How inclusive are you really?
We’ve been on a learning curve this week
Inclusivity is a huge part of the campaign we are currently delivering for our client CallisonRTKL. We are talking about designing the built environment for everyone, about how people move into and around our cities, and about how technology is changing the way we think. Inviting people with disabilities to join the conversation – and help us all be better at designing for different needs – has been a healthy reminder.
In theory, we know all this stuff. We know that a brand colour palette needs to accommodate colour blindness. We know that our offices should be accessible. We know that our brochures should be in larger, sans serif fonts and that websites must be compatible with text browsers and screen readers. We know that our events need to accommodate people with food intolerances, vegetarians, non-drinkers. But when was the last time you checked the journey of a person in a wheelchair visiting your building or saw a sign language interpreter at a conference?
We are marketers – we do our research, starting with the size of the market. This was the shocker moment. According to the Office of National Statistics, the Purple Pound is worth £249bn to the UK economy; more than 1 in 5 people in the UK have an impairment. Omit people with disabilities from your marketing, your building or your town centre at your peril!
We needed a venue. How accessible are the venues in Manchester really? Will our guests or our speakers have to enter through the back door past the rubbish or be able to use the loo? Importantly, can they even get to the venue and can their personal assistant be accommodated? Is the drop-off point near the lift?
We are delivering a raft of communications, of course. Our font is too small and in the wrong colour. What about people with visual impairments? Do we need a sign language interpreter?
On the day, any visual aids (PowerPoint!) will need to be read out – the absolute opposite of what we advise in our presentation skills workshops. We will need to think more carefully about lighting (impact on people with autism) and sounds.
Take a look at this fantastic resource hosted by Manchester Disabled People’s Access Group which gives guidelines for accessible meetings and also has a great section about terminology.
As part of our preparation for the next few events in the campaign for CallisonRTKL, we have spoken and listened to many people. We have heard from Will Case at Your Support Matters about the reality of navigating Manchester city centre and the lack of early engagement with designers and people with disabilities. We have quizzed Civic Engineers on including people with disabilities – particularly people with visual impairments – in their work on the Glasgow Avenues project. We have learnt from Mark Todd who led the successful campaign to make the Peterloo Memorial accessible. We have listened to our client Placemarque consider neurodiversity in their wayfinding work and our developer contacts talk about designing for multi-generational living. We have much more to learn.
On Wednesday 24 July, we are hosting a conversation between Matt Pickering from CallisonRTKL, Helen Pidd at Walk Ride GM, Mark Todd from access all areas and Jaimie Ferguson from OPEN. They will discuss how people move into, across and within parts of the city and how their thinking is changing as a result. We will consider what Manchester does well – and where we can improve. And we will also talk about how we can make our city a better place for everyone, from cyclists to pedestrians, whether disabled or non-disabled.
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