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Putting inclusion and accessibility at the heart of building design

New guidance has been issued to ensure that inclusion and accessibility are considered at every stage of the design and construction process.

Published by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Inclusive Design Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work is the result of a multidisciplinary collaboration – including input from people with lived experience and experts from 25 built environment professions, and marks an important step towards RIBA’s commitment to making the built environment accessible and welcoming for everyone.

The guidance has been developed with the specialist inclusive design consultancy Motionspot, and with the support of Heathrow and Jane Simpson Access. Intended to be widely understood and used by anyone involved in the built environment sector, it assigns clear responsibilities and tasks to the different roles involved in a building project – including client, project management, design, construction, and asset management teams.

What is inclusive design?

  • Inclusive design seeks to create buildings and spaces that welcome everyone, regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender, health condition, disability, ethnicity, or religion. It means considering the needs of people with physical, cognitive, and sensory impairments, including neurodivergence and dementia.
  • Inaccessible design can systematically exclude people. Designing with human diversity in mind can remove barriers to access across all the places people work, visit and live.
  • Inclusive design is about more than buildings and the space around them. Enabling everyone to participate equally, confidently, and independently in everyday activities is a vital part of creating a sense of belonging and making society more equitable.
  • An accessible built environment is also vital for improving sustainability, as it is used more efficiently, and is more flexible and adaptable for different users and uses.

Commenting on the new guidance, Inclusive Design Overlay Project Lead and Lead Overlay Author, Pareisse Wilson, who is also Inclusive Design Strategy Lead at Motionspot, said: “The biggest positive for me regarding this project is the fact it has been created in collaboration with industry, from landscape architects and engineers to project and facilities mangers. Together these collaborators helped decide which roles to include and contributed to defining the inclusive design tasks they would undertake at each Work Stage. Throughout the journey over 100 built environment professionals have attended workshops or provided feedback on draft versions of the Overlay. This makes the Inclusive Design Overlay a truly inclusively designed framework.”

RIBA President Simon Allford commented: “RIBA serves our members and society to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities, and a sustainable environment – and inclusion is at the heart of this. The Inclusive Design Overlay will help not only our members but other design professionals to support wider communities, placemaking, and buildings, by designing for everyone.”


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