National Inclusion Week 2021 – Empower and Recognise
As part of our posts for National Inclusion Week 2021 – Empower and Recognise, we are sharing what we have learnt to help unite people towards creating inclusive cultures in workplaces every day.
Interior Designer, Laura Baarda has been educating herself about neuro-inclusion, specifically the autism spectrum. She has been looking not only at how this could be integrated within designs to make spaces more inclusive but also how we should embrace neurodiversity to expand our workforce’s skills sets and knowledge.
It is believed that there are as many as 700,000 people in the UK on the spectrum. Laura has been researching the autism spectrum and the benefits of autism for the past six months to try to understand how she can better engage and understand neurodiversity.
In Laura’s words:
Autism is a Spectrum
I never understood why it was called the Autism Spectrum but I have learnt that this is because autism is not a linear range where you are not more or less autistic. You might engage more with one aspect of the spectrum than the other, there really is no hard or fast rules for autistic people. If you have met an autistic person, then you have only met one autistic person, just like a neurotypical person no one is the same.
There are huge benefits and positives of hiring, working, or engaging with people on the spectrum as they see the world in a very different way to a neurotypical person, some of the greatest minds are people who have or would have identified as on the spectrum:
- Isaac Newton
- Albert Einstein
- Le Corbusier – which many believe is why he was so attracted to his iconic simplicity!
- Satoshi Tajiki – the inventor of Pokémon
Just to name a few.
People on the spectrum have an incredible array of personality traits that can aid and enhance the workforce. Autistic people are often out of the box thinkers with incredible attention to detail, unwavering integrity and honesty, traits that employers seek. They are creative and critical thinkers. Often people on the spectrum have a passion subject and their knowledge of this area can be immense, which could be a huge benefit for a business. These are just a few of the many benefits as well as kindness and often compassion.
Design in Mind
The reason that I wanted to research autism is to try to understand the spectrum and how I could help people with autism engage with spaces that communicate to them. 90% of people on the spectrum have sensory issues this means that they experience the world very differently from ourselves so what can we do as designers to ease these experiences.
- Acoustics – As you would imagine acoustics is the primary factor to help illuminate background noises that can be distracting and confusing.
- Tonal Colours – Selecting tonal colour palettes that are more tonal in variation and less jarring which can be less stimulating and triggering.
- Spatial configuration – Ensure that spaces are orderly and defined with simple wayfinding and allowing for spaces for breath to take a moment if needed to ease an overstimulated mind and allow them to process their journey through the space.
Educate and Understand
I want to learn more about how I can adapt my communication and presentation skills to better engage with people on the spectrum. Some of the pointers I have found is to be patient and try not to fill in silences but give people the opportunity to process their thoughts and respond, be concise and to the point, do not be offended by a lack of eye contact, avoid last-minute changes to meetings or schedules as this causes anxiety and stress.
I am very much in the infancy of my research on the topic but I wanted to share what I have learnt so far as I believe if we can each try to learn and develop our skills to embrace diversity and inclusion, we are gaining intellectual capital that will be beneficial to our society.
“By understanding all human experience through research, we can create better spaces and serve all who inhabit.” – Julie Truong, Designer