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Access and accessibility are more important than ever to achieve real inclusion

Alan Jones

It’s essential to tackle growing gaps between the privileged and less so in education, around mentoring and experience, digital provision and where our profession is and should be

In these challenging times access and accessibility loom large. The removal of barriers and the addition of positive strategies are essential to ensuring access to our profession. They are essential to all that is necessary for us to function and deliver the impact we aspire to, and that governments and societies need us to deliver. Equality of opportunity to access our profession is essential. Children must be able to dare to think of being an architect. It is vital to create clear and supported routes through an education that encourages talent, knowledge and skill to flourish into a generous profession – with ongoing ways to be sustained and to grow as an individual. It should be that clear and that fundamental. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has put inequality into focus and is accentuating the gap in opportunity between groups of people. Increasing digital poverty is one major concern. Computing hardware, software and internet access had already become essential requirements for study and the less privileged have been heavily reliant on universities’ physical and digital provision and free broadband access in coffee shops and elsewhere. But the pandemic lock down has kept students away and reliant on their own domestic provision, which for those less well-off often means inconsistent, shared and slow. 

Covid-19 has put inequality into focus and is accentuating the gap in opportunity between groups of people

Those same students benefit much more from contact with their peers and teaching staff, but as schools and their institutions address safety and space standards, the essential facilities and supportive studio culture can easily slip away. At these times those less confident students, and those from less supportive backgrounds, are likely to suffer most. Once resources are reduced and inventive staff show how people can manage to work with even less, those lost resources will likely not be returned. The institutes and regulators of doctors and dentists would surely never permit an erosion of education and the RIBA must ensure there is no gap in attitude between their provision and that for architects. We must make it clear to universities that their policies and resources must be set and maintained, and not eroded, to ensure equality of access and opportunity for the broadest spectrum of students to progress and excel as future architects.

The year out gap between Part 1 and 2 needs consideration too. With many practices still home working, mentoring Part 1 graduates in their initial practice experience needs careful consideration and positive action, to ensure graduates, our future architects, progress equitably and meaningfully. 

There are rumblings of a digital gap in practice. As we press on with our 2030 Climate Challenge, it is critical that all have access to the most appropriate software to consider and demonstrate delivery of high-performance requirements. Collective bargaining and sharing effective working methods seem potential gap fillers. 

The gap between where our profession is and it must be needs careful minding. The RIBA Inclusion by Design Festival at the end of September was about celebrating diverse perspectives and considering what we can do to create an inclusive culture which incorporates as many strands of opinion as possible, to produce the answers and practices that work best in today’s society. I encourage you to catch up with sessions at There were five events taking place with topics of discussion including social mobility; gender and race equality; disability and LGBTQ+ inclusion. Mind the gap? We must close the gap. 


Find out more about the Inclusion By Design Festival


Routes to carbon zero housing

On Monday 5 October at 6.30pm, the RIBA, alongside the Institute for Government, is hosting an online panel session as part of Conservative Party Conference, looking at ‘How to get net zero housing done’. The UK government has stressed that demonstrating leadership on climate change remains more important than ever, and that means getting on track to meet its net zero target. But what is required to achieve this and to ensure the economic recovery from coronavirus supports a transition to net zero? Register to attend as an observer here.