Thoughts on an inclusive design internship

Carly Sharp Inclusive Design Intern headshot and Motionspot logo graphic

Carly Sharp has just completed a placement with Motionspot while studying a BA in Interior Design at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Here she looks back at her placement and gives her thoughts on why she thinks inclusive design is so important.

What drew you to a career in inclusive design?

A few years back, I held a role as a care support worker and I think that was a pivotal time for me. It made me realise the importance of design in people’s homes and how inclusive design is required in so many people’s lives.

I saw people needing to move from their homes because of accessibility issues. Even more common was people feeling trapped in their home, which had often been made to feel clinical and unlike the place they knew due to their evolving health needs.

Inclusive design is constantly evolving. So many amazing researchers are finding better ways to create built environments with different situations or characteristics in mind. For example, colour theory and how it impacts dementia patients, or how menopause is affecting women at work and how we can best support women to comfortably exist in a workplace environment.

I think that’s one of the best parts about being in inclusive design; an industry that is working with such rich research to improve environments and experiences for all users. I also love that inclusive design is purposeful. I was drawn to the principle that my interior design work isn’t just about aesthetics.

Tell us a bit about your journey to your internship with Motionspot

My road to my internship at Motionspot has had lots of twists and turns. Originally, I studied the foundation years of a chiropractic degree as I have always been fascinated by healthcare and helping people physically live more fulfilled lives. However, after some time reflecting through lockdown, I decided to blend this passion with a more creative one. In 2022, I made a career change and started a BA in Interior Design.

While studying, I found myself constantly challenging my university work to be more accessible. During the course, an Inclusive Design Consultant from Motionspot, Abbie Bailey, gave a lecture on her role and the values and goals of Motionspot within the design industry. When I heard Abbie speak, I felt as if she was explaining exactly what I was trying to pinpoint myself: that accessible design wasn’t really enough - we should be designing to be inclusive for all! 

This led me to reach out to Motionspot and I was fortunate to be able to undertake a placement with them as part of my course. It has created so much opportunity to grow my knowledge and awareness of the importance of inclusive design and how to best use that as a core principle of my design practice. 

You are particularly passionate about design being inclusive for expecting parents and new parents. Can you tell us more about this?

During my first few months of my Interior Design degree, I received the news that I was pregnant with identical twins! Soon after, I found out that the type of pregnancy I had was particularly high risk and realised I was in for a difficult year, physically and mentally.

I was fortunate that I was able to continue my studies, but for the first time I personally experienced the necessity for built environments to be inclusive. I found climbing stairs difficult, I required regular breaks, and toilet facilities always nearby. I had to drive to university, but the parking was a 15 minute walk away from my building, which was often impossible for me. I also found I was affected by so many different high sensory areas – particularly smells - which often made it hard to leave the house.

Since the arrival of my daughters, it is still hard to leave the house some days, but in a very different way. Day trips include planning for sanitary spaces, lactation rooms, even the decision about which shape double pram is going to best work in which environment.

Since my pregnancy, I have become so passionate about the need to improve design for expecting parents and new parents. The challenges they face in the built environment is often the reason they seclude themselves. Inclusive design should just be the rule of thumb and as designers we are at the forefront of the people who can make that change.

What’s your favourite book?

This changes regularly, but I have recently enjoyed ‘The Midnight Library’. Without giving too much away it allows the main character to trial different versions of her life and, for me, highlighted the saying ‘the grass isn’t always greener’. It’s an eye-opener.

A childhood favourite is also ‘The Lady with the Alligator Purse’. It gets read at least weekly at home with my daughters! 

Any other thoughts about your time at Motionspot you’d like to share?

I recently read a quote from Steven Hawkins that said:

“People with disabilities are vulnerable because of the many barriers they face: attitudinal, physical, and financial. Addressing these barriers is within our reach.....But most important, addressing these barriers will unlock the potential of so many people with so much to contribute to the world.”

I feel that sums up so wonderfully what the team at Motionspot do - helping break barriers in built environments and allowing opportunities for so many more people to contribute and enjoy being in the world - I am so excited to be part of this work.

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