'Design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, people with the widest range of abilities within the widest range of situations without the need for special adaptation or design.'
BS 7000-6 (2005) Managing Inclusive Design
Population ageing is reshaping societies around the world. This unprecedented growth in the older age groups, coupled with radical changes in expectations among the disabled community, demand an inclusive approach to design. Environments, communications, products and services now have to meet the needs and aspirations of a far more diverse population.
Industry, government and in particular the design professions have to respond to the substantial rise in the number of people who are less than able-bodied yet wish to enjoy an active and independent lifestyle. This is one of the major challenges of the 21st century and design has a central role to play in meeting it.
The Royal College of Art has pioneered research into the integration of older and disabled people within the mainstream of society. In 1991, under the direction of Professor Roger Coleman it established the DesignAge Programme to explore the design implications of population ageing.
In 1999 it launched the Helen Hamlyn Centre bringing in Professor Jeremy Myerson as Co-director with Roger Coleman, and expanding the remit to embrace both disability and ageing and develop the theory and practice of inclusive design.
Through a programme of user involvement and action-research with academic, industry, government and voluntary sector partners, the Centre has focused on creating inclusive design exemplars and nurturing a cadre of young professionals qualified to meet these new challenges.
In 2005 research work on inclusive design moved firmly into the knowledge transfer phase with the publication of a new British Standard, BS 7000-6:2005, on Managing Inclusive Design. The Helen Hamlyn Centre played a central role in creating the standard, and, with one of its key collaborators, the Engineering Design Centre at Cambridge University, has recently developed a web resource on inclusive design for BT, which is now in the public domain.
It has also exported its Inclusive Design Challenge model, developed with the UK Design Business Association, to a number of countries around the world, so introducing professional designers - from small companies to major multi-nationals - to inclusive design thinking and practice.
In recent years the centre has successfully diversified its user-centred design methodologies into the fields of Workplace Design and Design for Patient Safety under the leadership of Professors Myerson and Coleman respectively. It has also fleshed out the business case for inclusive design, supported by practice-based case studies.