The importance of being creative with inclusive design

Social Security Scotland’s headquarters in Dundee, a prominent building opposite the V&A Dundee, opened to the public in June 2023. We were asked to help the organisation move away from stereotypical government office space and, instead to create fully accessible, inclusive surroundings which meet the needs of the people working and visiting the building.

We carried out workshops with a panel of people from across Scotland with a range of disabilities through the charity, Disability Equality Scotland, to give us a greater understanding of diverse needs.

As a result, some key design features included making the signage on every floor a different colour to make it clear to people which part of the building they are in.

Rise-and-fall desks can accommodate wheelchairs as well as people of restricted height. The sinks and water dispensers at tea points can rise and fall at the touch of a button. Doors also open electronically. For visually impaired people, the amount of light that a surface reflects – the Light Reflective Value (LRV) – relative to its surroundings determines whether it can be seen or not, and so we made sure that floors, walls and ceilings are contrasting in this respect.

Social Security Scotland’s design specified Changing Places toilets, which are larger accessible toilets for severely disabled people with equipment such as hoists, adult-sized changing benches, curtains and space for carers.

In terms of lighting, acoustics and temperature, we’re finding that people want more control of their environment.

This could mean offering communal office areas with softer, domestic style, lighting and giving people the ability to control desktop light.  

Open-plan workplaces can be noisy and distracting. Creating quiet sections by breaking up large areas with smaller seating arrangements is one way to surmount this problem, along with collaborative or calm spaces.

There are also comfortable chairs available with acoustic panels to absorb the sound.

Given the now standard use of video calls, phone booths are routinely installed to give people privacy and allow others to concentrate on the task at hand.

Temperatures should be moderate with no sudden changes. Poor ventilation, as anyone who has worked in an office with a shared kitchen will testify, can lead to sensory overload.

Offering a remote booking system and digital walk-through of the space allows people to plan their visit and see available spaces, be it a desk or a quiet room. 

These days people expect more choices and to recruit the best people and then get the best from employees, organisations ignore inclusivity at their peril. 

Jean Camplisson is Design Director of c2: concepts

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