Inclusive design – if you think it is the modern term for accessibility, you’re wrong

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

Inclusive design, Universal design and Design for all are concepts that have the same goal -to design with people, for people.

Methodology and philosophy behind the terms above are aiming to provide a solution for as many people as possible, including people with disabilities. Inclusive design is different from accessible design in a sense that accessible design has a tendency to lead to separate facilities for people with disabilities, for example, a stair lift helps those in a wheelchair, while an elevator is accessible to everyone. Inclusive design, on the other hand, provides one solution that can accommodate people with disabilities as well as the rest of the population.





Inclusive design goes far beyond ramps and accessibility standards it is a strategy to solve problems and expand market potential. Using a people centered design helps to understand who your real customers are and to use its tools to respond to changes that are taking place in the world around us.


For example if you have to create new package –think of who is going to use it – people, that’s right! But what kind of people? If you include in the design process people with visual impairments and people with arthritis - you will receive real feedback and thus will help to define main problem areas and challenges. At the end if a person with arthritis can open the package then it will be easy-to- open by everyone else and if a person with visual impairments can read what the product is, than it is 80% more likely this particular package to be chosen from the shelf.


Inclusive design include consulting with diverse range of people to get different perspectives, to go beyond functional problem-solving solution, real people can inspire, inform creative thinking and drive innovation.


Inclusive Design

The term was defined in 2000 by the UK Government as “products, services and environments that include the needs of the widest number of consumers”. It has a history stretching back to the social ideals in Europe that materialized after World War II, which include healthcare and housing for everyone. Inclusive Design is used within Europe and goes beyond elderly and disabled people to focus on other excluded groups and deliver mainstream solutions.


Universal Design

This term originated in the USA and has since been adopted by Japan and the Pacific Rim. It started with a strong focus on disability and the construction environment. Driven by the large number of disabled Vietnam War veterans, Universal Design was modelled on the Civil Rights Movement that promised “full and equal enjoyment … of goods and services”. It has been a driving force in establishing American legislation regarding older and disabled people.


Design For All

Closely related to Inclusive Design, Design for All started by looking at barrier-free accessibility for people with disabilities, but has become a strategy for mainstream, inclusive solutions. As highlighted by the European Commission, Design for All is about ensuring that environments, products, services and interfaces work for people of all ages and abilities in different situations and under various circumstances. This term is used in continental Europe and Scandinavia.




Other terms are sometimes used with varying relevance to Inclusive Design. A few include Co-design, People-centered Design, User-focused Design and Transgenerational Design.

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