The big hitters understand this. Microsoft. Apple. Google. Amazon. They know if you want full population coverage, inclusive design is essential.
Microsoft are so excited about inclusive design they set up a website to champion it. On it, they say:
“Physical, cognitive, and social exclusion is the result of mismatched interactions. As designers, it’s our responsibility to know how our designs affect these interactions and create mismatches.”
Inclusive design is particularly relevant to services that need to be used by the entire population and specialist services that are used by people with a high prevalence of access needs. For example:
- Government services
- Transport systems
- Financial services
- Disability benefit services
In addition to it being the right thing to do, inclusive design will save time and money for service providers and users alike. Services that can be successfully completed by everyone will produce a significant reduction in effort, failure demand and call costs.
We don’t expect someone to be disadvantaged by design. That’s why there’s a legal requirement for Inclusive Design.
The Equality Act (2010) protects people from ‘indirect discrimination’ which includes putting a policy, practice or rule in place which applies to everybody but puts someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage.
The characteristics which are protected from this discrimination are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
Financial institutions can and do face court action for neglecting to supply accessible formats like Braille to blind users. If you don’t integrate the right inclusive business processes into your service design, it’s easy to get this wrong.
Good inclusive design will make sure you get it right.
The alternative can be extremely costly.
In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled employment tribunal fees unlawful and indirectly discriminatory because a higher proportion of women would bring discrimination cases. According to the BBC, “the government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants.”
In 2018, the Department for Transport published its commitment to equal access in its Inclusive Transport Strategy which sets out the Government’s plans to make our transport system more inclusive. This applies to planes, trains and automobiles, and the pedestrian environment.
In 2019, to ensure fairness for vulnerable people in the financial sector, the Treasury Committee launched an inquiry into consumers’ access to financial services which will focus on the interaction between vulnerable consumers and financial services firms, as reported by the FT Advisor:
“The committee seeks to scrutinise whether certain groups of consumers are excluded from obtaining a basic level of service from financial services providers. It will also examine whether vulnerable consumers pay more for financial services products than others.”
It’s worth bearing in mind the Equality Act places an additional legal duty on public authorities called the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). This requires public services to not only consider how their decisions affect people with protected characteristics but to also provide evidence of this. This applies to:
- Government departments and ministers
- Armed forces
- Local authorities
- Educational bodies like schools and universities
- The information commissioner
The PSED also applies to privatised utilities like water companies, British Gas and Network Rail, and subcontractors like a private security company running a prison and private hospitals providing care on behalf of the NHS.
Good inclusive design will provide evidence-based assurance that the PSED has been met.
Government services have to work for everybody. Users don’t have a choice of which service to use. They can’t shop around. It’s Gov.uk or the highway. That’s why GDS are making sure services delivered in the public sector are “as inclusive as possible so that no users are excluded”. They describe their expectation like this:
“A fully inclusive service is one that can be accessed and successfully completed by all its users. They will be able to interact however they need to, regardless of their personal characteristics, situations, capabilities or access needs.”
In September, GDS published new inclusive design tips and guidance within the Gov.uk Service Manual called ‘Making your service more inclusive’.
All government services will be expected to follow this guidance moving forwards and we can expect to see this come up in assessments more and more in 2019.
Having led on experience design for a range of service providers catering for users with conditions like autism, limited mobility/dexterity and partially sightedness, and also catering for entire populations, our Inclusive Design Principal Bonnie Molins has developed a understanding of designing for access needs that we look forward to sharing at the upcoming Women of Silicon Roundabout event.