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RE: Inclusion or accessibility

From: Mark Magennis <mark@frontend.com>
Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 13:15:15 +0100
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Jonathan Chetwynd wrote:

> I'm after about 3 years at wai getting a feeling that
> accessibility doesn't
> describe what is needed and maybe inclusion does.
> Any ideas on this thread welcome

I've been wondering about this a lot lately and I would love to get feedback
on my wonderings from members of this forum.

As background, my company, Frontend, are involved in writing accessibility
guidelines for services delivered through IT channels. This covers not just
the Web, but everything from bank cash machines to mobile phones and desktop
software. All information technologies.

A question that has come up for us is: are we trying to promote Universal
Design, Inclusive Design, Design for All or Accessibility?

We are wondering which term to use because we're beginning to think that it
matters quite a lot. Although our original brief was to produce
accessibility guidelines to help secure the rights of people with
disabilities, we have heard a number of comments, such as the following:

- “Disabled people are only a small number of our users so it doesn’t make
sense for us to cater specially for them”

- “You’re focussing too much on the medical model of disabilities which
pigeon holes and segregates people”

- “How can we possibly design for everyone? It’s just not feasible. And
anyway old or blind people aren’t going to be working on a flight deck”

We’ve come round to thinking that the term Inclusive Design best sums up
what we are trying to achieve, whilst getting around some of the objections
we’ve heard. It also allows us to focus on the benefits to the developers
and service providers themselves, which is particularly important in the
public sector. Ultimately, we think it will be the best way of promoting
accessibility. I’d like to describe what we mean by Inclusive Design and why
we like the term.

Before going further, I should stress that we are not saying that the term
Inclusive Design is always better than either Universal Design or
Accessibility, or vice versa. Just that we think it better fits our aims. We
see accessibility as a part of Inclusive Design in the same way that he Web
is part of IT. We do not wish to criticise this forum or any individual for
focussing on these specific aspects. This is absolutely necessary, even
within Inclusive Design.

The reason we like the term “Inclusive Design” is that it puts the emphasis
on the benefits to the developer or provider of including as many of the
potential users as much of the time as possible. It recognises that people’s
abilities vary in many ways and the abilities of a given individual will
vary across situations. It encourages designers and service providers to
include all these different individuals and different situations. To avoid
excluding potential users, either temporarily or permanently, by failing to
take into account the physical, mental or environmental constraints they may
be operating under. It is therefore realistic and wide ranging in its

Although it includes the notion of “Accessibility”, Inclusive Design does
not restrict itself to people who are “disabled”, which is often thought to
be a small community and therefore not particularly important from the
providers point of view. It therefore avoids segregating and pigeon holing
people with medically-recognised impairments. By focussing on abilities
first and the people who have them second, it illustrates that we can all be
impaired in certain ways at certain times and it is nothing unusual.

Unlike “Universal Design” or “Design for All”, it does not urge designers to
ensure that “everyone” can use a product or service. This aspiration may
well be unnecessary or unachievable in practice. If so, it will be dismissed
on the basis of being unrealistic.

The concept of Inclusive Design is easier to connect to the broader concepts
of “customer-focus” and “usability”, both of which are already taken
seriously by designers and providers of IT products and services. It is also
perhaps a more mindset-oriented term. For example, designers could have an
inclusive attitude. Accessibility is perhaps a bit more technical-oriented,
like it’s either accessible or it’s not. However, promoting Inclusive
Design, which is easier to sell on benefits, should ultimately be a good way
of promoting accessibility, which is one of the requirements for it.

That’s where we are at right now. All comments appreciated.


 Dr. Mark Magennis                     Head of Usability

   Frontend - Usability Engineering & Interface Design
   40 Westland Row, Dublin 2, Republic of Ireland

          Visit our Usability Infocentre at:

 mark.magennis@frontend.com         tel: +353 1 241 1616
 http://www.frontend.com            fax: +353 1 241 1601
Received on Wednesday, 17 October 2001 08:16:19 UTC

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