Too often, design solutions that meet the needs of marginalized users, including users with disabilities, are segregated from the mainstream, resulting in unaffordable solutions and isolation of a particular population. For example, in the past, screen reader-accessible websites were created separately from the main site, often providing the user with a less engaging experience.
An inclusive design solution is one that is integrated into mainstream design, making the solution more affordable and more usable for all. For example, an accessible playground that is engaging and fun for all kids, including those with disabilities, allows them to play together rather than segregating some kids into a separate space.
Creating adaptable and flexible designs is one way to allow for integration. In addition, when diverse participation in the design process is encouraged from the start, the resulting design solutions are much more likely to be fully integrated. By leveraging the curb-cut effect*, a solution created to meet the needs of a particular population becomes more usable for everyone.
Integration is often avoided and is left to the end users. This approach can lead to costly modification processes, legal penalties and ultimately misses an opportunity to reach out to many people who might have benefited from that integration.
*a ramp from the street to the sidewalk designed for wheelchairs, that also meets the needs of others e.g. cyclists
Think of one of your latest projects. List some of the users that it intends to serve. Now consider an alternate solution that would serve an individual or group of users with different needs but the same goal. How could you integrate these two solutions together such that it could meet the needs of both groups?