Inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility

A building plan with two yellow and one white tape measure across it.
Measuring for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility

If you have the right tool for the job it makes life so much easier. That’s why academics like to make them and practitioners like to use them. There are tools to measure the efficiency of design and construction processes, but not for measuring inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility criteria. So, researchers at the University of Cambridge decided to do something about this. 

Matteo Zallio and John Clarkson did a literature review and came up with a state-of-the art overview about inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA). So, they didn’t devise a tool, but they now have the information to make one for future designs. 

Their conference paper briefly traces the history from ‘designing for the disabled’ to designing inclusively. The literature review used the regular terms such as inclusive design, universal design and design-for-all, among others. The results are listed in a table. 

The findings revealed that in the last five years the emphasis has been on quality, wellbeing, equity, diversity and social inclusion. Prior to this timeframe the emphasis was on accessibility and disablement.

Mixed Method Assessment Tools

Zallio and Clarkson found that mixed methods that consider people’s needs and experience and physical design features are best. This will take designs beyond access regulations. Objective measures such as visual inspections and measuring space are one part of the assessment equation. Subjective methods such as post occupancy evaluation, and user-journey mapping are the other. 

The title of the conference paper is, “On inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility in civil engineering and architectural design. A review of assessment tools”. It’s from the International Conference on Engineering Design held August 2021. 

From the Conclusions

“Progress happened on accessibility, however not extensively on inclusion, diversity and equity. Important to highlight that inclusion has the potential to become a form of sustainability as a proclamation about equity and diversity. A design of the built environments that goes beyond accessibility and includes people’s feelings, perception, use, relationships among other individuals, and space can positively impact people’s lives.

Such design can be achieved through forms of awareness-raising mechanism that impact the predesign and post-design phases. Assessment tools could help to inform decisions for both phases, aiming to push engineers and architects to go beyond the minimum standards requirements.

We foresee that holistic, mixed methods approaches to assess the built environment have the potential to guarantee accessible, equitable, diverse and inclusive spaces for everyone.”

We’ve evolved on from the barrier-free movement of the 1970s to more recent ideas of social and economic inclusion. We need to make sure our assessment tools are current and fit for purpose.