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A11Y: Inclusive Design

Manny Becerra as a child

I'm a big proponent of inclusive, people-centered design and solutions, not just with the digital products and user experiences I have the opportunity to work on and create, but in my daily life.

Designing for inclusion isn't just good for people with special needs and abilities, it's good for everyone; it's about creating a better world for everyone.

It's Good for Everyone

Designing for inclusion isn't just good for people with special needs and abilities, it's good for everyone; it's about creating a better world for everyone. Inclusive design expands your product’s reach, can be a great catalist for innovation, and helps your team take on a position of social responsibility.

Where to Start

Empathy is an essential quality that every leader in every organization should possess at all levels of an organization.

The good news is that there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit. A good starting point is to explore any points of exclusion in your products and workplace, and use the findings to generate new ideas and highlight opportunities to create new solutions. Understanding exactly how and why people are excluded can help establish concrete steps towards being more inclusive.

Involve Others

Simply put: involve others in your design process. This doesn't mean just your "besties." Involve people from different communities; they are the best folks to communicate their needs, and they can help us look beyond our own abilities and biases when creating products.

Continuous Improvement

As you identify what areas of exclusion need addressing, in both your products and workplace, leverage the value of continuous improvement; effectively, think about what you're doing and how you're doing it on a regular basis. For instance, seek and implement a standing, tight feedback loop between your staff, users and yourself so experiences can be shared and responded to for continuously improving things.

Empathy

Empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—is a key determinant of emotional intelligence (EQ). Those who are more empathetic tend to also be more emotionally intelligent. Empathy is an essential quality that every leader in every organization should possess at all levels of an organization from product managers, editors, designers, engineers to the CEO. If empathy is lacking, the aforementioned recommendations will only get you so far and it'll become clear fast that your efforts are not genuine and will not really address points of exclusion holistically.

Technology is inherently political; let's leverage it in ways to help create a better workplace and world for everyone with empathy, compassion and forward-thinking change at the foundation.

See also:

Related good reads, resources and people

To learn more about building accessible-friendly websites and digital products, check out the A11Y project.