What is Inclusive Design
What do we mean by Inclusive Design?
We have defined Inclusive Design as: design that is inclusive of the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.
Why not use the term Universal Design?
Inclusive Design, as we use it, can be seen as Universal Design with a number of provisos.
When we chose the term we wanted to distinguish it from the then current associations with the term Universal Design. The associations that we want to avoid are not necessarily part of any formalized definition of Universal Design, but nevertheless are part of the popular assumptions about the term.
The distinctions we wanted to make were:
The Context: Universal design has its origins in architectural and industrial design - we work in the digital realm where the constraints, design options and design methods are very different. The most important difference is that we do not need to design one-size-fits-all, the flexibility of the digital gives us the luxury and freedom to take a one-size-fits-one personalized design approach to inclusion.
The User: Universal design, despite the fact that it has the term universal in it, and counter to the intentions of the originators of the term, has become associated with disabilities and a fairly constrained categorization of disabilities. Other than the commonly quoted principles of Universal Design, much universal design guidance categorizes design advice according to constrained categories of disability. We want to stress that the individual is multi-faceted and the constraints or design needs they have may arise from a number of factors or characteristics, and they all need to be taken into account (e.g., I may be blind, but I don’t read Braille, I have some residual vision so the pictures help me navigate, also French is my second language and I’m currently juggling my kids and my job and haven’t slept all night so I’m stressed and a little bit distracted).
The Method: While the common goal is inclusion, because we are dealing with digital design our design considerations are very different from the non-digital, we can have a differently configured “entrance” for each person, in fact we can have multiple entrances for one person, each for a different context. Similarly we can have a different “handle” for each person and each context or each goal. The design constraints are very different from the domain in which Universal Design originated. While Universal Design is about creating a common design that works for everyone, we have the freedom to create a design system that can adapt, morph, or stretch to address each design need presented by each individual.
The common notions with Universal Design that we espouse and stress are:
- Designing systems so they work for people with disabilities results in systems that work better for everyone.
- Segregated, specialized design is not sustainable and does not serve the individual or society in the long run. You may ask are we not taking specialization to the extreme? Yes, in one sense we are, but it is common specialization that comes as an integrated part of the system – whether you have a disability or do not have a disability.