The need for inclusive and accessible products, services, and environments has never been more pressing. As we strive to create a society that caters to people from all walks of life, it becomes imperative to understand and implement a design that prioritizes diversity and inclusion.
At Arounda agency, we believe that great human-centric products begin with the right mindset. And in this article, we discuss two approaches that enable us to reach a broad audience and demonstrate that we strive for equal experience for everyone. So, let’s see what is inclusive vs accessible design in product development.
What Is the Difference Between Accessibility and Inclusive Design?
If we look closer, we will recognize a trace of accessible and inclusive designs in products of all sorts, such as Tesla cars, sugar-free products, orthopedic footbeds, or glasses.
Both approaches empower UI/UX designers to create mobile applications, websites, or SaaS platforms that can be used by the largest possible group of people. On the other hand, there is a clear division between inclusive design vs accessible design, which influences the way we implement their principles and standards.
The accessible UX design focuses on the needs of people with disabilities of different kinds, such as cognitive, visual, physical, or auditory. Physical disabilities are more widespread than many people think. According to the World Health Organization, 16% of the global population suffers from a significant disability. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention share an even higher rate: 1 out of 4 adults have a disability.
The humanitarian approach of the Internet community states that web content must be accessible to people who have sensory or any other disability. There are explicit guidelines on how to make mobile apps and web pages friendlier to them. So before designing your product, read through WCAG principles and standards.
Here are some recommendations from WCAG:
Ensure a concise alternative to the image in its ALT attribute.
Provide a link to an audio version of the video-only presentation.
For visual-only content, provide a short text identification of the media and longer text or a link to a longer text.
Make sure to specify both text and background colors and ensure they have enough contrast.
When we compare accessible vs inclusive design, the first one has a strictly defined group of people in mind. At the same time, inclusive design strives to cover the diversity of the whole human population. It aims at reducing the difficulty of using the product to a minimum, regardless of users' current capabilities or situation limitations. Inclusive design addresses users’ age, economic situation, geographic location, language, race, and more.
For instance, some people fail to register their last names in global interfaces. They face restrictions like character limits, no apostrophes or hyphens, or their names resembling English swear words.
The solution might be designing a page where people can report this problem and ask for assistance. However, in most cases delivering an inclusive design that ensures equal possibilities might be challenging.
The main principles of inclusive design are:
designing a family of products to cover people's needs
defining a distinct target user for each product version
developing new products in a way that will minimize further adaptation
The difference between the inclusive and accessibility approaches is reflected in their goals.
The primary task of accessible design is to provide solutions that won’t discriminate against people with disabilities. Meanwhile, inclusive design aims to provide a user-friendly experience for everybody. It studies various methods and situations from a long-term perspective.
In other words, accessible design focuses on clear results, for example, how to design mobile interfaces for elderly people with cataracts. At the same time, inclusive design is equally interested in developing solutions for people with bad eyesight and the ones who lost their contact lenses.
You will eventually need both approaches to design versatile products.
Now that we have discussed the difference between accessibility and inclusive design, it’s essential to understand how the two approaches work together.
In the pyramid model of diversity, people without any difficulties account for 21% of the whole population. Designers are free to use universal design for this target group. However, the majority of the population has minimal to severe difficulties.
Inclusive design works for the whole pyramid, while accessible design aims for the top section. This makes accessible design a part of inclusive design.
Both accessible and inclusive designs aim to eliminate barriers that exclude people from using web content and digital products. These two approaches interweave and support each other.
For example, if you have alt-texted your images having visually impaired people in mind, the improvement will also help those users who have a poor connection.
On the other hand, inclusive design generates original solutions that people with disabilities may use later on. Pampers were initially created for babies, but in time, this invention made care for bedridden patients much easier.
People often use ‘accessibility’ and ‘inclusivity’ as interchangeable terms in the design world. But keeping in mind the difference between inclusive design vs accessibility is essential to develop the best possible UI/UX for your audience:
Inclusive design is a broader frame that describes methodologies to create products for people of all backgrounds and abilities.
On the other hand, accessibility is a bare minimum that is required to give disabled people the possibility to consume digital content and use web services. It falls under inclusive design.
Both approaches work hand in hand.
Arounda team has been practicing human-centric design for over five years. Little by little, inclusivity and accessibility become an essential part of UI/UX design, especially for big clients. And we can tell from experience although maintaining accessibility standards feels like a heavy load at the beginning, it turns into a usual workflow with time.
If you are looking for an experienced design team to reach the widest possible audience with your product, drop us a line.
Inclusive design has a broader task and methodology to make products user-friendly for all the diversity of the human population. Meanwhile, accessible design focuses on a certain group of people with disabilities.
Accessibility in design ensures that interfaces and technology can be used by people with disabilities (auditory, cognitive, physical, or visual). These include permanent disabilities like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and temporary disability due to injury or other circumstances.
Inclusion addresses various demographic characteristics, such as age, gender, geographic location, language, race, etc. Accessibility is also a part of the list. Therefore, yes, accessibility falls under inclusion.
Inclusive design considers the diverse needs of all individuals, while accessible design focuses on people with disabilities. This approach leads to adaptable, user-friendly solutions enjoyed by everyone, promoting universal usability and a more inclusive society.
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