Becoming a mum to a little girl with disabilities has reignited my passion for sensible and well considered accessible and inclusive design. I am an architect and (pre-children!) I have spent my working life designing new homes in both the public and private sectors.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of getting stuck in to an alteration/extension project, because even just a few small changes can make a massive difference to the way a home works for a family - maybe releasing a bit more space through jiggling about with the space planning, adding better storage to make rooms feel less cluttered or perhaps extending to add an extra room.
It’s widely acknowledged that there is a housing crisis in the UK at the moment, with shortages particularly in the south east. This compounds the ‘hidden housing crisis’ – the shortage of accessible homes (highlighted by Leonard Cheshire in their #hometruths campaign https://www.leonardcheshire.org/campaign-us/our-campaigns/home-truths#.VU0b2Ry1vvY )
I think part of the problem here is that accessible design is usually seen as specific to wheelchair users. House design is either ‘wheelchair friendly’ or not. However I passionately believe that inclusive design (whether that’s objects, homes, public buildings or spaces) is for everybody!
If you are young and fit it’s easy to be oblivious to how our environment and buildings can make life difficult for some people, but if you get injured and have to use crutches or a wheelchair, or even try to push a pram or wheel a suitcase around, the environment can suddenly appear very inhospitable, even impossible. A fundamental element of inclusive design is to consider future uses and varying needs, and design for flexibility which would make future alterations as unobtrusive and cost effective as possible.
One of my missions in life is to try and get inclusion ‘mainstreamed’! I’d love to see inclusive design become every day. I want to see fantastic examples of accessible homes featured on TV makeover shows and in the homestyle and refurbishment magazines so that disabled people and their families are presented with inspirational examples, and so that ‘non disabled’ people see inclusive design as the sensible design approach for life-long design.
Design that is flexible and adaptable for whatever life throws at you, for varying needs from the very young to the very old and everything in between. Good inclusive design should allow everyone to be able to participate fully with family life as naturally as possible!
The portable activity kit. Fun therapy at home or on the moveFind out more