A New “Design for All”

Urban and built environments have often ignored marginalized groups, but designers are now adopting a "Design for All" approach.

Key takeaways:

  • Historically, our cities and built environments have frequently neglected marginalized groups, lacking true inclusivity. 
  • Nowadays, there’s a notable shift as designers are embracing a “Design for All” approach, striving to make products and spaces accessible to all.

This shift is evident in the TOCCO collection by pba, seamlessly blending inclusivity with environmental consciousness.

“A woman’s place is at home.”

Dolores Hayden’s essay “What Would a Non-Sexist City Be Like? Speculations on Housing, Urban Design, and Human Work highlights how this idea has always influenced U.S. urban planning, leading to cities designed primarily for men. Male-dominated fields like architecture reinforce these inequalities, impacting transportation and safety, especially for women and those in their care. [1]

For instance, a recent study of pedestrian injuries in the town of Umeå, Sweden, found that 79% of those injured in single-person incidents during winter are women because they are often forced to walk even in harsh conditions. [2]

This reveals a big issue: our cities are anything but inclusive. They fail not just women but also other marginalized groups such as migrants, refugees, the elderly, and people with disabilities. [3]

But this challenge isn’t limited to our streets and parks; it extends to the built environment as well. Picture an office with narrow hallways and high desks, or where signs lack tactile or audio features. Imagine a train station where escalators frequently malfunction or there are no working elevators almost all year round. Chances are, you probably don’t need to use your imagination, as it’s likely you’ve come across at least one of these issues over the past months.  

So, which way should we go from here? 


It’s time to “Design for All” 

Simply installing one wheelchair-accessible restroom in a multi-floor building or adding a “special” swing to a playground isn’t inclusive. 

That is why, designers – increasingly aware of their social role – are shifting towards a concept called “Design for All” (DfA). This approach aims to create products that are both aesthetic and functional, without extra costs or the need for later adjustments. It’s about making items and environments accessible for everyone, regardless of age or ability, changing the narrative around disability positively. Inclusivity goes beyond just physical spaces; it also encompasses equal opportunities for social and community engagement.

“While it’s acknowledged that no design can cater perfectly to every individual, striving for overall inclusion remains the ideal objective” [4], explained Erica Anesi, CEO of pba – an Italian company known worldwide for making door hardware and bathroom accessories – in a recent interview. The company’s TOCCO Collection, known for its innovation, inclusivity, and environmental responsibility, exemplifies this mindset perfectly. 


Pba and the TOCCO Experience 

The TOCCO collection’s door hardware isn’t just functional, it’s a gateway to inclusivity and environmental responsibility

Imagine opening that office door and feeling instantly welcomed, whether you’re neurotypical, hyper-sensitive, or hyposensitive. Their hardware is designed to cater to diverse sensory preferences, making it accessible and inviting for everyone. 

But it doesn’t stop there. They’re taking environmental responsibility to the next level by using ECONYL® nylon for their handles. This innovative material is regenerated from various waste sources, including discarded fishing nets, old carpets, plastic components, and fabric scraps.

This groundbreaking approach earned them the prestigious “Best of NeoCon Gold” award in the Architectural Products category and the “Innovation” award at NeoCon 2024.

So, let’s open doors to a future where inclusivity and environmental responsibility go “handle in handle”, and where all individuals feel right at home. That’s the environment pba is building, and it’s one we’re excited to step into. 


A sneak peek to our next article

Talking about the future, stay tuned for our upcoming article delving into artificial intelligence in fashion


[1] “Cities Are Designed For Men’s Convenience – Not For Women’s Health”, Forbes, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/evaepker/2024/04/02/cities-are-designed-for-mens-conveniencenot-for-womens-health/?sh=64819ac82d76 

[2] “Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men”, Caroline Criado Perez, p. 31.

[3] “How cities are failing to be inclusive – and what they can do about it”, World Economic Forum, available at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/how-global-cities-are-failing-to-be-inclusive/ 

[4] “Open Doors to Inclusivity: A Conversation on Design with pba”, ECONYL® magazine, available at https://www.econyl.com/it/blog/architecture-design/open-doors-to-inclusivity-a-conversation-on-design-with-pba/