Personal Discovery

Allowing for personal discovery of needs and preferences is an important aspect of inclusive design. If an individual has never been exposed to something (e.g. changing settings on a digital device, or alternative learning or teaching methods), it is not enough to ask "what works for you?". That is, if someone is unaware of an available solution, there is no way for that individual to know that it will help them, or to know where to find it or even to be motivated to seek it out.

Designing for playful and engaging discovery in a low-risk environment creates a space for a user to learn about their own needs and preferences. In contrast, prescribing ways of interacting or learning based on medical diagnoses or other rigid categorizations or assumptions limits a user’s choices and makes no space for the unexpected or for variations and nuances.

Wherever possible adaptability and flexibility should be designed into products and services. This puts more power into the hands of any one of us to create our own experience, and to modify this experience over time and/or in new contexts. Allowing for the sharing of information among users is another way to empower users; in this way an individual can depend on a growing community of people with similar interests and needs.


Consider moments of increased self-awareness in your life when a preference, like and dislike, or a need became clear to you. Was it a time when you were forced to adapt to a new situation? For example, while travelling, you slept in a different bed and discovered that a different kind of pillow helped with your neck pain? Or perhaps it was a time when someone offered you a new choice that you hadn’t been exposed to before. What aspects of the situation, environment, or the thing itself helped you to feel comfortable to try something new?