5 min read

How can We Design for Inclusivity?

The pandemic has opened up our eyes to the stark differences between people and the rising need for a more equitable world. We are in the midst of a grand transformation where humanity is realizing the need for acceptance, empathy and most importantly equality. However on the other hand there is also a section of the population that is showing resistance to change. The people in power are trying to hold on to the injustices that allow them to continue to stay in those positions of power. 

As designers, we are in a unique position, where we create experiences that have a direct impact on the lives of people. By incorporating a more inclusive mindset, and continuously pushing ourselves and our peers out of comfort zones, we can learn from the work we’ve done in the past. When we learn and make conscious decisions to create better design, that aims to serve as many people as possible, then we enable all kinds of people to be able to use our products in a variety of different environments.

Inclusive design

What is inclusive design?

While inclusive design is often interchangeably used with accessible design, it is somewhat different. While accessibility is only an attribute of the final product, inclusive design tries to make a design such that, the broadest range of people are able to use it in a variety of scenarios. Accessibility means that designers are focusing on making a design user friendly such that, people with specific physical or cognitive limitations or differences are able to use that product. 

Inclusive design looks beyond accessibility, it asks UX designers to imagine the various ways in which users could interact with a design of a digital product or website to achieve their primary purpose and design a broad range of ways for people to participate, so that they all feel like the design serves them and their needs.

Why do we need inclusive design?

Inclusive design accepts that people have diverse experiences, and that these experiences affect their interactions, with other people, websites and apps and the world at large. By incorporating design principles, we can make an effort to accommodate these different experiences and include people from different backgrounds. We can then invite these people to be a part of the design process right from the development stage. An inclusive design process will result in greater innovation, more ideas, social responsibility and ultimately a product, app or website that the most number of people can use, thus expanding the reach of that particular product, app or website. 

A common misconception is that all disabilities are ‘visible’ disabilities of some kind, like people in a wheelchair, blind people wearing dark glasses and holding a cane, or those with a hearing disability with a hearing aid in their ear. 

However the truth is that there are a lot more disabilities that are a lot more common, yet most people tend to overlook these ‘differently abled’ people. These could be anything from a vision impairment to the way our brains posses information. We all remember things differently, have different levels of concentration and are motivated by different reasons to use and interact with technology in our day to day lives. 

As the world changes, there is a growing section of the population that was born in the age of technological innovation and has gotten used to interacting with digital products. As they grow older, they will start to interact differently. The principle of inclusive design takes into account all of these differences and incorporates what people from different demographics will want and need from design. 

Thus inclusive design benefits everyone, whether they have a disability or not. It tries to make the process of using a digital product like an app, or a website more enjoyable for everyone. For example the simple feature on a website that gives users a choice to adjust font sizes as per their preferences uses the principles of inclusive design. It benefits both, people suffering from moderate vision loss and also people who tend to suffer from eye strain, due to spending large amounts of time in front of electronic devices.  

This simple feature makes the website work so much better for so many different people thus creating a much more enjoyable experience for them. This shows empathy for people and portrays the company as being one that cares about its users.

How can we design for inclusivity?

The first step to create digital products that are more inclusive in nature, is to identify some basic principles that can help you design with a more inclusive mindset. Begin by asking your team to think about people who are typically excluded from existing products. Those with limited literacy skills or ability to comprehend certain popular languages could be such an example. Making the effort to understand why and how they’ve been excluded from using the product can help take a step towards being more inclusive. 

The next step to create more inclusive products is to set up a team that has had a broad range of experiences and include them in every step of the development process from design to testing. They will be able to identify challenges that are situation based, and help each other recognise and think beyond their own personal biases. Often times designs tend to reflect our own abilities and assumptions. By incorporating a multitude of perspectives from the very beginning, your designs will be much better than those that come from a team that shares similar backgrounds and has had similar experiences. 

Finally understanding that designing with constraints in mind can help product teams be more innovative and come up with unique solutions. When we design to solve for challenges faced by one user group, we can actually create a solution that can benefit a much broader audience. Ultimately designing for accessibility benefits all users in the end.

Design inclusivity

Conclusion

The ultimate aim of an inclusive design process is to create good design that benefits everyone who interacts with it, and creates an enjoyable experience. By taking into account that people come from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and abilities, we are acknowledging that these factors shape their world differently and affect the way that they interact with others and the world. Once we understand this, and make a conscious decision to involve diverse people in the designing and testing of products, we can create products that work well for everyone. Ultimately the products designed using an inclusive design process will remove the barriers that prevent certain people from using them. 

At the end of the day, inclusive designs will create more engaging and enjoyable user experiences for everyone and ensure that more people are able to use them.

Sonakshi Kochhar