The human race is diverse. We are different races, genders and ages. We have different financial situations, backgrounds and needs. We have different ways of seeing, hearing, experiencing and living in the world.
Inclusion means working with the needs of all people in mind. This means everyone can participate fully, regardless of their background, needs or characteristics.
Imagine visiting a website to get essential services or information and being denied access. Does that sound strange? The fact is that many digital spaces do not meet the needs of at least 18% of the population.* Barriers can occur for people with sight loss, visual conditions, hearing loss and motor impairments.
Too often websites and other digital platforms are not useable for some or even many of us. We’re all human and deserve human rights. We all deserve to be able to use the internet. We all deserve websites that are useable, readable and accessible.
Many tools are available to make inclusive design possible. But we also need a change of perspective. We need to stop seeing disabilities and different needs as the problem and start seeing exclusion as the problem.
It can help to understand that disability is not so much about an individual’s health condition. Instead, consider it as mismatched interactions with people’s needs. This leads to exclusion. Some of us experience disability permanently throughout our lives. But all of us can find ourselves in temporary or situational situations in which exclusion can occur.
Imagine that you have broken your arm and can only use one arm. You will notice that you cannot use many things with the use of one hand or arm. Simple day-to-day tasks become much more difficult. This temporary exclusion is a result of poor design rather than your broken arm! In another example, you may find you cannot hear in a noisy environment. You will experience a situational problem with hearing.
Both of these examples create mismatched interactions. They remind us of the need to always design facilities and tools which can reduce and eliminate excluding experiences.
Accessibility of a website should never be an afterthought. We should aim to create a culture where it’s the norm to build in inclusivity when we start a project.
Let’s be blunt. Inclusivity is not currently a priority for the majority of the digital design industry. It’s time to change that. Start here and now. We’ve got all the tools you need. Be creative. Be inclusive. Because we’re all human.
Many structures in our society do not meet everyone’s needs. For example, many buildings have stair access only. Making adaptations, for example by adding ramps so that wheelchair users can gain access, increases accessibility.
However, adapted facilities will rarely be as good as those designed to meet everyone’s needs in the first place.
Consider the experience of the user. Imagine having to go into a building at side or back entrances because a ramp was only added later. You would now have access to the building but would you feel welcome and included?
The same applies to digital design. Adding adaptions on later is less useful and satisfactory. It’s also more time-consuming, less-efficient and more costly.
Accessibility is a way of measuring how useable a website is, to as many people as possible. Making a design accessible may mean adapting existing work to improve or add on features that provide access.
Inclusivity means that from the start of the project, designers think about different needs so that everyone can participate.
Inclusion means considering how everyone will use something before we create it, not after.
When working on existing websites that aren’t accessible, there are ways to start improving accessibility right now. The resources in this hub will help with that.
However, always use inclusive design from the start of new projects. Inclusive design is better for people with a wide range of needs. It is better for designers and better for your clients. Inclusive design is better for all of us.
*Over 7 million people in the UK, that’s 18% of the population, are defined as having a disability by the Equality Act 2010. Source: Employers' Forum on Disability/University of St Andrews. Globally, 1 billion people, that’s 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability according to the World Health Organisation. These figures may not include everyone that experiences a wide range of differences and who are unable to use inaccessible websites.