99 Things You Need to Know Now
When we set out to create inclusive spaces, products and experiences, we intentionally co-create with people who have experienced exclusion, by reaching out to what Steelcase Culture and Diversity consultant Mary Brown calls the “unusual suspects.” “Working alongside unusual suspects should make you question how space and culture are impacting someone’s life who differs from you,” says Brown. “It’s about seeking people, places and perspectives that challenge the status quo.”
Inclusive design requires us to go beyond codes and compliance to see the role identity and bias play in decision making. Engaging the perspectives of people from different
socioeconomic backgrounds, races, disabilities, ages, sizes and genders, or who identify as neurodivergent, adds value to any project. It’s less about reaching a perfect outcome and more about uncovering barriers with unheard voices to drive innovation.
signals who belongs — and possibly
who does not.
Seating diversity that supports visual consistency, while offering choice in firmness and arm rests — ensures everyone is comfortable. Diverse table shapes and heights — with space to approach — provides everyone with a seat at the table. Accessible writable surfaces that can move and adapt — encourages community building, collaboration and wayfinding. Don’t forget about power that’s easy to access, without crawling or bending under furniture. These choices provide dignity and allow everyone to contribute.
Control over your environment can be tough to find in the office, but it is possible. When designing for neurodiversity, we encourage user sensory control, which has proven to enhance the spatial experience for everyone. Have you identified areas for focus, or no technology? What about flexible sensory spaces that support rest and rejuvenation, or reservable hoteling stations where people can control visual privacy, lighting, noise, and ventilation? If the answer is no, your space could do more to be inclusive.
When people think of a traditional office space, they tend to imagine spaces with the same workstation repeated over and over. While this may create a sense of equality, it does not honor how people work differently and how our needs vary. Inclusive workplace neighborhoods feature a diversity of postures, boundaries and intentional adjacencies. Provide places for everyone to be productive, without sacrificing equity and forcing one-size-fits-all.
As we navigate our ever-changing world, inclusive design serves as an intervention to challenge exclusion, and build informed and impactful spaces to work, learn, heal, and ultimately live better.
Leader, Inclusive Design
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