Inclusive Design

Inclusion at the Intersection of Design and Accessibility

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(The first in a series of posts on inclusive design)

It’s not often you find design and accessibility as complimentary ingredients in a tasty entrée.

In the past, the idea of mixing checklists and restrictions with creativity and free-spirited attitudes was faux pas, like adding ketchup to a hotdog in Chicago. But, sometimes two very different things often go very well together, like peanut butter and jelly, syrup and bacon, or chicken and waffles.

When designing for inclusion, opposites definitely attract and form follows function. Design is now solely at the center of this new movement in creating human-centric solutions that allow people and machines to interact more effectively and intuitively. And, it exemplifies how design plays such a crucial role in creating a product that makes people’s lives more productive, regardless of age or ability.

Placing accessibility at the forefront of the design and development process ensures that all customer segments have more personal and adaptive experiences. IBM Design and IBM Accessibility have formed a unique partnership that helps designers develop a deeper understanding of how physical and cognitive disabilities affect the use of a product, while helping accessibility professionals understand new creative elements that deliver better user experiences.

IBM has made accessibility an integral function of IBM Design Thinking and IBM Design Language, and has embedded accessibility into its boot camp training sessions, IBM Designcamps. This introduces newly-hired designers to accessibility principles, standards and regulations, methodologies, and newest technologies. By equating accessibility with design we’ve turned a foreign concept into something real and relatable.

It is important that everyone designing and developing new solutions understand the mental model of users of all ages and abilities in order to deliver the best possible experience. Incorporating accessibility is not only one of the key aspects of any good product design, it also helps accelerate deployment, reduce expenses and create a more intimate relationship with how users interact with a product or service.

To do this, it’s important that designers have:

  • Empathy and understanding for different users, including people with disabilities, the aging population, or anyone facing a “situational” disability while using a mobile device. This gives firsthand perspective how design can play a role in creating more personalized experience that makes everyone’s life easier.
  • Access to tooling and testing processes to identify and correct accessibility conformance issues early in the DevOps process in order to create a more holistic design. This offers the potential to save valuable time and budget, especially because it can be used as a way to teach development teams how to implement accessibility correctly so they don’t propagate issues throughout development efforts.
  • An opportunity to create innovative solutions that are flexible, adaptive and work for all users in all situations making everyone’s daily routines easier and manageable.

The powerful combination of accessibility and design differentiates service offerings, personalizes interactions on any device and creates a better user experience. It’s also just good business.

For more information:

  • Listen to our podcast: “Inclusive #Design in a Cognitive Era: Reinventing Enterprise Email to Make Workplaces More Productive”
  • Watch a video on designing for inclusion

Social Media Manager & Webmaster, IBM Accessibility

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