Tips for creating inclusive products and services

Wed 10 July 2019

Older man uses an in-built ramp to board the bus

Image credit: Transport for NSW. 

“Designing inclusively doesn’t mean you’re making one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of ways for everyone to participate in an experience with a sense of belonging.” (Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit)

Inclusive design is a human-centred approach to the design of mainstream products and services that considers the full range of human diversity – ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference. It’s about making products and services accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible, without the need to create separate, specialised or segregated solutions.

The benefits are proven – research by the Centre for Inclusive Design (CfID) in partnership with Adobe and Microsoft shows that products and services designed with unique needs in mind can reach four times the number of intended consumers and have a positive impact on an organisation’s bottom line.

Excerpt called 'The value that Inclusive Design can bring' from the Centre for Inclusive Design's 'The Benefits of Designing for Everyone' Report

Image: Excerpt from The Benefit of Designing for Everyone, CfID. 

A tool you can use to make a case for inclusive design in your organisation, the report uses Australian data to highlight the benefits of designing with difference in mind and encourages organisations to embrace the methodology as a standard business practice. To that end, here are three steps you can take to support inclusive design in your organisation.

1. Understand the concept, but don’t get too caught up in semantics

Inclusive design, accessibility, usability, universal design… These concepts are often intertwined and easily confused.

By way of definition, the Inclusive Design Research Centre in Toronto stresses three dimensions of inclusive design: recognise diversity and uniqueness; use inclusive processes and tools; aim for the broadest beneficial impact.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) also provides a neat explanation of the distinctions and overlaps between accessibility, usability and inclusive design as they relate to the Web.

Commenting on the difference between accessibility and inclusion at the launch of the Centre for Inclusive Design report, David Masters, Corporate Affairs Director at Microsoft Australia said:

“Accessibility is often focused on compliance, and while that is incredibly important, this report clearly shows that inclusion drives economic benefit too. Embedding inclusion in the upfront design phase ensures organisations are delivering products and services for everyone.”

Whilst it’s certainly beneficial to understand how the concepts and terms differ, try not to get too caught up in semantics. If your organisation’s goal is to create products and services that are available to everyone who wants to use them, you’re already headed in the right direction.

2. Use diverse perspectives to inform product and service development

“If we use our own abilities and biases as a starting point, we end up with products designed for people of a specific gender, age, language ability, tech literacy, and physical ability.” (Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit)

Design that is informed by diverse perspectives and experiences can lead to unparalleled innovation and creativity. Does your organisation have a diverse range of voices within its design teams? Do they consider the varying physical, sensory and cognitive capabilities of their audience in product and service development?

Excerpt called 'Understanding diversity' from the Centre for Inclusive Design's 'The Benefits of Designing for Everyone' Report

Image: Excerpt from The Benefit of Designing for Everyone, CfID.

Inclusive hiring practices can open your organisation up to diverse talent that may have been unintentionally overlooked or locked out. For example, by identifying and removing unintended barriers to inclusive recruitment, our Disability Confident Recruiter (DCR) program builds an organisation’s capability to attract skilled candidates with disability, thereby opening that organisation up to diverse skills and perspectives that might otherwise have been missed. 

3. Align inclusive design concepts to wider business goals.

“Put the end user…at the centre of your culture. Iterate, test and learn with them to incorporate insights that generate exceptional products and services that are available and suitable for everyone.” (The Benefit of Designing for Everyone, Centre for Inclusive Design)

Last year, Australian banks made an industry-wide commitment to inclusive banking with the release of the Australian Banking Association’s Accessibility Principles for Banking Services. Following a comprehensive review of access and inclusion standards in product design, which was led by former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Graeme Innes AM and included input from key disability-sector stakeholders and technical experts, the Principles will help guide all Australian banks towards inclusive product and service design.

By aligning accessibility and inclusive design concepts to wider industry goals, Australian banks now have a strategic opportunity to create products and services that are available to all who want to use them and demonstrate their commitment to customers with disability.

Commenting on the benefits of including people with disability and key disability-sector stakeholders in the design process, Graeme said at the Australian Network on Disability’s Annual Cocktail Party 2018, “The learnings from this process will be useful for any organisation in their journey to Disability Confidence.”

Related links

Join the Network

The Australian Network on Disability (AND) is a member-based national powerhouse of more than 250 private, public and for-purpose organisations actively committed to inclusion of people with disability in business.

As part of our network, we’ll support you to build understanding and expertise, connect with others and check your progress on access and inclusion. Our services, programs and tools make it easier for you to build confidence and capability to welcome people with disability as employees, customers and stakeholders.

Find out more about AND membership.


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