Inclusive design is about more than just accessibility

We should always aim for accessibility. But we should not stop there. Accessibility is about making sure that disabled people can access our:

  • content
  • products
  • services

Inclusive design goes further. It gives you the chance to design with diversity, not just for it.

Inclusive design is a process. When we design for inclusivity, we are trying to think about the needs of as many people as possible. You’re including diverse experiences that lead to new and exciting possibilities. You include things you might never have thought about.

Accessibility is an outcome. Inclusive Design is a process.


Women walking in front of text saying 'teamwork makes the dream work'

One principle of inclusive design is that “you design for one, and extend to many”. This means that what you create can be useful to a range of people. For example, closed captions is an accessibility feature. But it is also helpful to commuters who do not have headphones. So it’s about more than meeting accessibility guidelines. You’re making it inclusive for everyone.

Empathy, design and inclusivity

Design, in any form, is about empathy. Without empathy, designers are only creating products and services for themselves. Not those who will be using the end product.

Accessible and inclusive design means broadening that empathy. Think about how people with different experiences and abilities could use your product. Try and create audience personas with varied experiences and abilities. You also need to design with people from different backgrounds.

It’s not ‘us versus them’ or even ‘us on behalf of them.’ For a design thinker it has to be ‘us with them

Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO

Keep it simple

One of the best ways to be inclusive is to keep everything as simple as possible. This is true for all areas you might be working on:

  • user experience (UX)
  • graphic design
  • website design
  • content

The more clutter, the harder it is to understand something.


 marie kondo saying “I love mess”

When you are writing content, this means that you should:

  • use plain English
  • keep your sentences short
  • avoid metaphors
  • avoid jargon
  • use the active voice (I sent the document) instead of the passive voice (The document was sent by me)

The Hemingway Editor

When you are designing, this means that you should:

  • try using a simple design
  • use interfaces that are widely understood
  • cut out features that are not essential

Be open to feedback

You will not get everything right. It would be impossible for 1 person to think about every type of user. This is why collaboration is so important. You do not have to get it right every time. You do need to be open to feedback.

It can be disappointing to find out your work has not met what people need. But this is always a learning opportunity. Listen to people and what they tell you about their needs. Then make a plan to figure out what changes you can make.

This is how your skills will develop. Also share what you learn so that others can learn from it too.

Test, then test again

After carefully planning and creating your product, you should test it. This will help you get feedback to improve accessibility and inclusivity.

You should look for a variety of people to test your product. They should have different backgrounds, views, and abilities. Think about where and how you will find these people. It’s incredibly important that you include disabled people in your testing. They should be a core part of your research.


Printer printing out sheets of paper saying test

You can slowly build a network of people. One way of finding people to test your products is to post your product online and ask the online community for feedback. You could also set up focus groups about specific challenges. It is essential to think about how to do this ethically. If you are asking people to give away their time, they should also get something out of it.

Scope has a disability research panel of 2,000 people that can help with testing. Contact to find out how we can support you.

Related products