“Count your blessings” — is a phrase that most of us have come across at least once in our lifetimes. In our busy, jam-packed lives tangled with fast content consumption, we often don’t realize the true extent of our privileges, our good health, and the smooth-functioning nature of the complex machine that is our body.
We are prone to reset our perspectives regarding the true blessings in our lives when we are met with an edge case—a sudden accident, an unforeseen ailment, a disability encountered at a later point in life, the feeling of unfamiliarity in a foreign land, and the list goes on. It is mostly when a person is met with an incident that pushes them out of their conventional lifestyle that they’d entertain the thought of there being some design intervention that could have made their lives easier, say—a simple ramp, an escalator, even a programming algorithm! And this is where inclusive design comes into play.
What is Inclusive Design?
Inclusive design is a process of designing in which a product, service, and environment are made catering to the needs of a specific user with specific needs. As the name of the process suggests, the goal of inclusive design by default is to extend inclusivity to a certain group of people such that a product, service, or environment would make them feel included as opposed to feeling at a disadvantage when compared to a generalized set of users or a mainstream crowd.
This process enables an object to be created in a manner such that it caters to all age groups, sexes, races, and cultures. Ultimately, by solving a design issue of a certain category of people, the object or service rendered can be used by an entire mass.
How Can You Design Inclusively?
The measures that one can take to design inclusively can be learned from the hypotheses and examples set by the American multinational technology company, Microsoft. As stated by them, exclusion in any design arises from a designer’s own biases. To design optimally for a wide array of diverse people, one will have to turn to the people for whom the design is being made. With these fundamental viewpoints, Microsoft has popularized the “three principles of inclusive design”.
The three principles of inclusive design are:
- Recognize Exclusion
A designer must recognize the areas in which a certain individual can feel excluded. The solution is merely not to create something for the minority that creates mismatched human interactions but rather something that can be used by both the minority and the general public so there is a general sense of inclusivity. Such a solution can prove more meaningful and interactive.
- Solve for One, Extend to Many
Design solutions for people with disabilities can prove beneficial to everyone, resulting in a universally accepted design. Sometimes, a unique solution catering to one area can prove beneficial in an entirely different field such as the use of large font size for people with visual impairment as well as for people in moving vehicles. The widely acclaimed design of the staircase in Robson Square, Vancouver is a perfect example of this feature as it integrates wheelchair accessibility to provide a design that is both sculptural and socially engaging.
- Learn from Diversity
Not all human beings come from the same cookie-cutter mold. People come from different walks of life—be it their cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, the era in which they were brought up, the various stimuli that they were exposed to, and much more. Every person is entitled to have their own voice and opinion regardless of what scenario they find themselves in.
A truly universal and inclusive design can accommodate people from every nook of the world. An easy example will be the Superkilen Park designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, Superflex, and Topotek 1 in Copenhagen that brought in elements from various countries to unite an entire neighbourhood by bringing a sense of home to an otherwise ethnically diverse and socially challenged community.
A Few Examples of Inclusive Design
Inclusive design is a process that can easily be accommodated to a diverse range of fields. From urban design projects at a massive scale, thought products, simple signages to mobile applications, the possibility of adapting inclusion is seemingly endless.
Perhaps one of the first instances of an all-inclusive factor came to be with the idea of furniture that can grow with a child. Created as a means to promote economic but modern furnishing options, the Tripp Trapp Chair by Peter Opsvik is a fan-favorite amongst both designers and consumers.
Popularized in the 2000s, most gadgets followed the universal theme of accommodating ridges on keys and buttons as a tactile feature that could help improve usability to the regular users and provide a mode of guidance to the impaired.
With the 21st century, there came a profound and much-needed transition into non-binary gender norms that led to the design of many inclusive building elements, the most important of them being the all-gender toilet. With signage and colors to break stereotypes and promote inclusivity and sensitivity, many models of an all-gender toilet have been accommodated and are being accommodated around the planet.
Long gone are the days when a child’s mind is instilled with the convoluted ideas of skin tones and race through a single pale pink crayon that was to be the substitute for its skin color. With children’s books and even stationery picking up their games to nurture children to be more accepting of each other, the world is on the threshold of unifying seamlessly on the grounds of inclusive designs.
Though simple on the surface but exponentially powerful, inclusive design is a tool that is crucial in designing everything and anything but happens to be overlooked. With a century that has witnessed a multitude of definitions and re-definitions in under three decades, the scope of and the unanimous need to accommodate inclusive designing as a regular facet of pre-design is on an all-time high.
With an ever-present need for universal acceptance amongst people and the daily trend of stereotypes being re-written, a design market completely catering to inclusive creations is not a far stretch.
- Wikipedia (2019). Inclusive design. (Last updated November 17, 2020). Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_design#:~:text=Inclusive%20design%20is%20a%20design,overseen%20with%20other%20design%20processes.> [Accessed 5 June , 2021].
- Mohan, Viba | UX Planet (2018). Here’s Why We Need to Talk About Inclusive Design. (Last updated: December 14, 2018). Available at: <https://uxplanet.org/heres-why-we-need-to-talk-about-inclusive-design-49471daabfd9> [Accessed 5 June 2021].
- LaptrinhX (2021). 3 principles of inclusive design and why it matters. (Last updated: January 17, 2021). Available at: <https://laptrinhx.com/3-principles-of-inclusive-design-and-why-it-matters-1707443892/> [Accessed 5 June 2021].