Inclusive design and the bottom line: How can its value be proven to decision makers?

Inclusive design and the bottom line: How can its value be proven to decision makers?

NOTE: This paper was co-written with colleagues during my work at the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre, and published in Mieczakowski, A., Hessey, S. and Clarkson, P.J. (2013) ‘Inclusive Design and the Bottom Line: How Can Its Value Be Proven To Decision Makers?’ In: Stephanidis, C. and Antona, M. [Editors] ‘UAHCI/HCII 2013: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. Design Methods, Tools, and Interaction Techniques for eInclusion‘, Part I, LNCS 8009. Heidelberg: Springer, pp. 67-76.

Designing technology products that embrace the needs and capabilities of heterogeneous users leads not only to increased customer satisfaction and enhanced corporate social responsibility, but also better market penetration. Yet, achieving inclusion in today’s pressured and fast-moving markets is not straight-forward. For a time, inaccessible and unusable design was solely seen as the fault of designers and a whole line of research was dedicated to pinpointing their frailties. More recently, it has become progressively more recognised that it is not necessarily designers’ lack of awareness, or unwillingness, that results in sub-optimal design, but rather there are multi-faceted organisational factors at play that seldom provide an adequate environment in which inclusive products could be designed. Through literature review, a detailed audit of inclusivity practice in a large global company and ongoing research regarding quantification of cost-effectiveness of inclusive design, this paper discusses the overarching operational problems that prevent organisations from developing optimally inclusive products and offers best-practice principles for the future.