Embed inclusive design to reach a wider audience, says AbilityNet expert

AbilityNet’s accessibility and disability consultant Raphael Clegg-Vinell challenged delegates at the London Chapter of World Interaction Design Day last month to think about inclusive design differently.

Often apps and websites - even those run by large companies - do not adhere to inclusive design principles and end up excluding many thousands of potential customers. “I wanted to get across that inclusive design is a different concept to accessibility,” said Raphael. “Often clients come to us late in the development of a site or app and we can make small tweaks to make sure they adhere to accessibility guidelines. We will look at how they can make things technically accessible for people who are blind or deaf for example. "

It's impossible to design for everyone

“But with inclusive design, from very early on, you’re looking at how you can design for as many people as possible. Inclusive design is about accepting you can’t design something which works for absolutely everyone, but looking at your audience and designing for as many people as possible. We don’t mean just for apps and websites, but for services too such as checkouts, for example.

"Some obvious points might be to not have lots of buttons very near to each other on a screen. If someone struggles with dexterity for whatever reason - they could have a disability, less mobility with old age, but perhaps even long fingernails could be an issue. It makes sense to put more space between buttons and therefore design for a much wider number of people.”  

workshop participants at the IxDA meetup

Raphael was joined by Dr Madeleine Pritchard, a research fellow and speech and language therapist at City, University of London. Together they challenged participants at the event co-run by Adobe and the London chapter of the Interaction Design Association ( IxDA) to redesign an app using inclusive design principles. 

Cognitive disabilities and accessibility

They presented some of the key differences between accessibility and inclusive design and progressed to look more specifically at cognitive disabilities and accessibility. “Cognitive disabilities and accessibility is something that’s often overlooked,” said Raphael. “We explored the subject and participants were given exercises to demonstrate what happens when each of us comes into contact with interfaces, particularly when they’re complex and busy.  

workshop attendees were presented with challenges that required inclusive thinking

“Workshop attendees were then given a design challenge focusing on re-designing an app to benefit people in a range of environments and with different access needs.”

The IxDA, which leads the day, has over 200 local groups globally and over 100,000 individuals. It brings together interaction designers and people interested in the discipline from all sorts of different job roles.

Raphael said: “The day was a great success. Positively, inclusion and diversity in design has been gaining lots of traction recently and many companies are starting to realise the benefits it brings to their business and brand. Personally, myself and Madeleine were pleased with the workshop we ran and we received lots of kind feedback afterwards. We look forward to the next Interaction Design Day.”

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