Are properties inclusive for everyone?

An estimated 15% of the world’s population live with some form of disability ( World Health Organisation ), but many commercial and residential buildings are still not accessible to them.

It’s the 21st century, but the stigma of living with a disability is still apparent. Properties, both existing and new builds, invariably lack the space and design to make them inclusive for all individuals, whether they are well or have minor or major health conditions.

Society continues to stereotype disabled people as having no wish to achieve or enjoy aspirational living. This is a misguided concept that we must overcome, so we can promote equality and diversity.

The answer to the issue is simple, i.e. Inclusive Design, making spaces fully useable and accessible by everybody. Simple solutions, such as: wider doorways, slopes for wheelchair-users and Braille—ubiquitous in all properties—are easily inclusive.

Elaine Hollerhead, an Interior Designer and Occupational Therapist (founder of DESIGNATE, located in Bristol), said:

“We need lifetime and forever homes in the UK, to make sure a house can accommodate our evolving needs, no matter what life throws at us.”

Elaine also noted the importance of enabling people with disabilities to live in environments that are normal and non-clinical.

“People with disabilities are typically subjected to living in clinical environments, filled with ugly disability–specific products, bland décor and inaccessible facilities. Society’s perception is that they are happy to continue to live this way and that change is unnecessary, but this is not the case. Research has shown that these solutions encourage dependency and depression rather than independence and positivity. Most of my clients express dissatisfaction with their clinical surroundings and equipment and a yearning to return to normal living”.

Radical changes need to be made to the appearance of disability–specific products. Manufacturers can make these more aesthetically appealing by introducing a range of colours, patterns and materials, giving users choices and restoring dignity in disability.

Currently Disability products are referred to as specialist items, and purchased by ‘disability shops’—a reflection of how people with disabilities are viewed in our society, and are not treated equally.

In the 21st Century, products should be inclusive in design attractive, suitable for everyone, stocked and accessible in every department store.

Elaine went on to explain the significance of why Interior Designers should liaise with Occupational Therapists:

“It is all about coping with dignity. As an Interior Designer and Occupational Therapist I have a rule – ‘If I wouldn’t have it in my house, it won’t go into my client’s house! When designing for disability it may be possible to replace a disability specific product with a high street or bespoke alternative”

“However, there is a danger that without expert medical knowledge the chosen product could be unsuitable resulting in injury to your client for which you would be legally liable. So, before substituting furnishings and fixtures it is incredibly important for Interior Designers to first consult an Occupational Therapist, who, using their extensive medical knowledge, will be able to give advice and risk- assess the product to ensure your client can use it safely.”

The significance of equality for disabled people is crucial, and inclusive-property is essential in this regard. A progressive stance is necessary, so that disabled people can access the same luxuries as everyone else. It’s a matter of respect and producing harmony for clients who should not be confined or pitied for their disability through the means of basic homes, décor and furniture.

Elaine says: “It is possible to make functional fabulous!

NuVuw is the perfect application to ensure that your property and renovation projects are fully inclusive. The 3D design tool allows you to utilise space, décor and furniture items in accordance to your designers.

If you are available to visit NuVuw at Grand Designs Live, you can discuss matters further with Elaine (afternoons, Friday 13th and Saturday 14th) at stand B32 in the Build Hall, NEC Arena, Birmingham.