Inclusive design: making places accessible to everyone

We use inclusive design to provide access to public spaces for the widest range of people, regardless of age, disability and circumstance. If people can't get to or around a place comfortably they won't be able to use it, or they won't want to.

Inclusive design benefits everyone

Inclusive design recognises that many people are impacted by barriers to access - disabled people along with their families and friends; parents with small children; older people; people with health issues. Most people don't visit places on their own, and their personal experiences of access barriers will be shared, often more acutely, by the people they are with. Inclusive design removes barriers to access and makes places fit for purpose, easy to understand and great to use.

steps prove to be an access barrier to a parent with a toddler and pushchair A family including a wheelchair user are able to enjoy Eden thanks to good access

Wheelchair users and parents with young children struggle with access barriers like steps; inclusive design creates places that families can enjoy together

Inclusive design challenges us to think more creatively

Technical aspects, like ramps and toilets, are important but always in relation to what experiences are on offer - is there a good mix to cater for the whole range of visitors? People don't visit somewhere just to see a great ramp, equally it doesn't matter how great an experience is if visitors can't get to it. Access and quality of experience must go hand in hand.

Inclusive design often challenges design conventions to come up with ones that work better for everyone - why such tiny washbasins in accessible toilets for example? Why is the disabled access symbol on toilet doors so tiny?

People with a disability, or a condition like dementia, often have less capacity to cope with design that is counter-intuitive, confusing or awkward. But why should anyone find themselves compensating for these design inconveniences. Given the choice, wouldn't we all prefer our environments to be straightforward so we can spend our energies enjoying them?

How Sensory Trust makes places accessible

Our inclusive design approach combines technical access with quality of experience to create environments that both enable and attract use. Our site review tools identify access barriers and priorities for access improvements. Our communty engagement techniques enable people to get involved. We integrate inclusive design in new projects and improve access in existing sites.

Case studies

An inclusive Eden

Inclusive design at Eden Project enables disabled people to enjoy it with their family

Making all aspects of Eden Project accessible so a visit is great for everyone

Access to nature

Undertaking an access review at Golitha Falls nature reserve

Working with Natural England to make accessible and engaging nature reserves

Access to live music

Band on stage as part of the accessible Eden Sessions

Eden's live outdoor music is a leading example of inclusive design

Accessible information

Eden banners designed by Sensory Trust, a good example of inclusive design

Making sure messages are shared with all visitors, including disabled people

Accessible forests

Children take part in community engagement in woods as part of identifying access improvements

Visitor experience toolkit for Forestry Commission reviews access in woods and forests

Inclusive design toolkit

Eden Core building, a good example of inclusive design

Integrating inclusive design in all stages of planning, design and build

Access to greenspace

Group of green space managers discuss ideas for making Sheffield's parks more accessible

With Sheffield City Council, improving access to parks, woods and countryside

Access to public space

A self-drive buggy crossing a street, an example of issues explored as part of I'DGO research

Research on improving accessibility of the built environment for older people


Making Connections: a guide to accessible greenspace

Outdoor access design factsheets - free guidance

Access Chain - a tool for reviewing access from the user's perspective

Access statements - samples for you to use

What is inclusive design?

Accessible information design - why it matters and who it benefits

Useful links

Can we help?

Sensory Trust runs consultancy in inclusive design. Read more about our consultancy services >>