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Colorful illustration showing people with different types of abilities and disabiliites.
Photo: AI-generated

Design for All: Inclusive Solutions in a Diverse World

"Design for All" relates to the vision of a society that includes everyone. The Sustainable Development Goals emphasize the need to prioritize these aspects for us to evolve as a future-proof and resilient society. But what does it really mean to design for all? And why is it so important?

What is "Design for All"?

"Design for All" is a principle based on the insight that users have varying abilities that differ between individuals, situations, and over time. In practical terms, it is an approach where all products, environments, and services are designed to be usable by as broad a target group as possible. This means starting from an inclusive approach, and instead of solely focusing on meeting technical accessibility requirements, emphasis is placed on design processes that consider human diversity. In this way, accessibility is achieved!

The "Curb-cut effect" – Solutions initially developed for people with disabilities and benefit us all.

How does "Design for All" relate to human rights?

It is estimated that around 1.3 billion people worldwide currently experience a significant disability. Should this substantial portion of the global population (1 in 6) be considered the exception when designing products, services, and environments? Design experts have argued for decades to design for all. Disabilities are not a distant problem either; we have all experienced it at some point in our lives. Our ability to engage with design has been affected, for example, by injury, pregnancy, cognitive stress, aging, or permanent disability.

The intention is to integrate accessibility into the design process from the beginning, rather than adding it as an afterthought. There are countless examples where individuals are excluded from exercising their fundamental human rights due to inaccessible solutions. This exclusion ranges from inequalities in political voting systems to being excluded from receiving emergency information, as became evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, some products, services, and environments exclude large portions of the population in their everyday lives.

A small design element speaks volumes - Pharmacies and healthcare facilities often have counters that offer holders for canes or crutches, something that is uncommon to see in other environments. Does this mean that individuals with these aids are not present in other environments?

"Design for All" – a way to reach a wider audience

Designing for all can be complex, but the benefits are significant. From a business perspective, there are compelling reasons to prioritize a more inclusive approach. In addition to social responsibility, the benefits include:

  • ensuring compliance with laws and guidelines, such as the European Accessibility Act (coming into force in 2025)
  • developing competitive advantages
  • expanding the customer base
  • promoting innovation and the creation of groundbreaking solutions
  • avoiding future costs for redesigning products, services, etc.
  • accessing a broader recruitment base

Ultimately, businesses and organizations that prioritize inclusivity are better positioned to thrive in an increasingly diverse and competitive global market and world.

What can RISE offer?

Effectively addressing these issues often requires collaborations between sectors and disciplines. At RISE, we have broad expertise and experience in supporting companies and governmental agencies with interdisciplinary and contextually relevant approaches. Whether it is to ensure that a digital interface complies with WCAG, to prepare for the European Accessibility Act, or to integrate the principles of “Design for All” into existing management systems, such as ISO 9001 or 14001, RISE can be a valuable innovation partner..

Amanda Johnson

Interested in learning more? Don't hesitate to contact us directly or explore further via the links below. Follow our work on accessibility and "Design for All" in upcoming blog posts!


Design for All (Interaction Design Foundation)

Disability (World Health Organization)

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