduction in productivity in warmer temperatures and a 4% with cooler. The optimum temperature is thought to be between 21° and 23° with thermal comfort being a key factor influencing an employee’s workplace satisfaction.

Air Quality and Ventilation

The quality of air within an office can have a significant impact on your health, and in turn productivity. Research carried out by the World Green Building Council in 2003 recorded a 11% increase in productivity as a result of increased fresh air to the workstation and a reduction in pollutants.

Daylighting & Lighting

Lighting in the workplace must satisfy a variety of different needs, not only does lighting ensure we can carry out the task in front of us, it can also effect an employee’s mood, communication, and health. Poor lighting and lack of control of the visual environment can influence employee productivity, whilst visual discomfort such as poor visibility, glare and flicker can lead to headaches and eyestrain. Studies show that employees with access to a window, slept on average 46 minutes more per night, had a reduction in sick leave and had overall improved workplace satisfaction.

Noise & Acoustics

Noise levels within the office can vary substantially from office to office depending on the industry. Both external and internal noise is one of the lead causes of dissatisfaction within the workplace, and is particularly problematic within open plan offices. Noise distractions can not only impact productivity but can have a detrimental impact on your health and stress levels.
A design solution that allows employees to find the balance between background noise and distractions is providing a range of different work spaces, each with different acoustic conditions, allowing staff to be flexible and decide what setting they work depending on their preferences.

Views

Views away from the office allow the eyes to adjust and refocus, reducing fatigue, headaches and eye strain. Ideally views should be aesthetically pleasing with views of the outdoors having the additional benefit of daylighting as discussed earlier. Studies show that introducing indoor planting to an office can improve productivity, concentration as well the indoor air quality. Adding indoor plants is not the only way to encourage a biophilic workspace, interiors and artwork can be designed to mimic shapes and forms found in nature and natural soundscapes can be used with the additional benefit of masking noise.

Layout

Finally, the layout of an office can influence concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity. Hot desking and shared workspaces are becoming increasingly common in modern working environments with the objective to increase workspace density and provide more efficient spaces, but this shouldn’t be done at the expense of people’s wellbeing.
Several design considerations can be made to improve employee wellbeing, two key aspects being agile working and active design. Agile working gives the employee flexibility, providing a variety of different work settings and giving employees control over where, how, and when they work and active design encourages movement both inside and outside the office.

For further information visit sw.co.uk/architecture.

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