Inclusive Growth Show

Putting People at the Heart of Inclusive Design

January 09, 2024 Toby Mildon Episode 118
Putting People at the Heart of Inclusive Design
Inclusive Growth Show
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Inclusive Growth Show
Putting People at the Heart of Inclusive Design
Jan 09, 2024 Episode 118
Toby Mildon

In this episode of the Inclusive Growth Show, Toby talks to Ed Warner from Motionspot and discusses the importance of thinking holistically and intersectionally about inclusive design and its benefits for people and businesses. 

If you're enjoying this episode and looking to boost equity, inclusion, and diversity in your organisation, my team and I are here to help. Our team specialises in crafting data-driven strategies, developing inclusive leaders, designing fair recruitment processes, and enhancing disability confidence. With a blend of professional expertise and lived experience, we're ready to support you on your journey. Reach out to us through our website.

If you want to build a more inclusive workplace that you can be proud of please visit our website to learn more.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of the Inclusive Growth Show, Toby talks to Ed Warner from Motionspot and discusses the importance of thinking holistically and intersectionally about inclusive design and its benefits for people and businesses. 

If you're enjoying this episode and looking to boost equity, inclusion, and diversity in your organisation, my team and I are here to help. Our team specialises in crafting data-driven strategies, developing inclusive leaders, designing fair recruitment processes, and enhancing disability confidence. With a blend of professional expertise and lived experience, we're ready to support you on your journey. Reach out to us through our website.

If you want to build a more inclusive workplace that you can be proud of please visit our website to learn more.

Speaker 1: Welcome to The Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.

Speaker 1: Hey there, thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of The Inclusive Growth Podcast. I am Toby Mildon. And today I'm joined by an amazing guest. His name is Ed Warner and Ed is the co-founder and chief executive of Motionspot. Motionspot is a leading inclusive design consultancy who work with some really interesting clients which we're going to hear about in today's episode and doing some really interesting projects around inclusive design. So Ed, it's lovely to have you on the show today. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1: Great to be with you, Toby. Thank you for inviting me.

Speaker 1: You're welcome. So Ed, before we dive into the main questions, could you just give us a bit more of an introduction to yourself and what Motionspot is all about, please? 

Ed Warner: Sure. So I'm Ed Warner. I'm co-founder and CEO of the inclusive design business Motionspot. I set the business up 11 years ago now after the experience of an old school friend of mine and our co-founder, James Taylor, who was paralysed in a diving accident aged 25. James spent eight months in Stoke Mandeville Hospital before returning to his apartment in Battersea, South London to live his life as an independent wheelchair user. Except he found that his once beautiful home had turned into something that resembled more like a clinical care home. And it was his experience of his environment and the products around him that inspired me to leave my job and inspired him to help and support, to launch a business that really looks at the design of the built environment in a different way. And fast forward 11 years, we're now working with businesses across the UK, but also around the world to help them understand how to design really beautiful, accessible, and inclusive buildings and spaces for everybody.

Toby Mildon: That's really interesting. And I know when I talk to organisations about inclusive design or accessibility, their mind usually immediately goes to, do we have ramps for wheelchair users or lifts? If you're lucky, they might be talking about induction loops at the reception desk. But the thing is, inclusive design and accessibility is a lot broader than that. So when it comes to inclusive design, why do we need to think more holistically beyond physical accessibility? 

Ed Warner: Well, firstly, inclusive design is all about removing the barriers that cause undue stress and separation for people within a building or a space. And traditionally, buildings and spaces have been designed to suit minimum standards of building regulations, whether that be in the UK or US or anywhere around the world, there are local building codes that designers and developers need to follow. The problem with those building codes is many of them were written as long as 10 years ago now. And those codes and regulations mostly focus around design for physical disability, in particular wheelchair users. But in reality, only 8% of disabled people are wheelchair users. So the conversations we have with our clients is around how do you design for the 8%, which is where so many of the conversations around design have tended to be, as you say, ramps and lifts at wheelchair accessible toilets.

Ed Warner: But also how do you design for the 92% of people who may have another physical cognitive sensory need designed for neurodiversity is a massive driver of our conversations with clients at the moment, as many more people are disclosing conditions that they weren't previously telling their employer about necessarily. But inclusive design is not just about design for disability, it's also considering all protected characteristics. So again, conversations we have with clients around how can you make your office accessible for disabled employees, but also for someone of different faith, ethnic background, culture, age, and gender. This is really about thinking about inclusive design as being good design for everybody. And our main ethos is you shouldn't have an accessible or inclusive area and a non-accessible or inclusive area. This should just run through everything a business does when they're thinking about their built environment.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, 'cause I used to work in digital accessibility at the BBC and one of our sort of design principles was that if you create a digital experience for disabled users, and users, or people with cognitive impairments, or if you think about the outlier case studies, you actually end up making the product better overall for everybody by thinking about the needs and requirements of disabled people and how they might be using the digital product or service. Now on this podcast, we have run previous episodes around inclusive design. Most recently, I interviewed Professor Pippa Catterall, who works at University of Westminster.

Toby Mildon: She collaborated with Arup to create a report called Queering Public Spaces. And that was all about how to create LGBT plus friendly built environment. And actually, we had an interesting conversation about how a lot of the principles or the findings in her report applied to disabled people as well. So if you're listening to us right now, I would definitely recommend going back a few episodes to catch up with that conversation with Pippa and download the report that she has written as well. So Ed, I know that you work with some really interesting clients and you've done some fascinating projects. In fact, I've stayed in one of your projects and was really impressed with the inclusive design of it, which is a hotel in Manchester. They've also got a hotel in Leicester, so Hotel Brooklyn. Let's talk about first of all Barclays and the work that you've done with them. Could you just let us know about your project with Barclays? 

Ed Warner: Just before I do, I just wanted to further support your comment on intersectionality between protected characteristics.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, please do.

Ed Warner: And you're absolutely right that you can't look at at one particular, group or design for a certain group of people in isolation. So many people represent many different needs within different groups and thinking about intersectionality within the built environment is a really key consideration when designing inclusive environments. The work we've done with Barclays has been really groundbreaking in terms of, workplace design. Barclays engaged Motionspot as inclusive design consultants on a new 500,000 square foot campus in Glasgow. And they initially engaged us because they were recruiting a number of individuals into very technical roles who were neurodivergent, and they realized they wanted to ensure that they designed the office appropriately for neurodivergent staff.

Ed Warner: But when we started to have the conversation and it connected to what we were saying about the intersectionality you can't just design, an area of the office for neurodivergence, you've got to consider other elements within that as well. So we were engaged at the early stages to help, and set the inclusive design strategy on that development and then work alongside Barclays and their architect Gensler, as well as a number of other interior designers that were responsible for the fit out to provide advice at all stages of the design process. So that wasn't just about making sure the layout of the building was right and the circulation space was right, but it's the really granular detail of the fixtures and finishes that make such a difference when it comes to inclusive design. So some small things like thinking about transition spaces in their main reception area.

Ed Warner: If people are coming into the building, lots of people want time to be able to just compose themselves before going and having a conversation at the reception desk. So having the necessary space, within their reception lobby for an area of seating, for people to sort of just recalibrate before, going and having that conversation. As you say, making sure that reception desks not only have hearing loops, but have the necessary heights of reception desk for someone who may be a wheelchair user or shorter in stature. And then principles like color contrast, making sure floors and walls contrast sufficiently. If someone has a visual impairment, they're able to define where they are in the space. Looking at introducing lots of biophilia, planting and natural materials, which is particularly good for autistic employees as an example.

Ed Warner: But then, lots of small design principles like a design of quiet spaces of multi-faith rooms of separating halal and kosher food within staff kitchenettes. And thinking about principles like lighting and acoustics and materiality all come together to design a more inclusive and accessible environment for staff and visitors at Barclays. And what's really interesting about that particular project is they did a return on investment case study 12 months after completing the project, and they found that for every one pound they spent on inclusive design, save them 100 pounds in later stage workplace adjustments, which is a really powerful case study to say, if you're just thinking about this at the right stage, it's not just the right thing to do for your people, but it's financially beneficial too.

Toby Mildon: So was that because they had considered this from the outset of the project rather than try and retrofit it at the end? 

Ed Warner: Absolutely, yeah. If it's considered from the outset in terms of the overall scale of the development and the cost associated with development, it just doesn't even feature as a line item. Where inclusive design gets more expensive is when you're trying to retrofit adaptations and improvements within spaces after they're built. It's all about considering it the very earliest stages.

Toby Mildon: And presumably if you're considering it from the outset of the project, you can make a much more of an elegant solution as well, because if you try and retrofit something at the end, it's just like, you're just trying to wedge something on at the end, aren't you? It's just gonna stick out and look ugly. Whereas if you can think about how accessibility can be designed in from the beginning, it's a lot more. Yeah. You just come up with a much more beautiful design, I imagine.

Ed Warner: Absolutely, right. And we always say the best inclusive design is design that you don't necessarily see or realise, it's just embedded in the structure of the building or space. It's those retrofits and those last minute thoughts and actions that do stick out and do tend to be the more medical looking second best facilities. And we've got an amazing design community. They're hugely creative and it's about empowering designers who are creating these spaces to think about who they're designing for, think about the impact of their design and to make sure that those spaces are as beautiful as any other.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. I remember I went to a really nice hotel in London that had just been refurbished and I had a look around the accessible bedroom, and in the bathroom, the grab rails when they were folded up, they just blended into the wall and it just looked like a nice chrome strip in the wall. And if you did need the grab rails, you could pull them down. But otherwise they were blended into the design of the bathroom. It was a really Swiss hotel. I thought it was a lovely environment because the majority of accessible bathrooms in the hotels are ugly. They're using ugly plastic lino flooring, really cheap looking white plastic grab rails. I mean, it's like staying in a hospital rather than staying in a hotel. Talking of hotels, that was one of your other clients, wasn't it? Hotel Brooklyn, which I've stayed in before. They've got a hotel in Manchester near me. They've recently opened a hotel in Leicester, and I believe, not sure if this is correct, correct me if I'm wrong, they might be thinking or they are building another hotel, maybe Liverpool can't remember.

Ed Warner: Yes. So Hotel Brooklyn have got the hotels in Manchester and Leicester and with a new hotel being planned in the future in Liverpool. The Hotel Brooklyn is a great example of a hotel operator that has really tried to push the boundaries when it comes to thinking about accessible design. And we were given a really amazing brief back in 2017, and the brief from Robin Shepherd, who's chairman of Bespoke Hotels, was to redefine the experience of disabled guests within Hotel Brooklyn, because he was very aware that, as you said already, Toby, the design of accessible rooms has just always been so second best in the hospitality industry. So we set about with Hotel Brooklyn interior designer and architects to really look at how we could do something very different when designing and the hotel in Manchester. So it's 190-bedroom hotel, 18 of those bedrooms are accessible with features like interconnecting rooms, which are really important for a number of disabled people who are traveling with carers and want those individuals to be close, but not in the same room.

Ed Warner: Designing features like really beautiful open plan, wet room, bathrooms, with the types of fixtures and fittings that you've been describing in the Swiss hotel you stayed in London. There's so much amazing product design going on at the moment in this space, and it's about blending the right collection of products together to deliver that accessibility, but also the function that disabled people need within those bathrooms. Integrating clever technology like the ability to control curtains and lighting and heating and other controls, all from one point by the bed. We designed out the red pull cord alarm system, which is in all accessible bathrooms and should also be in accessible hotel bedrooms, and designed in BSA 300 compliant system of push buttons that are mounted at the same heights as the red bangles at 900 and 100 millimeters from the floor. And two of the rooms had an amazing ceiling track hoist feature, and there are very few hotels in the UK that have ceiling track hoists because they're quite medical looking in their appearance, and hotel owners find it very difficult selling those rooms to guests who don't require a hoist. So what we did was we recessed the ceiling track hoist into the ceiling, and we made a lighting detail out of that hoist track, and we hid the hoist motor within a bit of joinery.

Ed Warner: So at the press of a button, this hoist comes out and is able to pivot someone from the bed into a wheelchair or mobile shower commode. And for so many people, as you know, and our co-founder is one of those people, James is six foot four, his wife is five foot three, and he needs that ability, the hoist, to be able to get him out of bed into a wheelchair. So it's just opened up the opportunity for so many people to enjoy a hotel experience in an environment and setting that is as high class as any other of the rooms in that hotel. And similar to Barclays, Hotel Brooklyn also looked at the financials around what accessibility meant to them from a bottom line perspective, and amazingly, they found that the 18 accessible rooms were the most popular of all the 190 rooms in the hotel. Those rooms delivered them an additional 220,000 pounds of profit in the first year of trading. Within that, I think there was an additional 85,000 pounds of event revenue from events that were organized by the disability industry. So it just goes to show, again, this is financially the right thing to do, as well as socially and morally being the right thing to do.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, I think I'm within those statistics because the reason why I know Hotel Brooklyn is because that's the hotel that I use when I'm organising client events and training in Manchester because of the accessibility of the hotel, any clients that need an accessible room, but also just the general inclusivity of the hotel experience from the training that the staff have been through in terms of how they welcome guests and things like that. It's just a much more inclusive experience so they're really leading the way. I know that post-pandemic, a lot of organisations have been refurbishing, relocating, downsizing, and redesigning their workplaces because the way that we work has changed post-COVID-19. So what's your advice to a chief people officer if they are doing a refurb or they're relocating people or they're reducing their office footprint or they're redesigning their work spaces in any way? 

Ed Warner: I think the first thing, the first advice that I'd give is to understand the challenges of your people. The best companies out there are those that are listening to the needs of employees, but also visitors into their spaces and really understanding some of the challenges within the built environment. There's some really successful examples of employee resource groups who are coming together to be able to give their feedback on different challenges within workplaces. But even if you're of a smaller business size and you don't have ERGs, just being able to listen to those voices is the first recommendation I'd give. The second one is to look at engaging specialist advice at the earliest stage. And we've heard already how important it is to bring inclusive design at that early stage to help set the inclusive design strategy of that refurbishment or a new build or a move that's being made. And when I say inclusive design strategy, it doesn't have to be hugely overwhelming project.

Ed Warner: There are so many quick wins that can be made at little to no cost within workplaces that will make such a fundamental difference to your staff and visitors. And then making sure that throughout the design and build process, there is a specialist that is kind of, we call it an inclusive design guardian role. So if decisions are being made in the design team or contractors are making decisions on site, you've at least got someone there being able to influence in the right way and question whether some of the design changes that are being made are gonna be appropriate and suit the needs of your staff.

Ed Warner: And you mentioned it with Hotel Brooklyn, we always say a building is only as accessible as the people who operate it. So making sure that once your building is ready and your staff are ready to move in, the people who are operating these spaces are aware of the inclusive design features that have been designed in, because it's only through that communication process that you're gonna create the right accessible and inclusive space.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. And what resources do you have that's freely available that might support today's listener on their inclusive journey? 

Ed Warner: So there are a few that I'd point listeners towards. On the Motionspot website, there's a really good white paper download around inclusive design principles, which gives an introduction to inclusive design and the types of high level principles to be considering. There's also a really good publication that Motionspot were involved in co-authoring called the RIBA Inclusive Design Overlay, which was published in July of this year. And that is a guide for all clients, architects, developers, and asset managers and project managers to encourage them to be thinking about inclusive design at all stages. So have a look at the Motionspot White Paper download, as well as the RIBA Inclusive Design Overlay.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Thank you. Now, before you go, Ed, everybody gets this question, what does inclusive growth mean for you? 

Ed Warner: Inclusive growth for me is all about creating environments that are accessible, safe, and welcoming for everybody, where we can create a sense of belonging within the built environment, ensuring that everybody can bring their best to work at any time.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Love it. Now, thanks everyone so much for Ed for joining us today. It's been lovely to catch up with you. It'll be great to record another episode with you and to hear some more interesting client case studies 'cause I think they're really rich. So thank thanks Ed, for joining us.

Ed Warner: Glad to be part of it. Thanks Toby.

Toby Mildon: And thank you for tuning in today's episode of the Inclusive Growth Podcast. We've learned a lot today. So we've learned about the importance of thinking holistically about inclusive design. The inclusive design is much more than physical accessibility for people with physical disabilities and with ramps and lifts and things like that. So we need to think more broadly around how that also intersects with other identities. So making somewhere inclusive and accessible for LGBT individuals as well as disabled folk. For instance, we've had some really interesting case studies and actually how considering inclusive design from the outset of the project yields a really good return on investment. We've had some really staggering ROI from the likes of Barclays Bank and Hotel Brooklyn, and then also some just really practical advice on how you can get started by starting by listening to the needs and requirements of people working in your organisation, and following some of the inclusive design principles, which you can download from the Motionspot website. So thanks ever so much for tuning in. Hope you've enjoyed today's episode and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the show, which will be coming up very soon. Take care of yourself and goodbye.

Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to the Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website