Why You Need To Care About Inclusive Design

YiFan Dai
4 min readApr 5, 2021

As designers, we must expand out awareness on the diversity of people we serve. This article explores the necessity for inclusive design and how to apply it into your own life.

Before we get started, what is inclusive design?

What a great question! Through this inclusive methodology, we take into consideration of the diverse identities, cultures and perspectives of our users within different contexts. It extends the design solution to resolve intersectional needs, perspectives and behaviours. Inclusive design accommodates for edge cases by reducing the level of ability to offer engagement with each product to a broad spectrum of users.

Continuum of population diversity

Universal vs Inclusive Design — What’s the Difference?

Universal design looks to create a single unified experience to support as many people as possible. It looks for commonality amongst hundreds of thousands of users.

“Universal design’s goal is to remove barriers for all users, with designers create a single solution to reach the most people, while without the need to supplement the solution in order to accommodate for people with different needs.” — Week 9 Slides

Inclusive design dismantles the plausibility of uniformed experiences. It recognizes the diversity and intersectionality of individuals to create avenues to create varied experiences tailored to those unique demographics.

“Inclusive design doesn’t mean you’re designing one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging.” — Inclusive Design leader, Susan Goltsman

The 3 Dimensions of Inclusive Design

Director Jutta Treviranus explains the full extent of their framework for inclusive design in far more detail in her 3-part blog post. She argues that the act of inclusive design is the integration of diverse backgrounds and abolishment of the single paradigm. By excluding certain users, the lack of advocacy for their needs will continue to deprive users of their resources, impacting their family, community and society at large.

The three dimensions of inclusive design. From the Inclusive Design Institute.
  1. Recognize the uniqueness of our diverse population.
  2. Use inclusive processes in your design process. Co-design with the people you serve to have diverse inputs on your design plans.
  3. The applicability of your solution has the potential to extend beyond to other systems. By recognizing the interconnectedness of your users and systems, we can change the cycle from viscous to virtuous.

Design For Your Future Self

Disability is a potential state we can all find ourselves in. If we reject and exclude individuals who experience disabilities, we reject and exclude our future selves and our loved ones. — Jutta Treviranus, Director of Inclusive Design Research Center

As we age, we can grow to be more frustrated with technology due to declined sensory, motor and/or cognitive capabilities. But what if we can change that?

Instead of viewing users with a dichotomy of disabled vs not, we can normalize varying levels of disability as something that will impair us at varying times in our lives. The disability to engage may be permanent, temporary or situational depending on our life stage, and inclusive design can help create products that account for some or all of those circumstances.

Here are some questions (from TestLodge) to help you build for a better tomorrow:

  • Can I think of anybody who might struggle to use this feature or UI element?
  • Am I building unnecessary barriers into the user journey?
  • How might a user with X disability accomplish this task?
  • Am I hiding or obscuring important information for aesthetic reasons?
  • What percentage of this design is function vs decoration?
  • Could this appeal to a wider audience or market?

Lastly, I leave you with actionable steps for your life:

How do I apply it to my own life?

  1. Recognize your own privileges. Your way of the world is not all-encompassing to everyone’s experiences.
  2. Speak to people with different backgrounds as you. Yes, it may be uncomfortable to march into unfamiliar terrain, and you might be faced with the embarrassment of your own ignorance. But inviting different perspectives into your life will help you challenge your assumptions and beliefs on other ways of life.
  3. Abolish your normality.

“What if there was no such thing as a normal human being? If there’s no normal, there’s no edge cases–just diverse people changing from one moment to the next.” — Kat Holmes , “How to Design for Everyone”, Fast Company, 2018


Chapman, Cameron. “Accessible Design vs Inclusive Design (with Infographic).” Toptal Design Blog. Toptal, April 15, 2020. https://www.toptal.com/designers/ui/inclusive-design-infographic.

“Inclusive Design — A Change in Mindset When Designing for All.” TestLodge Blog, June 11, 2019. https://blog.testlodge.com/inclusive-design/.

“Inclusive Design Toolkit.” Why do inclusive design? Accessed April 3, 2021. http://www.inclusivedesigntoolkit.com/why/why.html.

Treviranus, Jutta “The Three Dimensions of Inclusive Design: Part One **.” Medium. Medium, July 10, 2018. https://medium.com/fwd50/the-three-dimensions-of-inclusive-design-part-one-103cad1ffdc2.

Treviranus, Jutta. “The Three Dimensions of Inclusive Design, Part Three**.” Medium. Medium, April 15, 2018. https://medium.com/@jutta.trevira/the-three-dimensions-of-inclusive-design-part-three-b6585c737f40.

“Understanding Universal Design vs Accessibility vs Inclusive Design.” Say Yeah!, November 1, 2020. https://sayyeah.com/digital-insights/universal-design-accessibility-inclusive-design/.

“What Is Inclusive Design.” Inclusive Design Research Centre. Accessed April 3, 2021. https://legacy.idrc.ocadu.ca/about-the-idrc/49-resources/online-resources/articles-and-papers/443-whatisinclusivedesign.

Week 9 lecture slides on Inclusive Design



YiFan Dai

just a smol bean in love with design • IxD student at Sheridan • yifan.design