Inclusive Design – Creating Spaces to Accommodate Sensory Issues in ASD
We are aware of the sensory issues that people with autism have, but only recently have we realized the need to design spaces to accommodate those needs. Lights, textures, sounds, and colours can all affect a person’s well-being. Designing spaces around these needs for people with autism can be challenging because autism is a complex disorder; the needs vary greatly from person to person.
In architecture, universal design was formalized in the 1960’s with the thought of making places accessible for those with physical disabilities. Now we are thinking along the lines of inclusive design to address a wider range of needs and experiences.
Magda Mostafa, a Canadian who teaches architecture at the American University in Cairo, created the ASPECTSS Design Index to gather some of the most widely applicable ideas of what she calls “sensory design.”
The ideas in the Design Index include “controlling acoustics; using natural light, but carefully modulating it; arranging spaces to facilitate smooth transitions; providing “escape spaces,” which provide private places to retreat; and grouping spaces so that quiet activities are separated from louder and more active ones.”
Some great examples of architects following these principals come from Hede Architects of Melbourne, Australia, who have built two schools specifically to serve students with autism. Have a look at the Northern School for Autism.
Inclusive design is also spilling over into the workplace. With 80% of people with autism not being employed, addressing workspace concerns could lessen these figures. The one-size-fits all cubicle model is not the best work environment for anyone. Workers are being freed from the cubical and given options – such as breakout spaces – so why not also let them choose their own levels of light or privacy?
To learn more about inclusive design and why it is needed, read this excellent article from the Globe and Mail.
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