Inclusive office design guide published by Business Disability Forum

inclusive office designThe Business Disability Forum (BDF) has published a new global guide which sets out to showing how all businesses can make their built environments accessible to the one billion people in world who have a disability. Having a disability can affect how a person accesses, navigates, and uses the spaces and structures around them. Built environments include everything from entrances, exits, stairs, lifts, signage, to parking, green spaces, roads, and transport systems so inclusive office design should address a wide range of issues.

Sponsored by HSBC, ‘Access for all: Creating inclusive global built environments’ is a timely report which aims to help businesses think about how they build back better post-COVID-19. The research considers the needs of disabled people when accessing spaces whether as a visitor, employee, customer, client, or contractor. It also highlights the vital role of an inclusive design approach in creating environments that work for everyone.

The guide covers:

  • What is an inclusive built environment?
  • Why creating inclusive environments is important for disabled people and business.
  • The challenges facing global businesses when creating accessible and inclusive spaces.
  • How to create an inclusive built environment strategy.

The guidance is aimed at anyone involved in influencing and making decisions about an organisation’s built spaces, especially at a global level. This includes senior leaders, estate management teams, health, safety, and environment professionals, as well as HR and diversity and inclusion professionals.

Several BDF Members and Partners helped to inform the research. These include HSBC, GSK, Unilever, Freeney Williams, State Street, and Eli Lilly. Speaking about the importance of the new report, Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, said: “Everyone should be able to access buildings and enjoy spaces, regardless of disability. Creating spaces which are inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities can also help businesses to attract and retain employees and customers. Increasing efficiency and productivity, supporting sustainability, ensuring legal compliance, and enhancing the reputation, are just some of the benefits for business of building inclusively.

“We know that developing a global built environment strategy can present challenges and the size of the task can seem overwhelming. We hope our new guide will give businesses the courage to take the first step and the tools to create spaces that work for everyone – wherever they are in the world.”


The challenge

Based on the experiences of leading global organisations, the guide details the key challenges that businesses can face when creating inclusive spaces at a global level. These include:

  • Securing senior buy-in.
  • Diversity of location.
  • Diversity of cultures, beliefs, and languages.
  • Conflicting disability requirements.

A global built environment strategy

The research also offers guidance on how to overcome these challenges through the creation of a global built environment strategy. The guidance advocates for a framework which:

  • Balances global consistency with local flexibility
  • Focuses on inclusive design and genuine user engagement.
  • Draws on best practice.