Inclusive Design

An evolving understanding

Disability as diagnosis

Many of our systems – including our big institutions – were built in a time when disability was seen as a diagnosis, a “problem” associated with a person and some physical difference. In that environment, accommodations improve access..

Accommodations level the playing field.

  • Reactive
  • Required by law
  • Guided by Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Puts the burden (asking for help, disclosing disability) on the person who’s impacted.

Disability as mismatch

Today we understand disability as a mismatch between a person’s abilities and their environment. And when we can control the environment we sometimes have an opportunity to remove disability from the situation altogether. 

Inclusive Design benefits the most people possible, by default.

  • Proactive
  • Optional framework
  • Guided by Universal Design principles
  • Often doesn’t require disclosure

Inclusive design examples

  • Voice assistants
  • Automatic doors
  • Large grip kitchen utensils
  • E-readers with adjustable print sizes

Find more tools and guidance at, the university’s repository for digital accessibility knowledge.