By: Janet Roche & Carolyn Robbins
- Hosted By: Janet Roche
- Edited by: Andrew Parrella
- Guest: Ed Warner, Motionspot
- Photo Credit: Motionspot
Inclusive Designers Podcast: Ed Warner of Motionspot joins IDP to explore the need for inclusive design that is both functional and beautiful… not only in the home, but in hotels, the workplace and even for the late Queen Elizabeth’s palace! Ed shares some great examples of how Motionspot is raising the bar beyond the minimum required standards to design environments for people with a range of physical, cognitive, sensory needs— including neurodiversity. We also discuss the ‘Design Crimes’ being made and how to solve them!
Guest: Ed Warner- is co-founder of Motionspot, a global firm based in the UK that focuses on creating accessible spaces in the home, the workplace, and hotels. They also started the company ‘Fine and Able’ to take what they learned at Motionspot and use it to provide the best products for a wide range of conditions and needs.
“I’m a big believer that if you get the environment right for people,
you can really positively impact cognitive and physical health…”
Ed Warner- contact: email@example.com
- Fine & Able
- The Benefits to Business of Embracing Disability- London Sunday Times
- Access All Areas- including the Queens Balmoral Palace- London Sunday Times
- Motionspot Brings Function & Form to Accessible Design-Metropolis Magazine
- Designing Inclusive Workplaces- White paper
- Designing Stylish Accessible Toilet Facilities- White paper
- “Wash and Dry” Bidet Toilets
- Design for the Mind- Inclusive spaces for Neurodivergent Groups
- Designing Inclusive All Gender Toilets
- Hotel Brooklyn, Manchester UK- Accessible facilities
- Barclays- Inclusive Office Design
- Missy’s House, Northamptonshire- Accessible Rental Home
- Matteo Zallio- IDP Episode “Tools for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility”
- Pinar Guvenc, Sour- IDP Episode “The Importance of Co-Design!”
Creating Functional Spaces & Solving Design Crimes!
Guest: Ed Warner, Motionspot
(Music / Open)
Janet: In this series we will be discussing specific examples of design techniques that make a positive difference for people living with certain human conditions.
Carolyn: The more a designer understands the client and or the community the more effective and respectful the design will be.
(Music / Intro)
Janet: Welcome to Inclusive Designers Podcast, I am your host, Janet Roche…
Carolyn: and I am your moderator, Carolyn Robbins…
Janet: Carolyn, we have a great show to share with everyone today,
Carolyn: … and once again, we are going global!
Janet: Yes we are!
Carolyn: We’ve got a smart…
Janet: … and witty!
Carolyn: … and generally wonderful guest from the other side of the so-called pond from us in the US… Ed Warner from Motionspot in the UK.
Janet: Motionspot has it all dialed in. I am excited about the work they are doing. Creating accessible spaces in the home, the workplace, and in hotels. And we even discuss The Queen! —I never thought I would be discussing The Queen and Design on the same podcast, but here we are!
Carolyn: Ed even said the accessible design work for the Queen was a “step change” in the UK, helping to alter the mindset in the industry.
Janet: Uh huh. We also discuss the ‘design crimes’ being made— I love that term — and how to solve them. Ed will share some great examples of how Motionspot is raising the bar beyond the minimum required standards to design environments for people with a range of physical, cognitive, sensory needs— including neurodiversity.
Carolyn: But first, let me tell you a little more about Ed Warner. He co-founded the inclusive design studio Motionspot with his friend James Taylor…
Janet: (chuckles) … and FYI not the American folk superstar.
Carolyn: Nope. (Janet: Nope, laughs). So true. And what started as a personal quest to help James adapt his home after an accident left him paralyzed, led them to start their own company to design spaces that are accessible, inclusive, and beautiful. Motionspot is now an award-winning industry leader in inclusive design. They are based in the UK but work on projects around the globe.
Janet: Including here in the US… it’s so impressive. We are very excited to have Ed on the show and could go on and on about him, but maybe it’s time to let him speak for himself, don’t you think, Carolyn?
Carolyn: Yes I do! And with that, here is our interview with Ed Warner… co-founder of Motionspot, creative visionary and inclusive trailblazer.
(Music / Interview)
Janet: Hello and welcome, Ed Warner from ‘Motionspot’ to Inclusive Designers Podcast. How are you today?
Ed: Hello, Janet. I’m really well thanks. Great to be here.
Janet: And you are calling in today from the UK, correct?
Ed: That’s right. I’m calling in today from my home studio in West London.
Janet: Oh, very nice. Well, welcome. I had found you in the magazine ‘Metropolis’ a little while ago. And I felt like your philosophy and Motionspots’ philosophy really was along the same lines on how I approach my inclusive designing. And I thought it would be interesting to talk to you about how you got started, your philosophy, Motionspots’ philosophy. And just to kind of give our listeners an opportunity to really hear the importance of having maybe even an inclusive bathroom within your own home, even if you’re not in a wheelchair.
Ed: Sure, uh well, Motionspot is an inclusive design business based in the UK but working internationally. I set the business up over 10-years ago now after the personal experience of an old school friend of mine and our co-founder James Taylor, who experienced a spinal cord injury in a diving accident, age 25.
He spent 8-months in a spinal injury unit in the UK and then returned to his home in South London as a wheelchair user to live his life as independently as possible. He returned home to a flat that was a beautiful home but was quite inaccessible to meet his needs. And he had a range of specialists come around and make adaptations for him.
I happened to have dinner with him in 2011. And he said to me over dinner every morning I wake up and I’m reminded of my condition because of the products around me. (Janet: Huh). And I looked at his home, and the home was, sort of resembling more like a clinical care home than his own home, full of so many products that tended to be sort of synonymous with aging and disability (Janet: Right).
And I’m a big believer that if you get the environment right for people, you can really positively impact cognitive and physical health. So I did that stupid thing that friends tend to do and said, oh, I’ll help you find some decent products. They must be out there. (Janet: laughs). And realized there was, there was very little on the market in 2011. So that was where Motionspot started.
Janet: That’s a really terrific story. And you’re so right about the cognitive and physical health of somebody. I talk frequently about my dad. He’s 87, so I’ve been helping him put in beautiful grab bars and ways to approach the bathroom that he has to make it more accessible for him at 87. And that includes for him to feel more comfortable, right? Like that he doesn’t think that he’s going to slip, or he is going to fall, right? So there’s certain things that I’ve helped him with.
But the reason why I bring that up is, is that he actually used the word disabled. Like, well, now I’m disabled. And even just those grab bars, and even though they’re beautiful, I mean, they’re the chrome that he loves, they’ve got designs on them. They look like just handles that you would have on your shower door anyways. But he is reminded of the fact that they are indeed grab bars, right?
But I think what’s interesting, like what you just said, is that if we can keep doing more beautiful work, like the work that you’re doing, I think it helps people to age in place, age in place comfortably.
And not sit there and be reminded that maybe they’re not as spry as they used to be, or maybe they are in some cases truly disabled. So, kudos to you. So, yeah, do you want to add anything with that?
Ed: Absolutely. Because I fully agree with the experience that your father has had. And I mean, that was what prompted us to start our business. It was to see how we could design really beautiful spaces that happened to be accessible and inclusive. And that very much started in the home because that was based on James’ experience. And we quite quickly built out a business that predominantly focused around accessible bathrooms for people in their own homes, because it’s the bathroom where so many disabled people and older people want the greatest independence. (Janet: Right).
It’s also the bathroom where the biggest ‘Design Crimes’ tend to happen. (Janet: ‘Design Crimes’, chuckles). But as our business has grown, we’ve expanded out into homes as well as commercial areas, helping to design really beautiful, inclusive workplaces and hotels, as well as housing, predominantly, housing for older people in retirement.
Janet: Yeah, we can talk all day about the failures of hotels, but I love that word ‘Design Crimes’ and you’re absolutely correct. My dads’ bathroom, I mean, it was done 25-years ago, and he didn’t need anything at that time, but let me just point out that they also didn’t put any places for towels, like a hook for a towel, like to come out of your shower.
I mean, it’s a beautiful bathroom, do not get me wrong. It is top of the line for where it was at that point, but it is definitely… I was so floored when I was like, well, where do you put your towels? He’s like, well, they’re over there by the toilet. But the shower is over on the other side of the room! So you’re absolutely, ‘Design Crimes’, I’m going to steal that from you.
Ed: Please do. Please do. Please, please use it. I mean, that experience is, I’m nodding because we come across that all the time. The default position around design for disability is designed for function and whoever comes into a home will design for function by putting some grab bars up and maybe putting in a roll-in shower floor, for example. But actually, designing for function doesn’t design for functionality. (Janet: Right).
So your point about missing robe hooks or towel radiators that keep the room warm, but actually potentially scald exposed skin. You know, the functionality of these bathrooms and other spaces needs thought.
And there’s got to be a much greater understanding that we shouldn’t just design for function. We should design for aesthetics as well as function. And you know, our big belief is, our design principles are shaped by the people who are ultimately using these spaces.
So, you know, we’ve got a brilliant, brilliant design team. Many of whom have got the lived experience of disability themselves, but actually, we really believe in evidence-based design thinking. (Janet: Right). So for us, we run so many focus groups with people with the lived experience of disability, or whatever the protected characteristic is, to get their feedback around what works and what doesn’t work within spaces.
And that’s what’s really exciting about our business. And also where the industry is moving. We are learning all the time as to how to make things better. The more we do and the more we speak to people.
Janet: Yeah. What you’re saying to me is always very exciting. Again, I recognized really early when I was reading that article that our philosophy is really lined up, and you’re absolutely right. Letting our listeners know that using evidence-based design and that this is the way that we should be designing anyways, and it should just become normalized. So, we’ll have all that information on our website, inclusive designers.com.
But I just want to back up just a little bit– how did you get started? So you said 10-years ago, you know, this wasn’t something that you came out of school with your friend James Taylor going, you know, like let’s figure this out, or that you had design background? I’m, I’m not quite sure, can you talk to me a little bit about your journey?
Ed: Yeah, I’m not a designer by training. So my background is in sales and marketing roles for a number of big food and drinks manufacturers. So I had good experience of development of product. And also good experience of understanding customer need, and fitting the product to customer need, and managing supply chain to get those products in front of customers.
But I’ve always been really passionate about design in my personal life. I’m fascinated by the impact that design has on people. And it was the insight that James gave me that really kind of opened my eyes to think actually, “Why? Why is this happening for him?”
And it’s not just him, that this is happening to… there are millions of people who are experiencing some form of challenge within spaces, whether that be in the home or outside of the home. And those individuals don’t want to be seen any differently. They don’t want to be treated any differently. They don’t want different options. They just want a range of designs and products that look great, but also work for them. So that was how I got into it.
And in the very first stages of building the business plan, it was all about, the usual thing with business plans, exploring the market, you know, how big is the market? (Janet: Right). And it became very clear, very quickly that this is a massive (Janet: Massive) market we’re talking about (Janet: It’s huge, laughs), and those numbers keep increasing. And I’m sure you’ve had a number of guests on your podcast talk already about the size of the market. (Janet: Yeah).
I then looked at the challenges that people were facing in that market. I went to speak to quite a range of manufacturers in this space in the UK, back in 2011. And a number of them said, “you are mad.” No one wants to pay for good design because these manufacturers were free issuing equipment through the National Health Service that does put in some adaptations free of charge to residents in the UK, but also housing associations that were providing these adaptations at very low cost. And the manufacturers themselves didn’t have to innovate to sell those products. (Janet: Right).
And I went to some trade shows in the UK, and they were just all really depressing trade shows. (Janet: Right). You’d walk in and it would be depressing equipment in, you know, finishes of light blue or light gray, and it just felt like I was in a hospital rather than in, in somebody’s home. (Janet: laughs).
And I got on a plane, and I went to Scandinavia and went to some trade shows in Scandinavia. And I don’t know if you’ve traveled to Scandinavia in terms of your work in design,
Janet: Not in terms of my work, because again, it’s relatively new for me. but I was getting ready to go to Scandinavia because one of places that they also have, they have like villages for people with dementia. That fascinates me. They have it all dialed in. I mean, they really do.
Ed: They do. And what they think about, Scandinavians, and this is a broad generalization, but is mostly true, is (Janet: Sure), is they think about design from the outset. And they think about design from a universal perspective and actually this is just good design for everyone. This isn’t an accessible space versus a non-accessible space. This is just about designing great spaces that look right for everyone. (Janet: Right).
So it was that again, inspired me that it could happen (Janet: Yeah), and came back to the UK, and initially in 2012, put a very small team of people together that included an interior designer, an occupational therapist who brought the skillset as to what someone required, if they had a specific condition, (Janet: Brilliant), and a really good builder, contractor, (Janet: Yup), and we started fitting out really beautiful, accessible bathrooms with that small team.
And that has since grown to, you know, we’re a team of 24, as I said, based out of a London design studio, but doing work across UK and internationally. So that’s how we started.
Janet: Yeah. Your story is quite fascinating that you also, I mean, you’re not just talking the talk, right? You’re also walking the walk. You have people who are on your staff who have different types of abilities. And so you get a very unique perspective with that as well, right?
Ed: Yeah. It’s really important to us from the outset is to get different perspectives into the business and help shaping the design principles and products. And that will continue as we grow. And we are really keen to involve greater numbers of people, whether they’re actually working in our business, or collaborating with us to give feedback to look at how we can further kind of improve our design principles and ultimately the design of our client.
Janet: Right. Yeah. We just did a podcast with Sour, and we talk about the idea of co-design and how important that process is, especially within this particular field. Right? So it’s important for us to keep that open. And I really applaud you for having had all the boxes checked. You know, you had the designer, the occupational therapist, you had the contractor. And so putting that team together I think has really helped to push your success.
So switching gears a little bit, so let’s talk a little bit about what the work is you are doing in the United States. I know you’re very excited about it. And the products that you’re providing for us. And I don’t want to sound ignorant here because I know the answer, but I want you to answer it. Like, is there any difference between the products that you have to have in the UK versus the products that you would have in the United States, you want to talk about that?
Ed: It’s a good question. There are some differences in product selection in those two markets. Most notably because of the ADA standards that you have in the states have some similarities with the standards in the UK and Europe, but there are some notable differences.
The work that we’ve been doing to date in the US is very much focused around design of inclusive workplaces. So as you know the ADA standards are very clear in the US. They’re very, you know, rigorous in the way that they’re both implemented and there are a number of surveyors that will go out and give reports on how accessible a building is versus ADA standard.
The challenge with ADA standards— and it’s the same with our building code in the UK and it’s the same with standards globally— is those codes are very much focused around a baseline standard which doesn’t necessarily deliver access for everyone. Those baseline standards are predominantly focused around design for physical disability, in particular wheelchair users. But in reality, only 8-percent of disabled people are wheelchair users. (Janet: Right).
So, the work we’ve been doing in the US is to help clients with a number of workplaces across the country understand how they can raise the bar beyond those minimum ADA standards, and design environments to suit people with a range of physical, cognitive, sensory needs— including neurodiversity, which is a big thing we’re being asked to design for at the moment.
But as our company has grown, we’ve been asked to design inclusively outside just disability. So we’re asked to design for faith and ethnic background and culture and gender. So we’ve been putting inclusive design standards in place with clients. And then evaluating their workplaces against those standards to present them a set of recommendations as to how they can improve those spaces. And then working through product solutions with them to make sure the space isn’t designed as a functional secondary space but looks and feels like the rest of the building.
And the main difference with ADA standards and Part M, which is our standard in the UK, is actually primarily focused around toilets, around washrooms. So the layout of an ADA bathroom is different to the layout of an accessible toilet in the UK. And the type of products that are used are slightly different, and the position of grab bars is slightly different. So, you know, our design team need to have knowledge of ADA Standard as well as Part M to be able to supply the products that we’re able to in the US.
Janet: Yeah, I think that that’s really kind of interesting. We’re going to try to do a global overview of the ADA. And who’s doing what, where, what’s really working, what’s not. And we hope you can come back. We’re not finished with you right now, but I just wanted to let you know that we would like to have you back at some other point in time.
Ed: We’d love to support that and actually just connected to that, I know you’ve had a recent podcast with Dr. Matteo Zallio. (Janet: Yes!) based out of Cambridge University. So we’ve done a lot of work with Matteo. I know Matteo very well. He’s done some amazing work with us providing research on different codes across the world and has, you know, had a really important role in shaping the global project I’ve just been talking about.
Janet: Well, we have him lined up. Just so we are clear, we have him, and I think maybe a couple of people in the Asian arena. So we’re going to do a… I’d like to say it’s an extravaganza, but it’s just another podcast. So,
Ed: Autumn extravaganza!
Janet: … extravaganza, but it will be our part to talk about it.
Ed: Yeah. I’m on for that, yeah.
Janet: So, but anyways, but you bring up a couple of good points, again for listeners that just don’t really know. This is not just for people in wheelchairs. Right? It’s two parts. In your discussion around, you know, it’s usually bathrooms, right? Like this is the highlight of the business, right? But you know, it’s around also religion, and then also families, and gender issues, and so on and so forth. So, however you would like to break it down, you know, discuss whatever you would like to discuss first.
Ed: Sure, accessibility in inclusive design so often starts with bathrooms and washrooms. (Janet: Yes). Because that’s what people see, and that’s where some of the biggest problems happen within a building.
Janet: Right, design crimes. (laughs).
Ed: The design crimes happen. But actually, as clients sort of understand more about the principles of inclusive design, they realize that getting a wheelchair accessible toilet or bathroom located in a space is a sort of foundation stage for what they need to be thinking about. And the work that our team does is getting them to think about someone’s journey through a building.
And actually, we start often with someone’s journey from home to that building because an employer has a responsibility to get their staff from their place of home into their place of work in a safe way. (Janet: Right).
And then navigating through that space, what are all of the touchpoints that are important to think about from a design point of view. And that could be everything from how’s your entrance designed, how easy is it to define where your entrance is within a building.
So many of these new office blocks are heavily glazed structures, and (Janet: Oh, yeah), if you have a visual impairment (Janet: A visual impairment), or a cognitive impairment (Janet: Mm-hmm), you can’t determine where the main entrance is. (Janet: Yeah). Having some form of foyer area to enable people to compose from their transition from outside into a building is really important. (Janet: Right).
Making sure the seating area is right, the height of that seating, so if someone has arthritic hips or knees, or struggles with their core strength, that they have suitable seating for them. That the experience on the reception desk is right. There’s a hearing loop behind reception. You know, there are so many elements that go into the design of the building.
In answer to your question about how things are progressing beyond bathrooms into other protected characteristics outside of disability, we are getting involved in elements like design of faith rooms that, you know, at the moment, so many of our clients we speak to in the early stages of projects and they say, “oh well, we just, we reallocate a meeting room if someone from a different faith needs to pray in that space. And, you know, that meeting room wasn’t designed as a prayer room. (Janet: No). It’s not private enough. It can’t be locked. You know, there’s no ablution facilities for foot washing potentially before prayer.
So these are all sort of considerations that we help clients think about, as well as design of kitchenettes. So, you know, how are you separating halal food preparation from kosher food preparation. (Janet: Right, yeah). How are you celebrating different religious events like Ramadan to be able to screen off eating areas if you need to?
And so many of our conversations at the moment, and I know this has come up in a podcast before with you, is around design of all gender bathrooms and toilets (Janet: Right), and what the provision of those should be.
So, it’s kind of fascinating. Our business, as Motionspot started, designing really beautiful, accessible bathrooms and that so often is the first point of contact with the client (Janet: Sure). But then the penny drops and there’s such a greater understanding that actually the bathroom is just the starting point of it.
Janet: Right. Yeah. You are 100-percent correct. So it was funny, I just had a conversation with somebody the other day and it was around that. And it was a women in leadership type of programming and I said, “you know, like even office spaces are not gender neutral and don’t have special provisions for females.”
Meaning, it’s like, well, we have the same amount of stalls for men as we do for women. Like, well, all right, we know just by walking by the bathroom, there’s a long line of women out the hallway. Like, so maybe just maybe, we don’t have enough bathrooms. And so the women on this call were like, “that’s right”. And then I said, but even like in the office spaces, they’re also really geared towards men. Do you have any insights with some of this? I would be interested to hear about that.
Ed: We’ve done quite a lot of research on this area and it’s an area, particularly when it comes to gender in the workplace, that we’re planning to do a lot more research on this year. So you are right, currently provision of bathrooms and toilets in the majority of workplaces globally have too few facilities for the female workforce. (Janet: Right). And our big kind of recommendation whenever we talk about provision of toilets within a space is to ensure that there is adequate choice for everybody. (Janet: Correct).
So, you know, we’re working with a client at the moment who’s just designed a big 500-thousand square foot campus in Scotland. And they were saying, “how many female toilets do we need to male toilets, and then do we move everything to all gender and actually don’t have any female toilets and any male toilets?”
And we did a lot of research with their staff, but also using our own evidence that suggested moving all toilets to all gender is not the right approach. (Janet: Really). And I must clarify that when I talk about toilets to all gender, these are what’s called “super loos”. So you get the toilet, the basin, all in one cubicle. This isn’t a run of toilets that then has wash basins within the same space. So, they’re enclosed private spaces (Janet: Right).
But all the research has shown you shouldn’t turn everything to all gender. You should have a really suitable provision of female only toilets, (Janet: Right). You should have a good provision of all gender toilets.
You should have some male only toilets, but in terms of percentages, actually the percentage of male toilets should and could be less than all gender. And then you need totally separate wheelchair accessible toilets. (Janet: Right).
It is a fascinating kind of topic (Janet: Yeah), that I would say is still fairly early in terms of the research. But what is coming out and is a trend for us this year that we’re seeing is actually designed for the menopause within workplaces, (Janet: Really!). Yeah, this is something we’re seeing as a major trend for the UK in particular.
And we’ve got some, some really interesting research that’s going to be kicking off this year that begins to look at how you can design inclusive spaces for staff and visitors who are experiencing either perimenopause or the menopause.
Janet: I just put an exclamation point after menopause on my notes. (laughs). I would love to see what work you’re doing around that. As somebody who is of an older age, this fascinates me. And you know, and it was just even saw the other day, it was a commercial talking about menopause, and it was a public service announcement. And I was so floored by that. Well I guess it is something to talk about and they’re right. And holy moly. So, yeah, any kind of information you could push out to our listeners we’ll have all that information on our inclusive designers podcast webpage, again, inclusivedesigners.com.
So let’s switch gears a little bit. I noticed also when I was doing my research and I found that this might be kind of fun to talk a little bit about, you were quoted in the Times, is it the London Times, Is that correct?
Ed: …the Sunday Times, yes.
Janet: Yes. London Times, Sunday Style section, right, exactly. (Ed: Thank you). And it was prior to the Queen dying. And so she was about what, 95, 96 at that time. And they were talking about how they have implemented some of this type of work, some of the accessibility for her in some of the palaces. Some of the palaces or just Balmoral. I wasn’t too sure.
But I found this fascinating, and I want to label this part of the segment: ‘If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for you.’ Do you want to talk a little bit about that article? And, we will also have that article up for our listeners to look at. It’s just kind of fun if nothing else.
Ed: That would be great, thank you.
Janet: Yeah. What was your takeaway from that?
Ed: Yeah. Thank you for picking up on the article. We were actually delighted to have been featured in that particular article. And we’re moving into a new design studio in March of this year, and I’ve just had it framed. (Janet: laughs). It’s going ‘pride of place’ in our office, (Janet: As well it should, yeah).
Yeah. “A Design That’s Fit for A Queen.” It was really interesting when that article came out because as you know, the queen is, uh, was, held in such high regard, not only in the UK but internationally (Janet: Correct). And people were aware of her age and could quite clearly see, you know, how her age was beginning to impact what she was able to do in terms of numbers of public engagements, (Janet: Right).
And when that article came out, I think there was a realization that, even the Queen at 96 needs some additional support in the home. And of course, she doesn’t want her home looking and feeling like a hospital. (Janet: Neither, right). She wants it to be appropriate to suit her home as well as her needs.
And for us, it was a step change in thinking in the UK that actually just got people asking the question of, you know, “this can happen, and this can happen and still look beautiful.”
So many people in the UK, and I’m sure it’s the same in the US, as they get older, they put off the decision to either move into a home that’s suitable for them or adapt their home because they’re fearful (Janet: Correct, yeah), to, we’ve discussed it already, that it will look disabled…
Janet: it’s going to look old. It’s going to look like institutional, right? Granny bars…
Ed: And they will feel disabled. (Janet: Yeah). And you know, that article gave kind of further reinforcement really that, you know, people can and should be thinking about this ideally as early as possible in life. (Janet: Correct).
And, you know, one of our biggest frustrations is when someone in their late 80s approaches us and says, I urgently need this adaptation in the home. And they may have had a condition that they would’ve had leading up to it for many years, but actually, they don’t adapt the home until at a point of crisis. (Janet: Crisis, right). And by the time of crisis, it’s often too, too late. (Janet: Yeah).
So we are trying to change the thinking that, you know, we should all be living in futureproof, adaptable, beautiful homes like the Scandinavians. And if as designers we can be encouraging and inspiring the industry around what to do, then we can all be, ultimately, living in homes that hopefully will be suitable for us as we get older.
Janet: Right. Yeah. And it’s really talking about living in your forever home at that point. And look, there’s definitely going to be certain needs that will need to be addressed by people who have special abilities and trained to take care of these things.
And it also can be something that it’s not a permanent situation or an aging situation where, like you said, it’s just only going to get more into some sort of crisis. I mean, it could just be something that is a temporary situation.
I mean, I know that when I broke my leg, I had just redone my own bathroom and my own shower and I had the handheld, I had a bench in there. I had the ability to get over the threshold and now I wish I had put the threshold down just a little bit more now that I know better.
But at least I had the ability to have some sort of independence and I just could put on this little plastic, you know, thing over the boot and then be able to get in and out of the shower by myself.
Ed: That concept of flexibility and temporary support is something we see a lot of. And actually one of our most popular products in the bathroom at the moment is a set of removable grab rails and shower seats. So you can fit grab rails and shower seats to a bathroom wall.
And you can literally, without any tools, you can unscrew those grab bar and shower seat when you don’t need it and fit a cover plate over the fixing. And all you see on the wall is this subtle stainless-steel plate. (Janet: Right). And you know, there are manufacturers at the moment working on what to do with that plate. You could turn that into a soap dish or a towel rail or a holder.
But it’s that concept of flexibility and adaptability that is so important in bathrooms (Janet: Correct), you know, we talk about it as dual design features. (Janet: Nice). So I think you mentioned it right at the start of this conversation when you were talking about your father’s bathroom. It’s the little features that if you didn’t need them, you wouldn’t even know were there. (Janet: Right).
So, you know, another example of it is sort of some integrated hand grips within a wash basin, and it helps a wheelchair user pull underneath the wash basin. (Janet: Yeah). But you can also hang hand towels off those hand grips. (Janet: Yeah). It’s a dual design feature that works for everyone.
Janet: Yeah, it’s absolutely true. Well, I’m kind of mindful of your time Ed.
Ed: Ha, thanks.
Janet: So is there anything else that you would like to add at this point for our listeners? Is there any points that we haven’t touched on that you would like to emphasize? Anything that you really want these listeners to understand about what it is that you and Motionspot do and/or a philosophy, or something? I just want to make sure we get everything out on the table today.
Ed: Thanks, Janet. Just two things I’d like to bring to listeners’ attention. And the first one is, the potential to design really beautiful accessible hotel accommodation. So, certainly in the UK, accessible hotel accommodation for so long has been really poorly provided.
Janet: It’s been horrific.
Ed: And the rooms that have been supplied, have looked like those clinical institutional rooms. And if you speak to any finance director of any hotel, they’ll tell you the least popular rooms are their accessible rooms. Because if someone is put in that room, the first thing they do is go to reception and say, I want to be moved from this room to another.
And we’ve seen a real step change in the UK but also through international hotel operators who are committing to designing 10-percent of their rooms to be fully accessible. So we’ve been working with hotel operators to help them understand how they can design really beautiful bedrooms and bathrooms to be accessible. But also how can they design other features in the hotel, whether that be reception experience, eating, drinking, (Janet: Right), and general sort of access throughout the building.
And we’ll send you some examples of some case studies on this because there’s some great examples of really clever, integrated, track hoist in ceilings, (Janet: Yeah), and really kind of beautiful accessible bathrooms that we’d love to send you. And there’s some really interesting return on investment statistics that are coming out.
Janet: That’d be great.
Ed: So, for example, there’s a hotel in Manchester called Hotel Brooklyn (Janet chuckles- *because she is from Brooklyn NY), that installed 18 accessible bedrooms and bathrooms.
And, you know, they’ve been doing some return-on-investment work that says those accessible rooms have generated them an additional 50-thousand pounds, close to, probably now with exchange rates, 65-thousand US dollars of revenue because those accessible rooms are so popular and disabled guests are actively booking conference rooms.
They put on a wedding for a bride with a disability this year. So, there is all of this sort of hidden income that comes in just from businesses really embracing accessibility in the right way. So, think about accessible hospitality is the recommendation.
And the other area I wanted to touch on is just the advance of accessible technology and the impact that technology is having around inclusive design. And we’re seeing some brilliant products come to market at the moment that will keep people safer in their homes for longer.
And whether that be technology around monitoring health and well being to ‘wash-and-dry’ toilets. We’re seeing a lot of ‘wash-and-dry’ toilets for care bathrooms at the moment. And Japanese style toilets that take away what is a very personal care task and enable people to live independently in their homes for longer.
We’re looking at some mirror technology at the moment that if someone had sort of later stage dementia and they weren’t able to recognize their own reflection in the mirror, at the press of a button, you can transform your mirror into a picture frame or an image of something that’s really special to that individual. So there’s some really interesting things happening with technology.
The one recommendation I’d make is if you’re going down the root of integrating technology, think about how all this tech can communicate with each other, and have the right desired output, rather than being standalone systems that operate independently of each other.
Janet: Talking about the advancement in technology, I’m a big fan of it, but I also know that technology doesn’t always work. So how do you get around that? As a designer, I think there should always be like a backup system. And is that your thoughts as well?
Ed: It is, yeah. Technology in our view is a really important overlay that can enable people to live well and independently, but you could have the best technology and you could put it in a really inaccessible space, and you’re going to have a really inaccessible experience. The technology on its own will not deliver the accessibility and inclusion in the space. (Janet: Right).
So first and foremost, you’ve got to think about how you get the layout of your space, right? What products go in there that will enable that space to meet your needs, but also be adaptable to suit your needs in the future. And then overlay technology that may further enhance your experience at home or in a commercial space. That’s how we see the role of technology being played. (Janet: Yeah). Because importantly, if the technology then fails, you’ve got a space and physical products that will work for you.
Janet: Right. Yeah, exactly. And I found that mirror to be interesting. So one of the things I’ve seen so far is the, you know, putting a curtain over the mirror. I actually didn’t know that. My mom had suffered from dementia, and she didn’t ever get frightened by seeing her face. So I know that this wasn’t necessarily a problem for her, but I know it’s a natural phenomenon.
And so like, I’ve seen the curtains, but I think that that’s fascinating to like, be able to press a button and then maybe a picture of like a baby or a cute kitten or a puppy can come up, and help to lower those stress levels, especially if they’re like sundowning or something of that nature. I’m going to check that out. Yeah.
Ed: Exactly (Janet: Yeah). Exactly that. And, you know, we are big believers in putting designs and products into homes that everyone will want. So if you had an elderly parent that’s, you know, passed away and the house came up for sale, we want to make sure that whoever is buying that house, who may be a younger individual, looks at that space and goes, “wow, that’s a really contemporary bathroom or kitchen that, you know, I don’t need to come in and spend a load of money stripping out.” (Janet: Right). And putting my own design into. (Janet: Yup).
And a lot of the work we do is also connected to sustainability and looking at reducing environmental impact. (Janet: Brilliant). And if you can design inclusively and design beautiful designs from the outset, (Janet: Right), you don’t need to go and fit another bathroom or kitchen or whatever the design is in a home if it works. (Janet: Right).
Then I think if I was to move into a house with a bathroom with a mirror that had a curtain over it, the first thing I’d do is remove the curtain. But if there was a smart mirror there that had the capability for me to put something else on it. (Janet: Yeah), or if I wanted a bath and I wanted music to come out of that mirror, there is the capability for it to be able to do that. And that’s what we’re trying to promote is to think inclusively from the outset so it can appeal to everyone.
Janet: And I would add that there are some days nowadays that I would just assume look at a kitten in the mirror as opposed to my own face. (Ed laughs). But that’s just…
Ed: … Wouldn’t we all Janet, wouldn’t we all.
Janet: It’s just, you know. (Ed laughs). Yeah, Carolyn’s like, I’m just going to cut that part out, and I’m like, all right. (Ed laughs). But I think one of the things that designers really have to know is that, you know, people get reluctant to do it because they’re afraid that it will look like a granny flat, right? It will look like a, we call them granny bars here and institutional, right? And so how do you kind of get around that?
And I think also, when you’re talking about, like, more of these places like hotels, that there’s a real financial advantage that they can take, well, take advantage of. That they can go in and implement these things and then, the revenue will follow.
And I would argue, kind of going back again to the residential, is that if you can go and provide a beautiful space, I don’t think anybody’s going to sit there and go, “oh, look at all these grab bars.” If it just comes with the design seamlessly, nobody would go and sit there and go, “oh, you know, this is not what I was hoping for” and then, so nobody’s going to lose any value off of their homes.
Ed: Absolutely. (Janet: Right). Yeah. And the only way of changing that mindset is through use of really inspirational content, whether that be through photography, lifestyle photography, or video, is to show what is possible by designing either a really beautiful, accessible home or accessible hotel or accessible workplace to get designers acknowledging that it is possible. (Janet: Right).
And designers, by their very nature are super creative people (Janet: Right). And what unfortunately happens is they’re constrained by regulations like ADA and other accessible building codes across the world. (Janet: chuckles). And they panic and they say, “if I start thinking outside the box, I could get sued here if I get it wrong. (Janet: Right).
And what we encourage is: yes, the fundamentals of ADA have to be in place, but you as designers can and should be super creative in your thinking, (Janet: Thank you!) and let’s design right.
Janet: Yes! Right, I got excited about that because we have talked multiple times, you know on ‘Inclusive Designers Podcast’ about just that. The fact that designers have come to me and have asked me essentially how to get around the ADA. Like, how do I get around this? It’s like an obstacle and it shouldn’t be an obstacle. You’re absolutely right, it should be the challenge. And I tell them that all the time, it’s the challenge. You’re the designer… you figure it out.
Ed: Yeah, totally agree. And to your point about the financial advantage, whether you are a designer designing someone’s home, whether it is your home, yourself that you are designing, or you’re a client that’s looking at the design of a commercial space, whatever you spend on inclusive design during the design stage for both the principles as well as the product, will pay back so many times over.
We worked with a workplace client in the UK that the head of capital projects turned around to me the other day, and she said, “every one pound I spent on inclusive design saved me a hundred pounds in retrofits at a later stage.” (Janet: Interesting). So that’s hundred-times benefit of getting it right from the outset. (Janet: Yeah). And that would equate in dollar terms. This is a global opportunity to get it right from the outset. And, you know, unfortunately, it’s the way the world works. We need to demonstrate the financial benefit. (Janet: Bingo).
But actually there are more and more case studies coming out that if you think about it at the right stage, this not only will create really beautiful, accessible spaces, but it will save you money in the long run. (Janet: The long run). And in fact, for some businesses it will make you money (Janet: Make you money), by doing it.
Janet: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, that’s terrific.
Ed: So, hospitality and technology, and I suppose closing message for me is really sort of reinforcing what we’ve been talking about and, you know, it is so possible with the right level of design thought at the right stage of a project to deliver really kind of beautiful, accessible, and inclusive spaces for everybody that don’t necessarily have the cost anymore if they’re thought about at the right stage.
And you know, I’m delighted to have been invited onto your podcast today. And well done for growing the following because we need more of these types of podcasts, and information that’s free to access for everybody to help inspire and get people thinking differently.
Janet: Well, thank you Ed Warner. I appreciate the comments. Thank you so much for coming on our show today. Thank you so much for doing what you do and for all the work that you’re doing. I think it’s fabulous and I’ll have you and Matteo on in maybe in a couple of months or so.
Ed: We’d love to come back.
Janet: Thank you again for coming to Inclusive Designers. We’ll have all of our information on inclusive-designers-dot-com.
Janet: Please check us out and please check out Ed Warner at Motionspot.
Janet: Well, thank you so much, Ed.
Janet: I mean this was really fantastic.
Ed: Great to speak to you both.
Janet: Yeah, thank you.
(Music / Outro)
Janet: I really enjoyed talking to Ed… his comments and philosophy are right in-line with our ideas here at Inclusive Designers Podcast. And I am really inspired by the work that Motionspot is doing. They understand the importance of evidence-based design thinking. And believe in transforming spaces— and lives— through beautifully designed, inclusive environments that provide independence… in the home, workplace, hotel, and well, everywhere.
Carolyn: And in their latest research, they’re exploring cutting-edge designs and products for the workplace and other venues, to make spaces equitable for people of different faiths and genders.
Janet: And don’t forget menopause! I am so curious to hear their findings on that!
Carolyn: Right? And in terms of accessible technology, there are some great advances being made —like that mirror that can change to a picture— who wouldn’t want that?
Janet: I know I do… but as Ed agreed, technology should be an overlay component of good design. If not, you can put the best technology in a really inaccessible space, and you’re going to end up with an inaccessible experience.
Carolyn: Which leads us to his use of the term ‘design crimes’ to describe the examples of bad design, or places where the ‘function doesn’t match functionality’.
Janet: Yup, we’ve all seen it, especially in bathrooms. Hotel design for accessibility is so poor. Maybe we should think about doing that as another episode.
Carolyn: So true, (Janet: um hmm). And according to Ed, case studies are proving that if you design beautiful, accessible, and inclusive spaces right from the outset, it will save you money in the long run by not having to adapt it later.
Janet: Yes, I am so pleased that Ed brought that up. And how about that Hotel Brooklyn in England, (shout out to Brooklyn!), with the financial advantages of having accessible rooms! Listen up people!
Carolyn: You are the queen of shout outs to Brooklyn (Janet: laughs, Yup). And speaking of queens… Ed discussed that even Queen Elizabeth required accessible updates in her castle as she was aging. It set a great example that these changes can happen and be beautiful. And you don’t have to be a Royal to realize that this can help people who want to age-in-place comfortably.
Janet: Exactly…. and we will share the link for that article, ‘Design That’s Fit for a Queen’… plus how to contact Ed and the links to the incredible work he and his team at Motionspot are doing. And of course, many of the other things that were mentioned along the way during this discussion… all on our website at inclusive-designers-dot-com.
Carolyn: That’s: inclusive-designers-dot-com…
Janet: A big thank you to Ed. And ‘thanks’ to all of you as well for listening.
Carolyn: Along with all the regular places you get your podcasts, you can also find us on YouTube as, you guessed it again, Inclusive Designers Podcast. And of course, if you like what you hear, feel free to go to our website and hit that Patreon Button, or the link to our GoFundMe Page.
Janet: And just as a reminder, drop us a note if you have any questions, or topics you’d like us to cover in upcoming shows! As our motto says: ’Stay Well…and Stay Well Informed’ As always, thank you for stopping by. We’ll see you next time.
Carolyn: Yes, thanks again.