Thursday, 15 February 2007

Inclusive Design Features

I am not sure if this will translate well on a blog, but the list below should explain what the features of an Inclusive Environment is as compared to a non inclusive environment.

Inclusive Design                           Non-inclusive Design
Concern with meaning & context         Concern with style & ornament
Participative                                                Non participative or exclusionary
Human orientated                                     Corporate or institution orientated
Client re-defined to include others       Owner as exclusive client
Low cost                                                         High Cost
Grassroots design approaches               Top down design approach
Democratic                                                   Authoritarian
Seeking to change design attitudes       Acceptance of prevailing design principles
Use of appropriate technology                Use of high technology
Use of alternate models of the development process  / Development process controlled by corporate interests
Heterogeneity                                                Homogeneity

I hope that it all makes sense?  Inclusive design is a fascinating field, and as we unpack the various features, we begin to see how all pervasive the elements of Inclusive Design are, and how they effect all aspects of the building.  One feature that many designers and planners seem to have issues with is the cost factor.  Many will try to argue that designing something accessible (they are thinking of all the lifts and ramps they have to build in addition to the usual) is always going to cost more.  I disagree (very unusually for me), and try to explain.  Sure; I can see that in some cases the initial design & build costs can be higher, as the process calls for more input from a wider pool of knowledge, and this can have an impact on timings too.  But by building and inclusive design from the outset avoids having to make expensive adaptations later on, it allows more people to use the facility in a safe manner.  It should also be attractive and pleasant to use.  I am sure that we have all been  into houses, or even offices that are just unpleasant to be in because of the built environment.  We then choose to try to avoid re-visiting.   So immediatly the pool of occupants, visitors, clients, stakeholders is reducing.  We should also be designing for the future; many societies are aging - we are learning to live longer.  Something like 30% of all 55 - 65 year olds may be viewed as being disabled.  Surely we don't want to design facilities that will exclude them?  In fact I would suggest that most of us (once we have got out of the teenager "only the good die young" / immortality stage) actually want to be part of an elderly population...sure in our wishes we will all be fit 100 year olds, that eventually die by being shot by a jealous husband / wife as we climb out of the window!  But in reality, we will find that certain abilities will degrade with age.  It may be that our sight begins to fade, or we find that people are all beginning to speak to softly.  Or our hips / knees / whatever creak a little.  Hey presto!  Welcome to the club!  But if all our environments are built to be "future-proof" and to allow for these changes, without adaptations then the overall costs come down.

There is no point always designing really expensive facilities, as few people can afford them.

OK, I will expand on some other issues around this later on.  Please feel free to comment!

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