What do a hearing-impaired person with a severe ear infection and a commuter in a crowded subway who forgot their headphones have in common? They would all have a hard time accessing the audio content on their digital platform.
Inclusive design takes into account the diversity of experiences that can prevent a person from effectively using an interface. They can start with the subject and then consider other types of people who might benefit from the same solutions.
In the case of audio content, it can be subtitles or a transcription of the audio content. Inclusive design is based on the Accessible Design process that focuses on the outcome or the end result of a design project. It builds on accessibility guidelines published by various government and industry groups to ensure that people with disabilities can effectively access websites and other digital products.
Inclusive design is closely linked to accessibility, but rather than an outcome, it is a methodology for approaching design. It is a process of creating a model that can be used by a group of diverse people. Both inclusive and accessible design focus on the idea that disabilities occur at the intersection where people and their environment interact.
Inclusive design, specifically, recognizes that solutions that work for people with disabilities are likely to work as well for people in various circumstances. In the digital domain, the inclusive design process begins by identifying situations. Understanding that exclusion can happen to anyone depending on the particular circumstances is a critical element of the inclusive design methodology.
Accessibility is one of the results of inclusive design. If inclusive design and accessibility are not the same, accessibility is one of the main findings of an active and inclusive design process. Accessibility in itself, however, will leave out large sections of the population who do not have a defined and legally recognized disability, but who may have problems interacting with interfaces depending on the particular circumstances in their environment.
Inclusive design actively seeks out to remedy these various situations, which include disabilities. Both are tools that allow designers to create digital products that can be used by as many people as possible, regardless of their current situation.
Accessible and inclusive design work hand in hand to reduce the barriers that prevent people from using digital products effectively. Using an inclusive and empathetic design methodology with different groups of people, designers can create accessible products to everyone. One way to improve inclusive and accessible design is by learning how people navigate the technical obstacles as they use a digital product.
If someone uses text-to-speech to listen to an article, if they are unable to actually read through it, designers can provide an audio version of the article. Each designer, whatever their specialty, should strive to create digital products that can be used by as many people as possible. To do this, they must move away from preconceived ideas about what a “typical” user is and, on the contrary, consider people as unique and diverse individuals who have different capacities at different times in their life, according to their particular environment.
When designers pay attention to the people who actually use the products they develop, they can use the principles of inclusive design to create user-friendly products that work for most people and follow accessibility guidelines in the process.
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