Inclusion is a Human Right

​Anke Timm’s, recipient of the Lloyd Martin Travelling Scholarship shares her insights towards realising the potential of Human-Centred Design in the Arts and Cultures

Inclusion is a Human Right


Last year Anke hung up her Opera Australian community engagement boots and as the successful recipient of the Lloyd Martin Travelling Scholarship by the Sydney Opera House headed overseas to investigate current trends to enhance community arts engagement and access. Her pilgrimage crossed eight countries and twelve locations, enabling her to gain insight into future trends with regards to inclusion, engagement and empowerment of all people in intergenerational, inter-faith, inter-sectional and international contexts. Returning fuelled with passion and insights Anke reportsto iMPACt some of the big themes and ideas she has collected on the journey. Over to Anke–

New inclusion paradigms will allow us to venture outside of the perceived limitations in accessibility to the Arts and culture, as they disrupt creative expression, cultural experiences, workplace and urban design, and civil society.

The competition for audiences and resources, decreasing public funding and evolving private support are driving the unprecedented ambition to reach every potential viewer, visitor or participant, to move from the status quo into a marketplace of shared equity. The tools to help facilitate this shift are Universal Design and Human-Centred Design.

Universal Design

Universal design (often inclusive design) refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities. This design concept embodies a commitment to including as wide a range of users as possible, redefining what public spaces and products can be. It is a process that “enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation” (Global Universal Design Commission GUDC) and goes beyond mere accessibility. Its aim is to improve the quality of life.

“Equitable use,” in which an environment provides the same means of use for all users – identical whenever possible, equivalent when not – is one of the primary principles of universal design, according to the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. The idea is that a well-designed environment avoids isolating or stigmatising any group of users, or privileging one group over another.

Human-Centred Design

Human centred design is a creative design approach to problem-solving that promotes a process that starts with the people you are designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs. Human-centred design is all about building a deep empathy, generating a multitude of ideas, constructing a variety of prototypes, sharing what was created with the people it was designed for, for testing and constructive feedback, and eventually putting your innovative new solution out into the world. These three phases (Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation) promise to lead to a more inclusive, widely accepted and enjoyed outcome, as the very people you were looking to serve, were kept at the heart of the creation process.

Diversity and Inclusion

Design Thinking and Universal Design principles lead on one hand to customization for individual needs, but on the other to inclusion through specialisation.

Take “Touch Galleries” for example the Art Institute Chicago, the Prado in Madrid and MACBA in Barcelona have designated sensorial spaces to experience the form, texture, scale, scent, sound etc. of exhibits, replicating the artwork’s many characteristics. Encouraging interaction between object and individual, regardless of motivation or impairment, not only lowers barriers to participation but also increases knowledge and learning, augments the sensorial pleasure of the museum experience and encourages human dialogue.

“Diversity and Inclusion” are not just a VALUES, they are also VALUABLE and should be seen as a measure of economic pragmatism. Corporate entities like SAP and HP are driving innovation in the workplace, moving towards a more welcoming, inclusive and accepted model of work culture. They are not doing this only to tick a corporate social responsibility box, but because it is increasing their power of innovation, productivity and creativity. It is not just “good to do”, but “good for business”.

A recent McKinsey study highlighted that return on equity is 53% higher on average for companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity.

Companies who have embraced inclusion find that they are better prepared in addressing the looming retirement crisis, in attracting the best talent, in increasing employee engagement, in fostering innovation and MOST IMPORTANTLY in allowing the business to deliver and connect with a wide range of customers, i.e. increasing income streams and customer satisfaction.

As brands now seek to humanise themselves and their institutions in their marketing campaigns, arts organisations will increasingly have to endorse and embrace the need to individualise their offers to diverse audiences. Person-centred planning is a profound global development and is set to become the worldwide benchmarked best practice. This involves a highly individualised vision and the result will be a kaleidoscopic variety of artistic experiences. Enter virtual realities, participatory inclusive dance performances and internships for seniors – exciting times ahead!

Pictured below: AnkeTimm


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