The coworking industry is one of the most active industries that advocate for an inclusive and diverse environment. Driving a strong campaign against any form of discrimination, the coworking community is also pushing to provide accessibility to everyone. 

Accessibility, the word itself means the quality of being able to be reached or enter. But what do we actually mean when we talk about accessibility? 

In the recent podcast with Ivanne Poussier of CEO of Learning Animal, Co-Founder Ada Coworking and author of Sister in Arms and David O’Coimin, CEO of DO company and Creative Director of Nook Wellness Pods, they talked about how coworking spaces can move the needle towards accessibility and why it is still not a “big thing” — when the industry is pushing forward with a more inclusive and diverse environment. They also delved into neurodiversity and neuro inclusivity within coworking communities and what the progress is thus far.

Nook Pods for Neuroinclusivity

David is known for the invention of Nook Wellness Pods. And who better to tell us all what Nook Pods is for and what it does?

David, in his own words, describes Nook Pods as — “an internationally certified autism resource built around introverts and people on the spectrum. For neurodivergent individuals this sanctuary space in the open workspace environment provides a bit of an antidote to a huge level of disruption and lack of engagement that we’re experiencing in the workspace when we eventually return to it.”

David is one of the people that advocates for neuro inclusivity in the workplace. He believes that neurodiversity should be treated as a normal delightful phenomenon, in which our neurodivergent peers can be their beautiful selves without being discriminated against. Not being inclusive enough, leaves a lot on the table and this is something that can help us overcome the challenges the planet faces now and in the future.

Sisters In Arms and Empowering Women

Ivanne Poussier, the Learning Animal and Ada Coworking CEO and Co-Founder, wrote the book titled: Sisters in Arms that is all about the women within the Coworking community.

She has visited coworking spaces all around Europe that are owned by women. The book tells their story and shows how inclusive and diverse the coworking community is. 

The book is a rare snapshot in history about the blossoming of women focused on coworking spaces in the wake of the ‘Me too’ movement. 

Moving the Needle

Moving forward in the podcast, David dives in on the real focus of their talk and that is how to move the needle towards accessibility in coworking. By bringing together David to represent a private company and Ivanne to represent the European Coworking Assembly, it can be seen as a catalyst for bringing the community together to generate an exciting project to move the needle on accessibility in coworking.

It is also a ‘call out’ to the community to come and assist in mobilising the efforts. Accessibility means — providing the means to make it easier or convenient for everyone, from the point of view of biases in terms of gender, of neuro inclusivity, of race, etc. 

David adds that “we recognise that this cannot be done without reaching out for assistance from people with lived experience to help us co-design. So this is very much a shout out, to help us reach the community for assistance to grow this and build this accessibility, coworking project.”

And who are these people that can help with this coworking project that aims to move the needle towards accessibility? And how are they going to help co-design the said project?

Ivanne encourages people with lived experiences, part of the spectrum, and neurodivergent or someone that cares a lot for them to contact them. That being an introvert, a neurodivergent person, somebody with autism, or any other condition to talk about their experiences and let them know what needs to be done, what is missing and what could really help draft the core of this coworking project. 

Designing with Extreme Requirements

“There are very practical things that you can do to be more inclusive. But if we start thinking about it from first principles, from people’s lived experiences, then I think we’ll be able to craft an interesting challenge that taps into that long term need and helps us to design because personally, I believe that coworking is very much the template for the workplace of the future. And we have a huge opportunity in the coworking community here across Europe to help not just their own community, but to define what work looks like for the next decades,” says David.

His philosophy about designing, is that designs with extremes in mind, benefits the need in the long run. He also said that designing with extreme requirements — using the word ‘extreme’ for lack of a better word, ends with solutions that are more beneficial for the entire community. 

Furthermore, David stresses that it is really important that “this is not only about equity but also about actually having the tools to achieve what we need to achieve in the future.” That we can’t overcome these micro, much less the macro problems without having that inclusive environment.  

David gives some examples of how you can provide accessibility. It can be simple things like signage, how you access information, whether on the coworking organization’s website or in the building. It can be even things like noise in particular, a quiet space in order to be able to escape from totally busy environments, a physical environment for somebody who has ADHD, who expresses that through a lot of physical movement, like wobble and yoga balls.

Infancy of the Industry or Unviable Commercially?

It also came up in the podcast about why accessibility is not widely talked about, what is not working and what should be done for all industries to provide accessibility. 

David thinks it is because — for the coworking industry — it might be the infancy of the industry or anxiety coupled with the fear of offending anyone because you don’t know how to address the issue. He then adds that one needs to tap into that conversation to start the ball rolling.

Ivanne agrees and goes on to say that the lack of constraints and regulations about accessibility in coworking spaces — gives that freedom and that opportunity to innovate, think of the best solutions and has that huge potential for co-design and co-creation. 

Additionally, it is something the coworking community has to become aware of in order to be more inclusive, diverse and accessible in the future after the pandemic. An opportunity to be seized and maybe set the example that every industry can follow. 

Accessibility in the Future

Could not knowing where to begin be the very reason why everyone is apprehensive to talk about providing accessibility, inclusivity and diversity?

David thinks it is the lack of perception of the problem that might be the reason as to why it is hard to start talking about accessibility. It is not seeing and experiencing these things that our neurodivergent peers have. We don’t know that this is something that we need to address.

That once we start enlightning others about the discrimination, intentional or otherwise, which occurs by creating normalized environments which exclude certain people, it won’t take much to peel away, people will start recognizing that even if it is something that does not affect them personally, someone they know is affected by it.

He then further iterates that we are still in the infancy of the movement, and we have a long way to go. However, maybe people just need it to be a bit more bite size to be able to consume it piece by piece and understand because the subject is just too big. 

Ivanne agrees with David and continues to say that: “we have to focus on the how, and on addressing each situation and reflecting on that, because we need to enlarge our horizon about these issues, and a very strong component of problem solving, instead of never-ending conceptual talks about the necessity. Now, there is an emergency, and because we are in a crisis and reflecting about the future,  we have to try to make it come through and prototype again. I think it’s the best way to come up with solutions.”
“Be the change You want to see” — follow the link for the Coworking IDEA Project if you want to be part of the conversation about inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.

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