Divergent Design

Designing autism-friendly & barrier-free environments

A division of Studio YYC Interiors & Design

Divergent definition =

differing from each other or from a standard

Inclusion involves creating true accessibility. 

It is not the same as simply providing accommodations. 

It involves designing products and environments to be useable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or status in life. 

People with physical and developmental differences are often pathologized and expected to conform to the built environment instead of other way around. 

Canadians significantly underestimate how common disability is.

Most people surveyed pegged the prevalence of people with disabilities

at just 1 in 25 or fewer — but the official estimate is closer to 1 in 5.

If you’ve ever thought…


  • I need a magic wand

  • The world doesn’t have a place for me/my child  

  • Why do I feel like I don’t fit anywhere?

  • I wish I wasn’t so “extra”.  People have to work so hard to help me.  

  • Why isn’t there a recipe for parenting an ASD kid?  

  • I feel so isolated

  • I didn’t sign up for this

  • Am I putting enough thought and energy into helping my kid?

  • Why can’t I do anything easily?  Why is it so hard?  

  • Why isn’t there a manual to tell me how to do this?

    You are not alone.

Autism-friendly and barrier-free environments are spaces that are inclusive for individuals of all ages, regardless of their developmental or physical disability.  

I’m a designer, but I’m really a problem solver for people in the built environment.  I make design enhancements that improve sensory experiences and remove barriers.

My design services are customized for your sensory and physical needs. 

You and your loved ones deserve a safe haven, a refuge, a place that feels nurturing, not exhausting.   Let’s alleviate the overwhelm.  It feels good to be taken care of.

Contact me to alleviate the overwhelm.


Design Services for Autism (ASD) and Sensory Regulation - residential

If you or a loved one has ASD or experiences discomfort due to sensory processing (such as lighting, colors, sounds, patterns, and textures) in your home, I’ll customize a design that alleviates those triggers. 

What I do: I give neurodivergent clients a space that feels like a sanctuary and looks like a dream. I’ll design a unique space customized to meet their needs and support their emotional and physical wellbeing.

Where I do it: This service for neurodiverse people is perfect for bedrooms, playrooms, sensory rooms, home offices, basement suites, or the entire home.  

How I do it: This service is customized for you.  I’ll redecorate or remodel, depending on your goals…

This may involve decorating with furniture, art, rugs, storage, wall color, lighting, and more, or a new floor plan for a remodel.

Design Services for Barrier-free Accessibility - residential

We all deserve to feel comfortable and safe in our home.  

If you or a loved one has diverse accessibility needs and abilities, I’d love to meet with you and hear about the parts of your home that you’d like to improve.  

What I do:  I’ll review the functionality and flow of the home, the safety concerns, the unique opportunities for customization.

Where I do it: This service is perfect for single rooms, basement suites, or the entire home.

How I do it: This service is customized for you and your accessibility needs.  It may involve redecorating or renovating, depending on your goals.  I’ll give you a plan that supports safe and functional movement while also creating a space that looks and feels wonderful to you.

I combine inclusive and accessible modifications with the science of wellness in the built environment.

Design Services for Special Education Facilities, Clinics and Retail Spaces

Interior Design & Decorating Services 

The first step in the design process is to establish your goals, whether it be for children, patients, employees or customers, and whether it be to support those with physical or cognitive disabilities.  I’ll design your space to optimize the individual experience of the people who will be there.

Examples are:

  • schools for children and young people with sensory impairment and complex learning needs
  • daycare facilities that care for a range of neurodivergent children
  • medical clinics and wellness centers that want to improve their patients’ user experience
  • retail shops that strive to be more accessible for physically disabled customers

Accommodations of the built environment will always be necessary for humans in some capacity. Good design and true accessibility lessen the burden of constantly needing to request and push to have access needs met.

The CSA (Canadian Standards Association) develops standards and code for Accessible Design in the Built Environment, but we take basic standards to the next level. Our focus is not only accessibility, but also the attractiveness and health of a space, and the overall experience of the user.

Medical Model vs Social Model of Disability

The medical model of disability has been the main influence on how disability has been viewed in the past.The medical model says the cause of disability is an ‘impairment’ belonging to the individual.  It’s the individual’s responsibility to spend time, effort and money to adapt.  It expects the person with the disability to change to fit with society.  Simply put, the medical model says, “It’s not my problem.”

The social model says, “We’re all in this together.”  It focuses on barriers created by society and their removal. It expects society to change, not the individual with a disability.  It views disability as one aspect of diversity, rather than as a medical condition.

Call me if you’d like to get started on your inclusive design.

Want to

There’s an infinite variation of neurocognitive functioning and physical ability within the human species.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Regulation

Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways. There is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving.  Differences are not viewed as deficits.

The built environment is comprised primarily of sensory elements – textures, colors, patterns, acoustics etc. According to the sensory definition of autism, these elements play an important role in autistic behavior.  The sensory world provides sensory overload for some people,  People with ASD often struggle with processing, filtering and managing sensory input.  Architecture is the main source of almost all man made sensory endpoints, so altering the architecture and built environment would facilitate life, learning and function.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when designing for the neurodiverse population.  In commercial or institutional settings, the best design considers the greatest number of people.  In a residence the design is 100% customized for the member(s) of the family. 

When possible, approaches to inclusive design shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all, as all individuals will have different goals, desires, and needs. 

Designing for divergent minds looks different depending on the individual and the environment. There are different considerations for the home environment, the learning environment, and the work environment. Regardless of the environment, it involves designing for the senses.  

Call me and we’ll discuss how I can help.

Disability and Barrier-free Access

Barrier-free design, inclusive design and universal design are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably

According to the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, universal design is the design and structure of an environment so that it can be understood, accessed, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age or ability.

When we break it down, disability is a complex phenomenon occurring between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which they live.  It can be exhausting living in a world that’s not designed to accommodate you. 

A barrier is anything that stops, impedes, prevents or causes difficulty for a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society. An obstacle is a partial impediment or limitation to an activity. Obstacles may not stop a person with a disability from full participation, but they do make participation unnecessarily difficult.


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