As design professionals we often use personas in our design process. In my experience we rarely account for users with different abilities. Ability, both physical and mental, impacts our experiences. To remind us of this UX Booth use the term ‘Universal Design’.
Accessibility and Universal Design
Inclusivity is as much a mindset as universal design, albeit with a broader goal. Inclusivity is the policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. This includes people with handicaps and learning disabilities, as well as diverse populations and minorities. For example, by designing for users with bad internet connectivity, we are being more inclusive of those who are unable to afford high speed internet connections.
The terms ‘accessibility’ and ‘universal design’ are often used interchangeably. Yet, these terms differ in scope.
Accessible design focuses on the needs of people who are differently abled. The focus of Universal design is on all peoples needs.
A wheelchair lift is an example of accessible design. An example of universal design is an elevator. Anyone can use an elevator. People with a wheelchair, or small children, or people moving large furniture. Or tired people who want a break.
Designing with Universal Design in Mind
Access for all should be an invisible component of Design, not a grudging afterthought
If we wish to design with Universal Design in mind then creating inclusive personas can help. These personas should consider a range of different user abilities.
But, how do we measure Universal Design? Usability testing is the best way to test an experience. The key is to recruit people who represent a variety of ages, mental abilities and physical abilities.