Diversity and Design: How We Can Shape a More Inclusive Work Place

On November 21, ergoCentric Seating Systems organized a panel discussion on the importance of office, furniture and technology design in meeting both diversity and inclusivity objectives at their downtown Toronto showroom & store.

Photo courtesy of ergoCentric Seating Systems

Moderated by Jane Sleeth, ergonomist, founder and senior consultant of Optimal Performance Consultants Inc, the panel included Ricardo Wagner, Accessibility Lead, Microsoft, Dr Michael Sonne, Adjunct Professor at Brock University, VP of Innovations & Research, MyAbilities and Marcia O’Connor, President, Asset Management and Facility Management Consulting Group Inc.

In Canada, 6.2 million adults have a disability and 60 per cent of complaints made to the Canadian Human Rights Commission are related to disability issues, according to The Globe and Mail.

“Why should design include everyone?” said Wagner. “As design leaders and practitioners, we must embrace diversity and inclusion because our professional growth depends on it. I truly believe disability is an engine of innovation.”

ErgoCentric states that designers, business leaders, and architects are not leveraging everything that is available to create diversity and inclusion in the ecosystem.

Wagner then spoke about Accommodation vs Adaptation in the design process describing Accommodation as the “after fact” since it is always a cost.

Photo courtesy of ergoCentric Seating Systems

“Nobody wants to raise their hands and say ‘I am sorry but I need accommodation’. But when you approach the design process from the adaptation perspective in the beginning, you embrace humans and unlock all their potentials. That is a game changer,” said Wagner.

Panelist Marcia O’Connor’s speciality lies in integrating work spaces with people who have different needs. Every time she steps into an office building, a condo tower or a shopping mall, her “sensors” are on, from an air quality, noise and accessibility point of view. These are the things she looks for when designing an office space, public space or home space.

One of the projects Dr Michael Sonne discussed was his post doctoral research fellowship for the Ford Motor Company, who was very up front with their production ergonomics in the design process.

Dr Sonne and his team modelled the entire assembly plant in a three-dimensional space, immersing anthropometric parameters such as height, weight, length of arms and legs in different mannequins to fit employees with different physique.

The benefits of Ford using this design concept increased productivity and reduced the cost of injuries and retrofitting.

At the end of the discussion, the panel took several questions from the audience with many members lingering afterwards to continue the conversation.