Ahead of this year’s Women of Silicon Roundabout where Inclusive Design Principal Bonnie Molins will be presenting ‘What is inclusive design, and why should you care?’ read her three-part series as an introduction to the topic! In part 1, we take a closer look at access needs.

Big data and human-centred design methodologies have given us transformational insights into the lived experience of service users and the more we know about them the more we know one size does not fit all.

If a service hasn’t been designed for diverse users and isn’t ‘compatible’ with their access needs, some users will be partly or entirely excluded from using the service.

Inclusive design is the process by which we design and build products and services that work for everyone who needs to use them by making sure the design works for users with a broad range of access needs.

This isn’t just about making services accessible to people with disabilities. It’s about including everyone by taking a diversity-aware approach to design.

The way a user interacts with a service is mediated through a mix of characteristics and conditions that may be permanent, temporary or circumstantial. To name but a few:

  • Digital skills
  • Digital access
  • Digital tools
  • Location
  • Language
  • Literacy
  • Income
  • Education
  • Emotional state
  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Gender reassignment or becoming a trans person
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Parenthood
  • Time
  • Lifestyle
  • Motivation
  • Busy / distracted
  • Noisy environment
  • Alcohol or drug misuse or dependency
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty
  • Vulnerability
  • Comprehension of content / purpose
  • Trust in service security
  • Confidence in the process
  • Confidence in one’s ability to use the process
  • Awareness of the service in the first place

Exclusion happens when we ignore diversity and design from a biased perspective.

Inclusive service designers know that designing for your own needs logically creates a service that is usable by you and people like you but the fact is many of us are built differently and live very different lives.

Inclusive design benefits everyone

Inclusive design seeks to identify users who might be excluded from service use, include them in the design process, discover their access needs, and design solutions that support them (and potentially everyone else) to use the service.

Step-free access to buildings is essential to wheelchair users but it also benefits stroke survivors, elderly people with limited mobility, parents pushing prams, people delivering heavy goods and anyone with a temporary condition such as a broken leg or flu.

Digital voice control and screen readers may be essential to blind or partially sighted users but they’re also useful to people with arthritis, a missing finger, an arm in a sling, limited dexterity, RSI, and those with limited literacy skills.

We all sit on a spectrum of related abilities and access needs. Designing for these therefore creates better services for everyone.

At Kainos, we’re driven to create a digital world that everyone can participate in, which leaves no one behind.

Having led on experience design for a range of service providers catering for users with conditions like autism, limited mobility/dexterity and partially sightedness, and also catering for entire populations, our Inclusive Design Principal Bonnie Molins has developed a understanding of designing for access needs that we look forward to sharing at the upcoming Women of Silicon Roundabout event.

‘What is inclusive design and why should you care?’ promo image

Want to know more about inclusive design at Kainos? Come and join us at Women of Silicon Roundabout, June 25th and 26th or visit our website.