A good inclusive design looks at every aspect of the service — the business processes, user experience, technology enablers, data architecture and operational delivery — to make sure it meets the access needs of diverse users from end-to-end of their service journey.

It helps if you have a nice big library of design patterns for multiple channels and processes to get you off to a good start. While it’s important to verify designs with users with access needs, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time from scratch.

There are a range of accessibility dos and don’ts that can be applied to content, paper, phone and the built environment as well as the digital component of a service, to provide ‘assisted digital’ routes as well as ensure the largest possible take-up of the digital service.

Likewise, we can apply a store of design features that support users through the handoff points between different channels, and build in the processes, data, protocols and capabilities required to mechanise delivery of inclusive service elements such as reasonable adjustments and accessible formats, to help keep users with access needs moving along their full user journey.

Inclusive design means expanding our human-centred design approach to include people with the broadest possible range of access needs and all 9 protected characteristics and verifying our designs by testing them with those users.

It also means applying the standards and methods associated with digital accessibility to all channels for truly seamless end-to-end service journeys across digital, paper, phone and face-to-face aspects of the service.

A good inclusive design offers flexible pathways and multiple experiences of the same process so it can be used by people with as many different access needs as possible.

Inclusive design is cheaper and more effective (and produces cheaper, more effective services) if it’s baked in from the start. Inclusive design methodologies should be applied to your service vision, as-is and to-be states, experience strategy, user stories, user journey maps, service process maps, user research, content, interface design, tech enablers, data, KPIs, capabilities, optimisation plan, the lot.

However light touch, it’s essential users with access needs are built into your future operating model. Whatever your service, you’ll have an obligation to provide equal access under the Equality Act, and if you’re a public authority you’ll need to consider how your service design will impact certain groups and provide evidence of that consideration in order to meet the PSED.

If you’ve already started the process, conduct an audit from an inclusive design perspective of the artefacts you’ve produced so far, iron out any issues and fill in the gaps.

If you’re just getting started, find out everything you can about your users, identify the causes of service exclusion, include people with access needs in the process and co-design flexible multi-channel solutions that work for diverse users.

Remember the average user is a mythical beast, and, the more we get to know the needs of real service users, the more enigmatic the ‘average’ user becomes.

Of the UK population…

  • 22% have a disability
  • 16% are functionally illiterate
  • 17% live in poverty
  • 17% have a “common mental disorder” (36% of which are undiagnosed)
  • 14.9% do not currently use the internet and a further 14.3% are limited users
  • For 7.7% English/Welsh is not their main language
  • 10% do not have access to the internet at home at all

When we consider these exclusion factors alone (and there are many more) it seems self-evident that we will need to take an inclusive design approach if we want to provide services that really can be used by everyone.

At Kainos, we’re driven to create a digital world that everyone can participate in, which leaves no one behind.

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.

‘What is inclusive design and why should you care?’ promo image

Want to know more about inclusive design at Kainos? Come and join us at Women of Silicon Roundabout, June 25th and 26th or visit our website.