Inclusive Design Principles

At Neuro by Design we know that diversity is a fact but inclusion is an act.

We stretch the existing inclusive design regulations and good practice guidance because when everyone is included we are all winners.

We use our extensive experience and expertise to ensure that buildings and the environment embrace as many people as possible, far into the future.

Inclusive Design Principles include the following components

Legislation, regulations and expertise

All our projects comply with current and often forthcoming legislation.

We believe there are stronger forces driving inclusion than legislation, so this is just the start of our advice.

The principles of inclusive design should be embedded at the Planning and Building Control stages in the UK. The practice of understanding how to accommodate a multitude of differences and needs is complex and often misunderstood.

The design team includes specialist members of the National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) to obtain the best result. Within this small group of UK experts there are specialists in each field. We draw on expertise specific to each project, using our extensive network of contacts.

Inclusive Design

 

Inclusive / Universal design principles are inclusive, responsive, flexible, convenient, accommodating, welcoming and realistic (CABE).

We all change over time and anticipate perception, sensory, cognitive and physical changes. We aim to build our environments to manage this change, at any pace. ‘Lifetime buildings’ become the target for design.

People are not defined by a ‘condition’ and we always design for unique projects, for groups or individuals, even where broad design principles form a starting point. This is especially important in some projects where the range of impact of a condition is wide and unpredictable.

Engagement / consultation

As people who use a building understand their needs best, engagement is key to success. Regulations are based on averages, so they are just the starting point in design. User centred, or UX design produces superior results. Inclusive designers have advanced listening skills to receive information on group and individual requirements and incorporate them into designs.

Multi-sensory Design

We experience the world through all the senses, including the senses of balance and self-awareness. Our senses do not work in isolation but together, in a complex network of interpretation. The influence of natural light, colour, acoustics, temperature, connection, ventilation, music, flexibility, visual perception and choice feature collectively in inclusive designs.

Our visual senses increasingly overdose on information. Our other senses have become marginalised over time, yet they are essential for our cognitive, neurological and physical development. The interaction of the senses is more critical than single sense stimulation. The synergy of the senses working together has considerable potential in learning, neurodiversity and environmental design. Multi rather than single sense experiences are more stimulating and memorable and have a positive impact on our behaviour when designed by experts.

Beyond the basic sensory concepts of using the aroma of bread and coffee to sell food, sensory designers work with a multitude of sensory tricks and triggers, many of which are invisible, to capture potential.

Sensory design skills include natural wayfinding, creating arrival in a relaxed, productive mood and understanding why putting on our glasses at a noisy party can help us hear better.

We enlighten our clients to the impact of multi-sensory environments, particularly as they increase our learning capacity, rejuvenation and reduce stress. Our surroundings should support and inspire, not confuse. Subtle sensual stimuli can have dramatic effects on our behaviour. A multi-sensory boost makes us more productive, heals our bodies and minds and makes us better at relationships.

Neuroscience

Scientific advances have enabled us to study the brain ‘live’ as it performs and the UK has experienced outstanding breakthroughs, including world class technology to see not just the neurones but the fibre connections in our brains (in CUBRIC, Cardiff).

Despite outstanding recent progress in Neuroscience discoveries, memory and consciousness remain a target for further investigation.

How we can get in our car and drive to a destination, only to find that it’s a Saturday and we have arrived safely at our Monday to Friday destination and cannot remember the journey still requires research. It is therefore not surprising that of all the brain and bodily impacts of discoveries, including memory change, loss and recall receive so much attention.

Understanding when lines in our peripheral vision cause headaches, whereas a plant in peripheral vision is more effective than central vision and why a ticking clock causes a fight or flight instinctive response in 25% of the population are a few examples of the vault of research incorporated into our designs to make our buildings inclusive.

Sensory and multi-sensory influences have a major impact on our behaviour. Neuroscience has provided key insights into some of the factors and signposted ways to change. For example, the way sharp unnatural lines are interpreted by our neurones can be used to

increase safety and change the speed we move through our environment.

Daylight and artificial light play a major role in our lives, with a reach much further than enabling us to see clearly but regulating our body clocks, hormones and performance.

The discoveries about the way our perception of the environment impact our lives are incorporated in our designs. A person centred approach and an ability to alter the environment quickly to suit individuals is critical. For example for a person with Autopagnosia may be alarmed by a mirror, yet another person may be alarmed because they cannot find a mirror reflection to check their appearance. The environment needs to morph around people as much as possible, with skilful designs and management to cater for everyone.

Our designs also include Gastrophysics, the science of eating using multi-sensory concepts. Increasing appetite using colour, light, acoustics and the weight of cutlery are incorporated into kitchen, dining and kitchen garden designs. Noisy crisps really do taste better.

Biophilic Design

The science behind Biophilia closely aligns with neuroscience. Both embrace the way our brains interpret our surroundings and react, often with the primitive area of the brain, the limbic system. Our initial, instinctive responses determine whether we feel comfort, fight, flight or freeze. Our primitive responses are key to perception and behaviour. It is this reaction that skilful designers understand and can structure into the environment. This is particularly so when designing for neurodiversity and dementia. Capturing a design element which will calm and delight people, making them feel included and building up from a sound platform is essential and a joy to witness.

The impact of Biophilia has been accentuated by Covid. When our future becomes frightening our minds turn to our past. We have seen an explosion in survival gardening, walking, connecting with nature worldwide, our mental health has positively shifted and the natural world has flourished.

The principles of Biophilic design extend way beyond bringing the outside in. Visual and non visual connections with nature are important, although diffuse and dynamic light, the presence of water and airflow and thermal variability can be just as important to create in spaces. A design which mimics the the complexity and order of nature, connecting materials, patterns and forms has been proven to be calming and rejuvenating. A sense of refuge, but also prospect and mystery with natural peril or risk can help create a more realistic atmosphere in an environment when we take our cues from the natural environment.

The connection between Biophilia and mental health has been recognised for many years but other links continue to evolve with scientific evidence. Productivity, creativity and concentration improve after a walk in nature but not next to traffic; plants reduce depression and anxiety and the shape of leaves impacts on pollution. There is now a global network of research on the multi-sensory potential of harnessing lessons from nature. Everything from the calming effect of an Australian Woodthrush through the bat habitats in Texas; Spatial mapping in Wellington, increasing planting reduces littering, to the ecological network in Edmonton, Canada is documented and shared with the aim of universal balance.

Neurodoversity

Neurodiversity is simply a variation in the way our minds work. People approach activities from different perspectives. The way we all see, hear and interpret varies. Once someone explains in a format we understand, we can participate. Changing a few things so that more people can participate doesn’t have to be expensive and makes an immense difference to visitors.

Biologically there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ brain. The reality is an infinite variation in human cognitive behaviour and functioning. The term covers a range of cognitive differences, many of which overlap.

This divergence has many positive aspects, such as enhanced creativity, problem solving, enhanced recognition, sustained concentration, precision, determination and leadership and many employers take positive steps to attract neurodivergent talent. We can help people celebrate these strengths with awareness.

Many businesses, including Apple, Google and NASA now positively attract employees who are neurodivergent and adjust their businesses to ensure that everyone can bring their whole selves to work, feel comfortable and productive.

It is estimated that around 25% of the population are neurodivergent, including 1 in 8 people in employment.

The history of research behind designing for Neurodiversity is rooted in inclusive design. If we design for everyone this must include people living with neurodivergent conditions but not exclude anyone else.

Research surrounding adjustments to our surroundings to include everyone has grown considerably in the recent past. A new ‘Design for the Mind’ PAS is due for publication shortly, sharing expert insights on a variety of influences.

Designing for individual neurodivergent people and for general neurodiversity factors naturally varies. At Access Included we have compiled a vast body of research on influencing factors and common issues and work with designers, business owners and building users to help create the optimum atmosphere to feel comfortable, productive, healthy and to thrive.

Engaging with people to understand neurodiversity is essential and a major element in our advice. We have built up an enviable body of knowledge by focused listening to individuals and groups with mutual learning outcomes. Increasing awareness of neurodiversity can be an amazing and enriching journey and our user led (UX) methodology has increased health, well-being and productivity and reduced turnover, absence and recruitment costs considerably.

We collate and update the research constantly and advise clients with our experience and knowledge of the environment to substantially yet subtly enhance our surroundings.

Further interest in inclusion specific to Dementia, for example, has seen the establishment of leading bodies of research and training, including Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre, with the IRIDIS design app and building accreditations and Worcester University’s Association for Dementia Studies, among others. Our consultants are trained by both centres of excellence.

We are aware of the increasing diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and that changes in memory, speech, function and behaviour are common.

Dementia has some unique aspects and throughout the dementia journey the impact is individual and the pattern and rate of change and degeneration is generally unpredictable.

We see no reason why designing for dementia should not be included in all our designs. A person centred approach and an ability to alter the environment quickly to suit individuals is critical. Using a few basic design principles in anticipation of change does no harm and is generally imperceptible to all but the people who need those slight touches to designs.

Although the design team incorporates Stirling and Worcester qualified designers, a wide range of other research and principles are drawn into our designs, including the latest neuroscience findings.

Trauma informed design

This principle ensures that physical spaces promote safety, well-being and healing. The impact of trauma in our lives affects our empowerment, identity, worth and dignity.

Many of us remain unaware of the effect of simple and complex trauma in our lives and our often unconscious reactions to triggers in our environment.

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

We work with clients to create appropriate environments to promote safety, calm, consistency, clarity, privacy, connection and welcome.

Environments do not need to be bland and can be engaging, dynamic and multi-sensory, providing choice, independence and most importantly, believable.

Summary

Our extensive experience in a wide variety of sectors has created a vast library of knowledge and expertise to create not just an inclusive, lifetime environment but a sensitively appropriate and engaging space for everyone to enjoy.

All of the design principles described here are utilised to varying degrees in a subtle approach to ensure that everyone is catered for invisibly by our surroundings. Each instruction is individual .