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Guide Dogs' flagship office: A space for the community

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT setting the accessibility standard with award winning flagship office designed by Wool + Hay

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT enlisted Wool + Hay to create its flagship premises in St Leonards Sydney - a vibrant, welcoming and inclusive space for Guide Dogs Clients, staff, donors, volunteers, dogs, and the local community.

The award winning space offers as a template for the disability-inclusive future workplace, showcasing the breadth of services the organisation offers and cementing the charity’s commitment to serving people with low vision or blindness.

Guide Dogs flagship office has been carefully and subtly designed with accessibility at the forefront to offer every employee and client freedom to navigate safely. Hallways are wide enough to accommodate two dogs with two handlers walking past one another, or two wheelchairs abreast. 

Rounded edges are utilised throughout avoiding sharp, jagged corners - from the large, curved reception desk down to wall bends and furniture joinery.

While Braille, tactile signage and the latest assistive technology has been installed in all areas. As for wayfinding, hard, carpeted and tiled surfaces help to differentiate areas and a black rubber floor strip ribbons throughout the space to assist with navigation.

Additionally, sustainability was also at the centre of the design fit out through the use of renewable materials and innovative technologies. From recycled glass soundproofing to advanced water saving systems which minimize water consumption, eco-friendly methods and materials were considered throughout to prioritise sustainability.

Director at Wool + Hay Jack Woolley, said “The design is strongly centred on community and inclusivity, with so many visitors coming to the office everyday it was important to get the balance right between collaboration and social spaces as well as focused work settings. We chose to not separate staff and visitors and stick to one continuous level with an open floor plan to enhance and encourage connections and reflect the principles of Guide Dogs through design.”

The development of the space involved an extensive consultation process from people with low vision or blindness and the organisation’s accessibility experts.

Dale Cleaver, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT said, “Our Clients are at the heart of everything we do, and our new flagship premises exemplifies that sentiment in every way. This is far more than an office space; it is an important step to strengthen our commitment to serving our Clients and deliver services in innovative ways.”

“The office can accommodate up to 100 employees and about ten per cent of the current workforce has a disability of some kind. We really want a diverse employment base and plan on hiring more people with disability in the next year. Our new premises provides a world class facility for potential employees where they won’t have to overcome daily social or physical barriers.” Mr Cleaver continued.

As for the charity’s iconic and much-loved Guide Dogs, the state-of-the-art facility even provides an enriching space for dogs to rest, train and play. From puppies and dogs in training to Qualified Guide Dogs visiting with their Handlers there are multiple touchpoints throughout the design which make it the ultimate dog friendly office.

“It was designed to be a fun yet practical space where our dog training team and volunteers can nurture, socialise and train our beautiful and iconic dogs in a safe, visible community space. You will find dog beds, nooks and water bowls located throughout the space, and the collaboration lounge can even be closed off with puppy gates to provide a safe space for our dogs to play’, Mr Cleaver concluded.

Other carefully considered design elements include:
  • Access via wide doors, a lift and an accessible ramp. Extra wide corridors to ensure a clear path of travel and allow dogs and their Handlers or wheelchair users to pass one another.
  • Braille, tactile signage and assistive technology installed in all areas.
  • Hard, carpeted and tiled surfaces help to differentiate areas. A black rubber floor strip to assist with navigation and wayfinding.
  • Tapware, tiles and basins are contrasting and positioned to ensure diversity of reach.
  • Furniture is fixed where possible. Tables have a contrasting edge, chairs and doors have contrasting frames. There are no sharp edges!
  • Signage and frosted design elements are used with appropriate visual indicators on glass. Blinds reduce glare.
  • Seamless integrated technology supports the work and culture of the organisation and provides staff with an agile, flexible and connected workplace.
  • Adequate and consistent lighting throughout the space, with adjustable lighting where necessary.
  • The eco-friendly insulation used for soundproofing the internal walls is made from up to 80% recycled glass.
  • The site also took into account water-saving fixtures and systems to significantly minimizing water consumption.
  • Natural light was maximized, reducing the need for artificial lighting, which could be focused in required areas to assist those with low visions and blindness.

For more information regarding Guide Dogs NSW/ACTclick here.

MEDIA RELEASE, 17th January 2023

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