In advance of our March Forum – Designing Size-Inclusive Spaces with AllGo, we caught up with AllGo’s inclusive design consultant, Hannah Silver. Read ahead for a preview of our conversation on March 19th.
How did you and AllGo Founder Rebecca Alexander get connected and decide to start shining light on size-inclusive design?
Rebecca and I met through a mutual friend who noticed that we were having similar conversations about inclusion and comfort (or lack thereof) in certain public spaces, but from complementary personal perspectives. Her LinkedIn really impressed me – a background in business development and founder of a really cool start-up focused on plus-size accessibility. We decided to meet up to talk casually at what is now one of our favorite examples of great size-inclusive design in Portland – Palomar on SE Division. We had a lot to talk about right off the bat just choosing where to sit, since they have so many options: cozy bench seating with moveable tables, bar height stools with backs or no backs, different standard-height seating options (and everything is very beautiful). We realized that my focus on physically accessible design had major overlaps with the needs of the plus-size population. Everyone deserves to seek and find comfort in the built environment as they explore new restaurants, entertainment, stores, workplaces, parks. According to AllGo surveys, 95% of plus-size people (predicted to be half the American population in 2030) experience anxiety about going somewhere new because they are afraid they will not fit. That’s not fair. We can design better.
If a designer wants to make a space inclusive for people of all sizes, where do we start?
We have all only experienced living in our own bodies, so if we have never been plus-size, it’s likely not our default to center plus-size needs in our designs. The reality is that most people designing spaces are not plus-size, which is an issue in itself. In that absence of personal experience, we can grow our empathy and awareness through learning more personal stories. Roxane Gay’s moving autobiography “Hunger” was critical for my understanding of plus-size issues.
And of course, AllGo has a lot of great blog posts and resources on www.canweallgo.com! Here’s a great article about how painful seating can be, and here’s one recommending chairs that work for people of size in office spaces. And my favorite to share – our very new video! Check this out for a great overview of best practices:
What are you most looking forward to about the March Forum at Environments?
Rebecca and I have been talking about size-inclusive design for over a year, and she had been collecting data on how plus-size people experience space for years before that. It’s really exciting to finally share our best practices with designers so they can run with them! The conversation is very belated.
I’m also really looking forward to breaking down this topic with our sharp panelists. We have a great array of folks who will address the conversation from their perspectives ranging from designer to client/user, plus-size to straight-size. Pat Welch of Boly:Welch was one of the first folks who came to AllGo for feedback on their company’s space, Lena Roper of Code Unlimited will ground us in related accessible design strategies, Jen Inaldo brings her history of hospitality FF&E procurement to the table, and Rebecca, of course, holds down the overarching size-inclusivity conversation.
Hope to see lots of folks at Environments for this discussion on March 19!