Inclusive, or universal, design is about more than just incorporating all of the latest codes, compliances, and guidance when designing a space. It is the art of accommodating the widest array of peoples with a variety of abilities through every stage of their lifetime. It should be functional for neuro-normative children, wheelchair-bound seniors, deaf or blind persons, and everyone else who may enter the space. The space should also function within the culture it’s built, celebrating its uniqueness in a functional space in a way that it’s population will innately know how to interact.
Accessibility needs to be factored into for every type of disability, but inclusive design goes beyond including a ramp next to a set of stairs. A well-landscaped ramp can give everyone the same, equal, and easy access of a space. Human factors must also address the diversity and population of a culture, addressing elements like cultural, gender, generation, communication, spiritual needs, and more. Each in turn affect how the visual cues of a space are perceived.
Culture, religion, and social aspects affect how a space is perceived, giving meaning to shapes, symbols, and even color. These are important factors in wayfinding, which help us navigate the complexities of the space around us. This can be something as simple as following the green line on the floor of a hospital to reach the right department or innately knowing that an octagonal red sign means STOP. Place also plays a role in understanding the space occupied. It provides a foundational understanding, giving its community purpose and control, whether they are entering a home, hospital, grocery store, or more.