Now I know what you’re thinking… space, the final frontier, an inclusive environment… really? That’s going a bit boldly isn’t it you scruffy looking Nerfherder?
Well yes and no.
With the advent of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s Space X the idea that space is just for fine Shakespearean actors, the Death Star and super fit military people may well be over. But you only have to take a quick google of the space craft themselves, as well as the focus on the technology, to start thinking that there are going to be some major limitations to people getting into space. And that’s just the near future vision.
What about if the only way of surviving climate change is to leave our planet entirely? The security person at the door of the craft begins to draw the door closed and says… ‘Sorry folks, we can only save those who can get in. And actually fit in the narrow seat too. The designer was busy making it look cool like the Millennium Falcon and forgot to think about the user.’
I don’t think this scenario is science fiction.
Hopefully, the part about the reasons for leaving but imagine if space travel or even just hypersonic atmospheric journeys become our new standard. How do we deliver all the changes we are working towards on Earth so that everyone can participate once its common to be living, travelling and working off it?
The answer is to ensure that the space environment is carefully designed to become an inclusive environment from the very start. Think of it as an opportunity to create and nurture inclusive environments without all the centuries of baggage and Victorian thinking. There has already been some headway into this by organisations like the European Space Agency (ESA) who is in partnership with a range of other organisations with the SpaceIN network. SpaceIN focused on providing access to learning about science and technology. But its remit doesn’t cover incorporating the concepts of Ability to Access, Inclusive Design, Universal Design and Inclusive Environments into the very fabric of the Space Environment.
To do this we all need to ensure careful assessment of future human need and to have oversight on how the designers and thought leaders of this new space race are mapping the journey. For instance, how might we use the Space Environment to enable people to participate in the ‘human supercomputer’? This is the idea that diversity and inclusion will generate more ideas, concepts and challenges to the status quo purely because we are all able to get involved. As Anton Ego in the film Ratatouille says. ‘Not everyone can be a great artist. But a great artist and come from anywhere.’ Future citizens of Mars included.
We can achieve all this simply by spending time putting the user at the heart of this lightspeed journey. Although, in counterpoint, that might seem some distance away for the human and wildlife population of Boca Chica, Texas as Space X moves in next door and tramples on their way of life.
But this is another reason why we should start talking about the ‘Inclusive Space Environment’ now so that the so called ‘final frontier’ doesn’t remain that way – a permanent, exclusive and potentially harmful barrier to us all. As Princess Leia might have said about inclusive environments – ‘Help Me Everyone, this might well be our only hope.’