Inclusive Design isn’t a challenge - it’s an opportunity

By Roland Neal So » 11 min read

I’m a big fan of Inclusive design.

It’s a win-win for customers and businesses. It expands your market, sparks creativity and growth, and reflects social commitment.

Like a lot of things, designing for inclusion is a continuous process. It requires that you invest in resources and minimize moments of exclusion when people interact with your product.

Designing for everybody can seem overwhelming—that may translate to millions of users. Where do you start?

What Is Inclusive Design?

Inclusive design; is a method of designing that’s accessible and usable by as many people as possible (without the need for special adaptation).

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The objective of inclusive design is to enable a group of people with diverse characteristics to use your product in a variety of different environments. It’s important — especially when you’re designing for millions of people — to create different ways for them to participate in an experience.

One way to design for inclusion is to involve people from different communities in your process. They can help you identify points of exclusion and explore solutions (online and offline) that meet their needs.

Inclusive Design isn’t a challenge — it’s an opportunity

How Is Inclusive Design Different From Accessibility?

The major difference is that inclusive design is a process and accessibility is a core objective.

Accessibility in technology often means ensuring that people with disabilities are included (and that certain laws and policies are followed). But an inclusive product aims to be usable by as many people as possible, including those with disabilities.

Inclusion embraces a larger view of the human spectrum, including the constant change of how we use technology today.

Inclusive Design isn’t a challenge — it’s an opportunity

Create Equivalent Experiences

"One of the best things you can do right now for your company is to wrap your head around the fact that there's someone out there using your website, app, or product who has a disability." - Allison Shaw (Lecturer, Inclusive Design Leader)

Accessibility is a core objective of inclusive design, which means making sure that people who have visual, motor, auditory, speech, or cognitive disabilities can easily use your products.

A common misconception of accessibility is that it's not worthwhile for businesses to invest a lot of money to reach only a few more customers. But according to Gartner, over 1 billion (15% of the worldwide population) have a disability of some sort. And they’re estimated to have $8 trillion (along with family and friends) to spend on accessible technologies.

Looking at those numbers, companies are missing out on an opportunity to break into an evolving market sector. (Read WAI business cases for Inclusive Design.)

An example: Microsoft, one of the first pioneers in inclusive design, recently released an adaptive gaming kit for the Xbox One that allows people with limited mobility to easily play video games with others. Through this endeavor, Microsoft has opened gaming to all kinds of people, including those with disabilities or temporary injuries, newbies, kids, while connecting families and friends together.

Designing for the 15% first means your product won’t just be accessible to those living with a disability, it will also be a better experience for the other 85% of the population – which creates a truly inclusive design.

Inclusive Design isn’t a challenge — it’s an opportunity

Be Ready for Any Situational Experience

“When we design for disability first, you often stumble upon solutions that are better than those when we design for the norm.” ~ Elise Roy (Lawyer, Inclusive Design Leader, TEDx Speaker)

The best part about inclusive design is that the solutions made for a permanent or temporary disabilities can help people who encounter these pain points in a situational moment.

Google advocates for thinking about these abilities within a spectrum. Ability can be defined as being permanent, temporary, or situational — and a single solution can be applied across the whole spectrum.

Situational moments occur on a daily basis, whether you’re trying to talk to someone through background noise, having your hands full of groceries, or reading the dinner menu without your glasses.

While these moments may not be long-term, identifying these situational pain points are necessary to build a holistic picture of people’s lives, rather than focusing on episodic interactions.

Inclusive Design isn’t a challenge — it’s an opportunity

Expand Digital Access

“Create a solution that works well for excluded communities, then figure out how to turn it into a mass-market opportunity” ~ Kat Holmes (author, UX/Product design executive)

Access to technology is more affordable than ever, allowing people from all over the world to be online. However, there is still a digital divide caused by social and economic inequality. This acts as a barrier when it comes to important issues like education, and employment.

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For example, according to 2017 data from the Department of Commerce, “22 million families don’t have broadband internet because it’s not affordable or doesn’t need it. Of those, 6 million families say it’s too expensive, and 25% of those have school-age children at home who need it for homework.” (Citylab)

To address this problem, T-Mobile and Verizon offer free Internet to low-income families. 

And FacebookMicrosoft, and Alphabet’s Project Loon have started initiatives to bring broadband Internet to rural areas.

By solving these issues, the U.S. economy would be $2.3 trillion larger by 2050, and companies would gain new audiences.

Inclusive Design isn’t a challenge — it’s an opportunity

Accept Individual Preferences

“Inclusive design doesn’t mean you’re designing one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of things so everyone finds a way to participate.” ~ Susan Goltsman (Inclusive Design Leader)

Inclusion comes down to respecting a user’s preferences. Whether their pronouns are he/him, she/her, or they/them it’s important to ask this question in a thoughtful and respectful way.

Currently, 13 million adults define themselves as transgender62% of Americans are in support of transgender rights, and 80% of “Gen Z”, believe gender does not define a person as much as it used to. However, the majority of online forms still require users to answer a gender question that says male/female.

In Justin Reyna’s article, he explains the best practices to design for gender inclusion on a website. His tips are to: use gender-neutral imagery, be upfront about why the data is being collected, give users at least three options (preferably multi-select), or make this question optional.

While gender inclusion might be a lot of work, it will become more widely accepted. Your audience will appreciate your effort and desire to listen, even if your first attempt isn’t perfect.

Inclusive Design isn’t a challenge — it’s an opportunity

Start by Talking With People

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” ~ Vernā Myers (author, lawyer, inclusion strategist)

In John Maeda’s Designing for Inclusion talk, he says “we need to get away from our Silicon Valley and Millennial bubbles to rediscover the world.” He talks about a remote interview he had with a former Appalachia coal miner turned remote coder who gave an analogy about how people live in four different dimensions: 3D (skyscrapers, suburbs) 2D (small towns, cross street), and 1D (one street).

When working remotely, people are in 0 dimensions, which is truly powerful because it allows them to connect with different people across the globe while reducing exclusion.

Inclusion is not an easy process, and the hardest part is realizing that we exclude people by nature when we forget to watch our biases. You're not going to be able to solve for everyone on your first try. You need to identify the constraining points, plan your product roadmap, and your current target users.

Overtime, prioritize the next user group you want to add (based on metrics), listen to their needs, and iterate your designs to continue making your product inclusive.

To learn more about TA Digital, contact us.

Resources:

Accelerate with Google
Microsoft - Inclusive Design
Designing for inclusion - John Maeda
Inclusive Toolkit - Kat Holmes
Mismatch Design - Kat Holmes
Inclusive Design uses diversity to guide innovation - Tim Allen
Inclusive Design: Thinking Beyond Accessibility with Mike Miles
Elise Roy - When we design for disability, we all benefit

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Over the past 20 years, TA Digital has positioned clients to achieve digital maturity by focusing on data, customer-centricity and exponential return on investment; by melding exceptional user experience and data-driven methodologies with artificial intelligence and machine learning, we enable digital transformations that intelligently build upon the strategies we set into motion. We are known as a global leader that assists marketing and technology executives in understanding the digital ecosystem while identifying cultural and operational gaps within their business – ultimately ushering organizations toward a more mature model and profitable digital landscape.

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WRITTEN BY:

Roland Neal So

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