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Inclusive Environments

1 April 2018

The Inclusive Environments programme at the Design Council aims to raise awareness about the importance of designing places that meet the needs of the diversity of people who want to use them.

Designing and managing the built environment in an inclusive way is essential if we are to create a fair society and a sustainable future.

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Inclusive environments are places that work better for everybody – whether that place is a school, office, park, street, care home, bus route or train station. An inclusive approach to planning, design and management is an opportunity to use creativity and agile thinking to make places that reflect the diversity of people who want to use them. 

Inclusive environments are:

  • Welcoming to everyone
  • Responsive to people’s needs
  • Intuitive to use
  • Flexible
  • Offer choice when a single design solution cannot meet all user needs
  • Convenient so they can be used without undue effort or special separation and so that they maximise independence

Crucial to the success of inclusive environments is consultation with user groups, putting people who represent a diversity of age, ability, gender and community at the heart of the design process.

Inclusive Environments CPD

Inclusive design is the responsibility of everyone who works in the built environment: planners, those who commission new buildings and places, access consultants, designers, architects, engineers, surveyors, property owners and facilities managers. Our Inclusive Environments CPD aims to encourage the UK’s highly skilled professionals to continue leading the way in building the most accessible and inclusive country in the world.

The CPD aims to:

  • Increase awareness of inclusive design as standard practice at a national level
  • Change the perceptions and aspirations of 600,000 designers and specifiers on inclusive design

The Inclusive Environments CPD has been funded by partners including the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and developed in partnership with the key institutes and experts on Inclusive Design across the UK. 

The CPD is free to take and takes around an hour to complete through an online course. Upon completion of the course, you will be awarded a certificate from Design Council.

An ageing population

The UK’s population is getting older. Housing provision needs to change to meet this rapidly growing demand. There are wider benefits from developing good quality housing for older people including a reduction in health and social care costs, as well as freeing up of much-needed family housing.

Stronger communities

The quality of the built environment has a significant role to play in tackling social disadvantage. The majority of people use and value parks and green spaces, but minority groups tend to have less local green space and it is of poorer quality.   

Economic growth

An estimated £5.3bn in lost earnings is due to people who have dropped out of the workforce to take on caring responsibilities for older or disabled friends and family. Lifetime Homes  is a policy tool that helps planners and other built environment professionals understand the benefits of helping maintain independence in their own homes.

Buying power

According to Disability Rights UK, 83% of disabled people had 'walked away' from making a purchase, unable or unwilling to do so.  The most important factor was inaccessible premises. Other important factors that discouraged disabled consumers from spending were poorly designed products and staff who were not disability confident, were rude or appeared prejudiced.


The Equality ActNational Planning Policy Framework and guidance on building regulations all require new and existing buildings and spaces to provide access for all.

We would like to thank all of our partners for their support to date, particularly the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government for funding the development of the resource hub, and David Bonnett Associates for generously gifting us their inclusive design library.



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