New BSI Standard for neurodiversity

to be published this summer

Standards for the designing of buildings and accessibility for users are expected to change in just a few months as the first-ever BSI standard providing guidance on neurodiversity and the built environment will be made official; PAS 6463 Design for the mind. Building on designers meeting set standards for mobility requirements, the new standard will expand to address sensory design considerations, such as lighting, acoustics, flooring, and d├ęcor.

This new standard reflects on the growing demand for sensory-accessible built environments that already exist. Hundreds of the biggest organisations in the world including the BBC, JPChase and Morgan, Google, and the NHS are meeting the demand to introduce tangible changes within their buildings, which not only allow visitors with sensory disabilities to interact but also expand opportunities within their respective workforces. The changes, which on the surface might seem a grievance to designers, absolutely benefit both parties. Especially as employers recognise that diverse workforces allow them a competitive and social advantage.

In one recent study, it was discovered that around one in 57 (1.76%) children in the UK is on the autistic spectrum, which is significantly higher than previously reported, begging the question of whether this quantity has always existed among the population, but is only now being reported due to the historic stigmatisation of disability and disabled people. Either way, the shrinking pool of talent in neurotypical individuals and increased awareness of the talents offered by neurodiverse pools can only be a win-win for both employers and these potential workers.

A lot of the changes in the built environment that architects are going to be part of over the next few years were triggered by the acceleration of remote working during the pandemic and the skyrocketing increase in digital technology usage, and these are still to be played out.

Direct Access welcomes these changes, and our team is excited to see the results manifest in our society, as an organisation we have made employing a diverse workforce of disabled and non-disabled people no secret. Our provision of accessibility audits and consultancy also covers a wide range of disabilities, including considerations for sensory impairments. Furthermore, our team has installed sensory/quiet rooms on public transport, ensured the sensory accessibility of huge festivals such as Unboxed, and has innovated to introduce Sensory Rating Cards and Social Narratives which rate events by their sensory accessibility. These are used to physically guide/prepare disabled people for what they might expect from a particular experience, whether that be visiting a hotel, a museum, or a World Expo.

Direct Access also provides an innovative inclusion and awareness training course, which goes beyond the standards, ensuring that organisations that enroll are the most disability-aware and accessible within their field.

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