July 12, 2023

Designing for diversity

Accessible and universal design vs. inclusive design

3D shapes
3D shapes
3D shapes

Accessibility ensures that the UX and UI are usable by people with disabilities. This could include auditory, cognitive, physical, and visual disabilities. Standards such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Google’s Lighthouse or Adobe Color make accessibility easier to assess. However, accessibility is only a bare minimum for meaningful experiences for individuals with disabilities.

Where accessibility focuses on specific accommodations, universal design aims to create one experience that can be accessed and used by the largest number of people possible. Until recently car design was very much universal.

Inclusive design accepts and embraces multiple design variations in order to satisfy the users needs. This means understanding and enabling people of all backgrounds and abilities. See the image below for a variety of different considerations.

In general, universal design is more widely used in tangible and environmental contexts, where inclusive design is applied more easily to digital-products because its relatively cheap and easy to do so.

Whatever you’re designing for it’s important to be intentional, taking a human-centered approach and think beyond what can visually be perceived.

“The more inclusive or human your product feels to others, the more pleasant the experience will be.” - Melanie Buset, User Research Manager at Spotify