Inclusive Design: a way of thinking about design

Guest Post by Andrea Kovich

In the way that many ideas evolve and build off each other, inclusive design has become the new buzzword for a design approach that embraces diversity. Closely related to Universal Design (which is also known as human-centered design), inclusive design is also about designing for a range of abilities. But whereas Universal Design is associated with disabilities and tends to be applied primarily to the built environment, inclusive design has a broader scope and is meant to pertain to all design fields—including the technological and digital realm. Accessibility is just one piece of the larger design puzzle.

One of the central ideas of inclusive design is that designing for people with disabilities will result in better designs that will benefit everyone. Considering the popular technological innovations that were originally designed to help people with disabilities—email, cell phones and texting have all been developed to facilitate communication with the deaf—this is not really a radical notion. What is radical is that Microsoft, a major global company, has wholeheartedly embraced the inclusive design philosophy.

According to Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit Manual, designing inclusively means “you’re designing for a diversity of ways for people to participate in an experience with a sense of inclusion.” Their methodology views design constraints, which can lead to exclusions, as an opportunity for creative solutions. To further bolster their new design mission, Microsoft has created a microsite with great resources to inspire and aid other designers—including several new videos that highlight the impact of design on people with disabilities.

Check it out at: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/design/inclusive