Motionspot brings function and form to accessible design

The UK-based consultancy helps design accessible spaces that look and feel good.

Like so many innovations, British accessible design company Motionspot was born out of necessity. Co-founder James Taylor was on vacation in 2005 when he suffered a diving accident that broke his neck, resulting in paralysis. “I spent some time in hospital in Portugal and then returned to the UK for another eight months. [of hospitalization]“, he recalls. When he was finally released, the return home was bittersweet. “I found it more like a hospital than a home, and that reinforced how much everything had changed.”

A financial analyst and investment manager before the accident, Taylor developed a keen understanding of how design affected his mental and physical health during recovery. While the objects and devices around him had been designed to be functional, he says, the designers certainly hadn’t considered form. After much discussion on the subject, he and his childhood friend Ed Warner realized they wanted to change that. So, in 2012, Taylor and Warner founded Motionspot with the explicit goal of “changing perceptions around accessible design.”

Motionspot’s first project was for a former soldier and amputee who had been sent back to a house where he couldn’t use the bathroom. Many such residential bathroom makeovers followed, and in 2020 Taylor and Warner spun off that part of the business into a separate company, called Fine & Able, specializing in accessible bathroom design. In addition to design and installation, the new brand offers a range of stylish accessibility products (some designed in-house) such as shower head holders that double as grab bars, sink handles and non-slip porcelain floor tiles.

James Taylor (left) and Ed Warner (right) co-founded Motionspot, an accessible design consultancy, after Taylor was paralyzed in a diving accident. COURTESY OF ANDREI LUCA

Motionspot, on the other hand, consults on accessibility design for the workplace, hospitality, retirement, and healthcare sectors, and its focus has extended beyond the physical accessibility. “We design for a much wider group of people who are affected by their environment in different ways and may have hidden disabilities,” says Becky Storey, the company’s senior inclusive designer. His team recently advised on a major access design job for multinational banking group Barclays, with these considerations in mind.

interior of a bathroom designed by motionspot with a wooden floor and a wall of green tiles
Motionspot’s first project was to remodel a bathroom for an injured veteran. Today, the company does so many bathroom renovations that it created a subsidiary brand, Fine & Able, to develop aesthetic accessibility accessories like shower seats and grab bars. COURTESY © HENRY WOIDE
table and chairs in semi-open workplace
Motionspot has been engaged as an accessible design consultant for the Gensler-designed Barclays office in Glasgow, Scotland, which aims to be among the most inclusive workplaces ever built. In addition to designing for workers and visitors with physical disabilities, special attention was paid to adapting the space to neurodivergent people by reducing visual noise and providing “recalibration spaces” to find a respite from overstimulation. COURTESY OF BARCLAYS

Designed by Gensler, the future Barclays campus in the Scottish city of Glasgow aims to be its most inclusive workplace ever, accommodating more than 5,000 employees and visitors. Motionspot was commissioned to review everything from restrooms and changing rooms to the floor plan, lighting and finishes of all internal areas. The client was particularly interested in making the campus welcoming to neurodivergent people, including people with autism.

“We thought a lot about the sensory aspects of each space – visual, auditory – and how they impact different individuals,” says Storey. One of the biggest challenges presented by modern workspaces in general, she continues, is the open plan where phone conversations, noise from the nearby kitchen and meetings can “impact concentration, productivity and the work of people”. But it’s not the only noise that can have a negative effect on how someone feels at work, she says; there is also visual noise. “Having lots of patterns and large graphics on the walls or geometric shapes on the floor in rugs can have a really big impact on how someone treats that environment,” Storey says. Arguably the most innovative aspect of the Barclays campus in Glasgow will be a series of recalibration spaces that staff can go to when feeling overloaded or sensory anxious. “It’s a designated quiet room where you can close the door and adjust the temperature, lights and music and just decompress and reset before heading back to your office or meeting,” says Warner.

hotel lobby interior with a tiled floor and a brick wall.
hotel room interior with lift way
The two suites at the Brooklyn Hotel in Manchester, England, which feature ceiling hoists are the most booked. When not in use, the lifting mechanism is hidden in a recessed groove, which also serves as a lighting function. COURTESY © HENRY WOIDE

Inclusive design is the way to go, Taylor says, because it’s hugely beneficial to employee well-being but also, more prosaically but no less importantly, to the business and creative success of the employer. “People are starting to realize the untapped resource and potential of people with disabilities who haven’t been able to participate in work as much as they should have,” he says. It’s the same in the world of hospitality, where forward-thinking companies’ inclusive design details are fantastic for opening up travel to people with disabilities, but also have a positive effect on business bottom lines and reputations.

The Brooklyn Hotel in Manchester is an example. Of its 189 rooms, its two suites with ceiling lifts are the most reserved. That’s because they, and 16 other walk-in or wheelchair-accessible rooms, don’t compromise on aesthetics. For this project, Motionspot designed all accessibility features and products in each of the rooms. This included smart moves like overhead lifts that are concealed in a recessed track when not in use and fitted with an LED light strip. This way, if someone who doesn’t need the lifter uses the room, it becomes a light fixture.

Successes like the Brooklyn Hotel have unlocked additional demand for Motionspot’s design services. Currently, the consultancy is working on the design of another hotel for the same hotel group in Leicester. It also plans to open offices in the United States to carry out a growing series of office audit projects for major global clients in North America. Warner says that may sound perverse, but he hopes that in ten years, specialist companies like Motionspot will no longer need to exist. He says with a smile: “Accessible design should be part of everything people do.

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