Inclusive Design webinar sheds light on key design elements.

By Diana Wilkes

The online event ‘Inclusive Design: Creating spaces that work for all learners’ was held in June 2023. The event was a partnership between Learning Environments NZ and Tārai Kura. The event attracted 88 participants from both sides of the Tasman. Architects and educators participated in the event.

The aim of the event was to share good practice in school design so that all ākonga are able to feel connected, safe and engaged in learning. Co-facilitators Di Cavallo (Chair Elect of LENZ) and Shona Smith (Tārai Kura) hosted the event. Panellists shared insights, building further on the ideas shared in the pre-seminar video. Some highlights are considered here. If you missed the event and would like to learn more, you can watch the recording here.

Image by: Courtesy of Tārai Kura and LENZ

Pella Perston and Jane Tan from Western Springs College /Ngā Puna o Waiōrea explained how thoughtful design and furniture choices contributed to a sense of belonging for their special needs learners within the mainstream setting.

Trudi Brocas, Principal of Central Auckland Specialist School pointed out the importance of space, not only for specialised equipment such as wheelchairs and learning technology, but also for the additional people who support inclusive practice.

Researcher and consultant Dr Gabrielle Wall advocated ‘pushing out space to fit the child, rather than bringing the child forward to be included’.  If you would like to learn more about this, please refer to this article by Dr Wall: Design Schools, Planning Inclusive Learning Spaces. 

Architect Bojana Kavrakovska elaborated on what this could look like in spatial terms. Interior design and outdoor learning spaces can help learners with sensory and emotional regulation. For example, good acoustics can help manage peripheral sounds, and thoughtful use of glass can help to reduce distraction or glare.

In the pre-video, Occupational therapist and Ministry of Education specialist Deborah Ngān-Kee talked about the importance of flexibility and the need to close off sensory distractions for learners.

In the breakout sessions architects were keen to hear from the education practitioners about what does and does not work for diverse learners in both specialist and mainstream schools.

In the final moments of the pre-video, Deborah Ngān-kee summed it up thus

“If you think about the needs of diverse learners and design well from the start, it will be great for all – and this is the gold standard.”

You can watch the recording of the online event here.

LENZ & Tārai Kura | Webinar: Inclusive Design Tārai Kura

Thank you to all the panellists, participants and ‘behind the scenes’ LENZ and Tārai Kura team members for making this event so interesting and useful.