Busting myths around inclusive design

 Lead experience specialist Jen Hennings debunks myths about inclusive design. 


Jen Hennings


Jen constantly strives to push the envelope and make sure that the client isn't settling for anything less than extraordinary. Her background includes commercial, e-commerce, B2B, and engineering. Combine this with strong technical knowledge and experience designing across all platforms.

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One of the most common myths used as an argument against Inclusive Design is that it doesn’t benefit enough people, that the cost for making these changes doesn’t provide a high enough ROI. 

First off, let’s just clarify that this statement is wrong factually and morally. A choice to not invest in making an experience welcoming to everyone is a choice to discriminate against those that don’t comfortably fall within your accepted norm. 

But let’s take a moment to try to pull this apart a bit and break down where this misunderstanding has come from. 

“It doesn’t benefit enough people” 

Inclusive Design is not just about designing for those with diagnosed disabilities, it is not just about meeting the criteria set out by the WCAG guidelines for web and app accessibility. Inclusive Design is for everyone, and it includes the navigation and interaction methods they rely on, the pictures and videos you show, and the words that you use. A truly Inclusive Design will allow any user to see themselves represented in how you’ve planned and built the experience. 

Inclusive Design requires us to change the way we think about disability. We need to shift from the traditional medical model of disability to the social model. 

  • Medical model of disability – a functional study of the body, looking for deviations from the “norm”. 
  • Social model of disability – the inability to engage with an experience is the fault of the designer, not the user. 

Let’s look at a commonly used example – only having 1 arm. The medical model of disability would only recognise those that are born without, or have lost, or lost the use of 1 of their arms. The social model of disability also recognises that you’re also designing for people who have their arm in a sling temporarily, or new parents carrying their newborn. Yes, the number of people with a permanent disability are relatively few. However, there’s a lot of new parents and designing for the few directly benefits the many. 

Lastly, even if we just take a look at this statement through the lens of the medical model, the statement is still false. 1 in 12 people who were assigned male at birth (AMAB) will experience some form of Colour Blindness. If you don’t invest in Inclusive Design and following the WCAG guidelines on Colour Blindness, then that’s nearly 10% of your AMAB audience who won’t be able to engage with the experience properly. 

It doesn’t provide enough ROI 

Now that we have debunked the “it doesn’t benefit enough people” section of this myth hopefully, you can already see that the ROI for Inclusive Design is significantly higher than you might have thought before. 

A very simple summary: 

  • Designing solely for the many actively discriminates against the few – basically guarantees yourself a potential loss of revenue.  
  • Designing for the few actively benefits the many – boosting potential revenue from both the many and the few. 

We also need to change the way we think about ROI, the returns from Inclusive Design go beyond the base financial returns that come from users engaging with the experience. 

Experiences that are designed inclusively will provide a boost to: 

  • Customer loyalty – 80% of those with disabilities will base their purchasing decisions on which brand makes it easiest for them to do so. 
  • Brand awareness – being seen as a thought leader and expert, new customers who might not have considered you before 
  • Brand credibility – positive social reviews and discussion amongst the audiences 

Inclusive Design breeds a sense of safety and people will spend their time and money in the places they feel the safest. Committing to an Inclusive Design approach guarantees your brand will be seen as a place people can feel safe and taken care of.  

Very sadly, for a lot of people in minority groups, they are used to being actively excluded from marketing and digital experiences by major brands. So there is an opportunity here for the first wave of brands who truly embrace Inclusive Design to build the most awareness and credibility in their industries. 

Want to find out more about Inclusive Design and its implications for businesses in a post-COVID-19 world? Try downloading our latest eBook on Inclusive Design here.

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