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Places that work better for all: A need for inclusive environments

Places that work better for all: A need for inclusive environments

31 October 2017 Written by By Tom Perry Head of Place

Design Council has recently been awarded a grant by the Department for Communities and Local Government to develop online continued professional development (CPD), to promote and support the adoption of a consistent approach to inclusion within the Built Environment professions.

It is widely acknowledged that the quality of buildings, spaces, and places has a strong impact on people’s lives. Well-designed places are inclusive, enabling everyone to participate confidently and independently in everyday activities.

The UK’s population is getting older with an expected increase in population of 7 million people over the age of 6o in the next 25 years (ONS National Population Projections 2012 Statistical Bulletin) and over 11 million people in Great Britain living with limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability. 

Inclusive places are those where people feel proud to live, businesses choose to invest and the public want to visit. However social, cultural and economic inequalities are still being literally built into new places, with evidence showing that inclusive principles are not being adopted and implemented consistently.

It’s putting the person, the human at the centre of what you do. Because no matter what industry or sector you’re in, there’s a human in there somewhere, so just anticipate and consider their needs.

Kathryn Townsend, Head of Customer & Client Accessibility, Barclays UK

By developing inclusive housing, public buildings and open spaces we can reduce health and social care costs, tackle social inequalities and unlock the significant buying power of people with disabilities – according to Disability Rights UK, 83% of disabled people had ‘walked away’ from making a purchase, unable or unwilling to do so due to inaccessible premises or poorly designed products.

To address this, we need inclusive design thinking and practice to become core to the culture of the built environment industry; to reinvent the concept to be relevant to everyone and the everyday. This will require the development of a national network of built environment professionals able to independently and collectively adopt and implement an inclusive cross-disciplinary design approach.

The UK has more than 600,000 built environment professionals who currently plan, design, build and manage buildings and spaces across the country and we have been working alongside a dedicated steering group to look at ways to engage professionals. This work is supported by government, the built environment institutes, and community groups and representative bodies across the country.

This programme started in 2013 when Design Council Cabe was approached by government to galvanize industry leaders, professional institutes and national agencies to identify the barriers to the creation of inclusive places, and to devise a national strategy to overcome them.

The British construction industry is full of highly skilled professionals who rightly have a world-class reputation – we want to keep them leading the way in building the most accessible and inclusive country in the world.

Stephen Williams, Minister for Communities

In the first phase Design Council Cabe established a cross disciplinary expert steering group of the built environment professional institutes and representative organisations. This group provided the strategic insight and feedback that has informed an online inclusive environments hub: a one-stop shop for all built environment professions to access resources, knowledge and case studies on inclusive design. This hub was launched in 2014 and has generated interest both in the UK and abroad. It has prompted the creation of an industry wide Inclusive Environments: Built Environments Industry Action Plan.

Critical to improving people’s lives and their experience of the built and natural landscape around them is the adoption of a consistent approach to inclusion and the application of inclusive principles in everyday practice.

Through our work with the steering group we aim to promote the value of putting people at the heart of the design process. This training will be the first of its type in the UK and a freely available online resource. It will act as a catalyst to promote and support a responsive, collaborative and inclusive culture in the built environment professions.

If we want an inclusive society we need to create buildings and spaces that are accessible and inclusive to all. Done properly, at the right time, inclusive design should not add cost.

Tony Burton, Chairman – Construction Industry Council

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