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Different is the new normal- the business case for inclusive design

Different is the new normal!

The new BSI standard, Design for the Mind (PAS 6463:2022.), is an excellent starting point for anyone with a professional or personal interest in creating places where we can all feel our best. That could be designing a workplace or simply choosing where to go for dinner. The standard splits the broad term ‘neurodiverse’ into three.

  1. Neurotypical: fits the majority profile. But even the most ‘typical’ of us will have our ups and downs
  2. Neurodivergent: response outside the broad average. There’s is no international benchmark or definitive list. But the neurodivergent response is linked to common conditions like autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and dyspraxia.
  3. Neurodegenerative: differences develop over time through brain diseases. This includes forms of dementia or Parkinson’s –

The BSI coins the term ‘sensory and/or information processing difference’ – it’s a bit unwieldy but perhaps more accurate than neurodiverse when you realise just how dynamic and wide-ranging these differences are. 

But why should you care?

An estimated one in five people is considered neurodiverse, including up to 10% of people who are diagnosed with dyslexia, 5% diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and 1-2% with autism – Neurodiversity As A Strengthening Point For Your Team And Our Society

That’s a lot of people spending a lot of money and choosing who to work for.  The commercial opportunity is clear: 

  1. Spending power: We spend time (and money) in places where we feel comfortable and understood. The spending power of people with a disability and their families (known as the ‘Purple Pound) adds up to an estimated £6 billion worldwide, over £275 million in the UK alone – The Purple Pound: What It Is and Why Marketers Should Care.
  2. Productivity: We are more productive in conditions that let us get on with the job. Glare and Electric Light Quality were cited as the greatest cause of discomfort for those on the autistic spectrum after people and people noise – The Impact of Indoor Environment Quality on People on the Autism Spectrum.
  3. Presence: we are up to 18% more likely to take time off sick when we believe our physical working conditions and support are poor – The Combined Effect of Poor Perceived Indoor Environmental Quality and Psychosocial Stressors on Long-Term Sickness Absence in the Workplace: A Follow-Up Study.
  4. Reciprocity: We are more likely to go the extra mile for someone or an organisation that cares about us – What Is Reciprocity?
  5. Constraints boost creativity. We are more likely to think outside the box when we are challenged to design within tight constraints. Creating solutions that support diversity tends deliver innovative results – Why Constraints Are Good for Innovation.


What does that mean for lighting?



Retrofit for our future selves

As the UK Green Building Council points out, 80% of the homes we will live in in 2050 are already built – UKGBC responds to CCC housing report.

Retrofit is the obvious solution.  The Pocklington Trust guide offers some excellent simple tips.  A practical guide to improving existing homes.

1. Offer control – switch different areas separately, make sure the controls are easy to use – try using the remote wearing a big pair of gloves

2. Shade – choose fittings where the light source is hidden from view, and ideally can be angled too. Try taking a photo with a slightly grubby lense to spot potential glare.

3. Practical – offer focused light over worktops, in deep cupboards and next to a reading seat. Try standing in the user’s position and check for shadows.

4. Distinct – use colour and surface texture to highlight the edge of steps, doors or bins. Reduce dazzle in bathrooms and kitchens with matt surfaces. Try taking a photo in black and white to check the contrast is clear.

5. Avoid trailing wires and cables and consider USB chargeable lamps. Try walking around the space wearing oversized shoes with the laces undone.


Making an Entrance 

Getting out and about is key to physical and mental health for all of us – Nurtured by nature.

This is especially important for people with low vision – Environmental and behavioural interventions for reducing physical activity limitation and preventing falls in older people with visual impairment.

This Thomas Pocklington Trust study offers some fascinating insights – and suggestions we can all use to make an entrance that feels safe and comfortable –  Making an Entrance: Colour, contrast and the design of entrances to homes of people with sight loss.

  • Improve lighting to show the lock and handle more clearly- 41%
  • Increase brightness inside the front door to balance the levels between outside and inside – 74%
  • Add low-level lighting by the steps to reduce trip hazard



See it through their eyes

All of these changes are simple common sense. 

There is no substitute for simply making the effort to see the world through someone else’s eyes. 

One in 25 children suffers from a vision issue which gets in the way of them studying at school. No wonder some of them struggle to focus!

One in 12 men have some colour vision difference or deficiency, which affects their ability to tell certain colours apart.

Cataracts or diabetes or simply spending time in a dry space increases your risk of suffering from glare. Increasing risk of depression – and accidents on the road. 

So what can you do?
I invite you to take a moment to have a look around and listen to the people you care for: 

  • How comfortably and clearly can you see right now?
  • Does anybody need an eye test? make sure those glasses are clean!
  • Do the colours and contrast, particularly around doorways and signage
  • offer enough contrast to navigate with safety and confidence?
  • Do you need more light, or maybe less light to see the page. the screen
  • the keyboard and communicate clearly?
  • Can you change the angle of your screen and shift the reflectance?

Or simply wear a peak cap if you don’t have any control at all.

It’s time to realise just how important light is in helping us all to see eye to eye!

Get in touch!