Whilst the practicalities of creating inclusive spaces adds another dimension to the planning and design of buildings, this should not make accessibility a luxury as it still often does.  Building Standards outline the responsibilities of planners in 4.1 of ‘Access to Buildings’:

‘An inclusive approach to design should be taken to ensure that buildings are as accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. Solutions should be integral to a design rather than an afterthought added in order to meet duties under building standards or other legislation.’

So why then do we still spend so much on post occupancy corrective adaptations?

One reason may be that many planners and professionals do not typically have a living, working knowledge of the types of barriers which certain structures and designs create for those with access needs.

Further, whilst Building Standards, BS8300 code of practice etc provide information and guidance on various aspects of access, health and safety, etc., these alone do not address every barrier to access or inclusion and should not be taken as such.

The upshot is that buildings do not give away their barriers until disabled people begin to use them, creating the need for costly adaptations or worse still, economical alternatives which are not fit for purpose.

Avoiding these costly corrections requires that accessibility is built into the planning from the outset.  Achieving this needs a rethink for many professional outfits on what training they provide staff, and who they approach for practical advice at the planning stages.  Inclusive Design requires a willingness to look beyond guidance and to incorporate lived experience into the details of the design.   This could be achieved through input from your local Access Panel, groups of disabled volunteers who often work with Local Authorities and other bodies on a regular basis to assess plans from an inclusive perspective.   It is vital to add lived experience to the existing standards and guidance to achieve a holistic approach to inclusive design.

As awareness of the need to be more inclusive continues to increase, we are seeing a growing number of professionals who understand that a more holistic approach is vital towards creating accessible—and beautiful—spaces suitable for all.

Read our case studies on buildings which have put disabled people at the heart of their functionality and the visionaries behind them who are creating a stir in the world of architecture.