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Designing for everyone: can the principles of dementia-friendly design inform design for neurodiversity in health-care settings?

Sarah Waller (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Simon Chester Evans (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Jennifer Bray (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Teresa Atkinson (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 25 January 2024

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Abstract

Purpose

There is increasing interest in the UK in developing environments that support people who are neurodiverse. This paper aims to report on a project to develop a cognitively supportive environmental assessment tool to improve the design of health centres, where the majority of National Health Service consultations take place, for all users, including people living with dementia and those who are neurodiverse.

Design/methodology/approach

A three-stage process was used: a literature review; the development of a matrix of key design features for people living with dementia, autism and other neurodiverse conditions; and the development of an environmental assessment tool and guide for users, which included easy-to-read versions to maximise service user involvement.

Findings

The overarching concepts of dementia-friendly design can be adapted to create designs for everyone, including those who are neurodiverse.

Research limitations/implications

There is a paucity of research in environmental design for primary care from the patient’s perspective, and, more generally, further research on design for adults with learning disabilities and autism is needed.

Practical implications

The tools are free to download. With adaptation, they have potential applicability across health and care settings.

Originality/value

This project has confirmed that the principles of dementia-friendly design are applicable, with modifications, to a wider group of neurodiverse people. Critically, each person’s response to sensory stimuli is individual rather than determined by their condition.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Assura plc.

This paper presents independent research funded by Assura plc. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funding organisation. The authors would like to acknowledge and thank staff and service users from Assura plc and Dimensions UK for their invaluable contributed to this research through helping to pilot and refine these assessment tools.

Conflict of interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Citation

Waller, S., Evans, S.C., Bray, J. and Atkinson, T. (2024), "Designing for everyone: can the principles of dementia-friendly design inform design for neurodiversity in health-care settings?", Working with Older People, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/WWOP-09-2023-0038

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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