Inclusive Design Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work image

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published guidance to ensure that inclusion and accessibility are considered at every stage of the design and construction process.

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.

The guidance – ‘Inclusive Design Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work’ – can be downloaded for free here.

According to RIBA, inclusive design is about creating buildings and spaces that welcome everyone and consider 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. Accessible designs enable everyone to participate equally, confidently, and independently in everyday activities, which is a vital part of creating a sense of belonging and making society more equitable, the design institution makes clar.

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, RIBA underlines.

RIBA President Simon Allford said: “RIBA serves our members and society in order 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.”

The guidance introduces inclusive design within five key team roles: client, project management team, design team, construction team, and asset management team. These are key roles as they have the greatest influence over the inclusive design strategy, application, and deliverability and therefore success in the overall outcomes, says RIBA.

The document highlights when and why to engage with an inclusive design lead on projects and outlines the purpose of their role and remit. Underpinning the guidelines are inclusive design enablers that support the effective implementation of inclusive design across the project such as an inclusive design strategy.

A multidisciplinary collaboration, including input from people with lived experience and experts from 25 built environment professions, the guidance aligns with RIBA’s commitment to making the built environment accessible and welcoming for everyone.

It was developed with the specialist inclusive design consultancy Motionspot and with the support of Heathrow and Jane Simpson Access.

Steering Group member and Motionspot CEO and Founder Ed Warner commented: “By empowering built environment professionals to create and operate more inclusive and equitable buildings and spaces, the Inclusive Design Overlay will enable previously marginalised groups to access and feel welcome in all areas of the built environment. I am confident the Overlay will inspire action throughout the UK and beyond, while reinforcing the UK as a leader in the field of inclusive design.”

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has recently launched an inquiry, which challenges whether the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) fully supports housing adaptations. It looks at what the UK Government can do to ensure disabled people have access to accessible and adaptable housing in England.

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