Let’s end the ‘oh, do I HAVE to?’ view of inclusive design

Was saving a few pounds more important than protecting the residents of Grenfell Tower? Who knows what the public inquiry will decide.

Use of the cheapest cladding on the block has shocked many but sadly we were not surprised by it. That’s because ‘Oh no, do I HAVE to do that? What’s the cheapest option?’ is often the default approach to accessibility regulations.

Photograph taken during an inclusive design site visit. The image shows a construction site for a new central london hotel. In the foreground there are steel latices on the floor metal pipes being lowered by crane. In the background, workers move planks of wood and survey the scene

Proudlock site visit to check inclusive design progress at a new central London hotel

It’s not ‘What’s the most inclusive?’ or ‘What’s going to work best for people?’ or ‘What’s going to win us awards?’

Architect, designers, builders and their clients are price conscious. They have budgets to meet. That’s a given. But Grenfell shows we need to change our perception of ‘value’, across the board.

Help to aim high

We encourage our clients to aim as high as they can. We love it when they win awards. See our blog about how to win an inclusion award.

Ensuring architects and developers are up-to-date on best practice in inclusive design is our passion. This can mean going above and beyond the basic requirements of Part M.

Sometimes you need to use the BS830 code of practice. This looks at the design of buildings and their ability to meet the requirements of disabled people. And you always need to adhere to the principals of universal design.

Sometimes, through our Design Appraisal, we urge companies to go that extra mile, to do something that will delight disabled people, their carers and families.

Life-changing benefit

For example, we often urge architects to include a Changing Places facility in their designs. If that’s not possible right away, we ask them to leave enough flexible space to install one in the future.

Changing Places toilets have more space and features than standard accessible toilets. They offer safety and comfort for the ¼ of a million people who need to use them.

Such facilities are not in the building regulations. But, through experience, we know they are life-changing for some disabled people who can only venture out when they know one is available. Here is a link to explain all about Changing Places.

There are so many other examples. Why do private gyms – spending thousands to refurb the changing rooms – buy the cheapest accessible shower seats for their disabled customers? Comfortable padded versions are available for a few hundred pounds more…

Lowest common denominator?

The short answer to ‘Oh do I HAVE to!?’ is probably ‘no you don’t’. There’s usually a loophole or a work around to keep you within the law. But deciding ‘I want to’ will often significantly improve the quality of people’s lives (and go a long way towards meeting duties under the Equality Act).

The extraordinary, award-winning late architect Zaha Hadid once said ‘There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?’.

Think for a minute. What kind of dull world would it be if all we did was work to the lowest common denominator? Do you want the unhelpful cheap-as- chips option? Or to work towards a bigger vision that adds value, and that you can be proud of?

If you would like to find out more about a Design Review, Changing Places or would like some help to review accessibility at your business, then Proudlock Associates can assist you.

Please contact us today. One of our friendly, expert team will be happy to help and answer any questions. We’re on 0845 130 1669.