Introduction to Inclusive Design

One key aspect of human reality is our diversity. Even every society, it is quite easy to point out differences in human tastes, functional abilities, age, size, among other things yet each person has equal rights as members of the society. For designers, observing and appreciating human diversity ought to filter into how design is conceptualized and carried out.

This is important because decisions made or not made during the design process can affect the user experience and indirectly exclude people from a space, product or service. For example, designing a shopping mall with only a stairway access indirectly excludes thus discriminating persons with temporary or permanent mobility limitations such as persons using wheelchairs, persons using crutches and even some persons who are sick or just distracted at the time.

What is Inclusive Design?

Inclusive design is a design process that takes human diversity into consideration and seeks to produce a space, building, product or service that is usable by a wide range of persons regardless of their age, size, gender or ability.

Why Inclusive design?

Nowhere does Inclusive design claim to be able to meet the needs of everyone. However, Inclusive design works for the widest range of users without the need for any special adaptation, that is, without having to modify the design to suit a user group. Inclusive design calls for a design process that is thoughtful and human-centered. Here are other reasons why Inclusive design is important and should be adopted across various design contexts:

  • Ensures Compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): Have you heard about the CRPD? It is an instrument that calls for a shift from traditional ways of viewing disability as individual impairment to a focus on creating enabling environments that promote inclusiveness and accommodate all human beings in their diversity. You can check out the CRPD Toolkit on Disability here.
  • Social Responsibility: Ensuring that our designs- products, spaces and services can be accessed and used by diverse persons including persons with disabilities is indicative of a high sense of social responsibility.
  • To Celebrate Diversity: Inclusive design helps us acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of human life.
  • To reduce inequality and discrimination: When design is not inclusive, it automatically is exclusive and leads to direct and indirect discrimination of certain persons. Thus, inclusive design helps to reduce inequality and discrimination of vulnerable groups like the persons who are aged, physically disabled or visually impaired.
  • Helps Persons living with disabilities live independently: An Inclusive design approach reduces barriers to access/use and promote participation thus helping persons with disabilities live independently.