Inclusive design


The design and composition of an environment so it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.


According to the Institute for Human Centered Design, the evolution toward inclusive design began in the 1950s with a new attention to design for people with disabilities.

Beginning with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the United States initially confined parties responsible for accessible design to those entities that received federal financial assistance. The United States, led by the disability community, established the most expansive legal requirements with the passage of The Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

It substantially exceeded the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and derived most of its language directly from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with additional requirements for accessible design.

Five United States organizations—including the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD) and Ronald Mace at North Carolina State University—developed the Principles of Universal Design in 1997.

The IHCD has since shifted the language of the principles from 'universal' to 'inclusive.

What makes a design inclusive?

Equitable Use: Any group of users can use the design.

Flexibility in Use: A wide range of preferences and abilities is accommodated.

Simple, Intuitive Use: Regardless of the user's prior experience or knowledge, the use of the design is easy to understand.

Perceptible Information: Any necessary information is communicated to the user, regardless of the environment or user abilities.

Tolerance for Error: Any adverse or hazardous consequences of actions is minimized.

Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably.

Size and Space for Approach & Use: Regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility, there is appropriate size and space to approach and use the design.

In 1998, the U.S. Congress affirmed the significance of information and technology design as a means to equality and opportunity for people with disabilities when it amended Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.


Sometimes referred to as universal design. The legal standards used the term accessible design.