What’s inclusive design, and how is it increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities?

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We all know that words matter, particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Clover Moore’s recent proposal to replace the term disabled with ‘Access Inclusion Seekers’ within policy documents for Sydney City Council was met with mixed reactions, as reported here by 2GB. While the proposal may not have been well received, it does reflect the growing awareness of the importance of inclusivity as well as accessibility.

As we explored in our recent blogs on inclusive playgrounds, theatre experiences and sensory inclusive experiences at sports events, there’s a huge difference between inclusive design and accessibility. The concept of inclusive design emerged in the 70s, primarily in relation to software development. These days, having inclusion as the foundation of design practices has become a universal concept and widely implemented. The perspectives and lived experience of people with disability are essential to the best practice of inclusive design, as ‘nothing about us without us.’

With more people with disability becoming involved in design, employment opportunities are emerging in a range of fields such a town planning, architecture, HR and more. This greater awareness about workplace inclusion is also being helped by TV’s Employable Me, as well as programs run by the Australian Network on Disability including their student internship scheme Stepping Into and PACE business mentoring program.

So, what is inclusive design?

As reported here by Fast Company, inclusive design leader Susan Goltsman describes it this way:“Inclusive design doesn’t mean you’re designing one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging.”

The Centre for Inclusive Design sets out three core principles:

  • Recognise diversity and uniqueness
  • Ensure an inclusive process and tools – ‘nothing about us without us’;
  • Promote a broader beneficial impact.

Microsoft defines the distinction between accessibility as an attribute and inclusive design as a method and emphasises the need for the design process itself to be representative of the full spectrum of human diversity. It reflects the belief that inclusive design is not truly possible without ensuring those involved in the design have a lived experience of barriers present in design that does not have inclusion at the forefront of its practice.

A methodology that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. Most importantly, this means including and learning from people with a range of perspectives.”

But it’s not just software, architecture and public spaces that could benefit from an inclusive design process. As reported by Devex, according to Scope Global, people with disability are an asset to the international development workforce. Since 2008, the company has been working alongside people with disability, who are the experts in disability-inclusive development, to create opportunities and pathways for them to contribute to international development programs.

Participation and perspectives of people with disability is crucial to creating an inclusive society

One of the central tenets of the NDIS is to improve participation in mainstream services and community organisations. But as argued in The Conversation’s series on ‘Cities for Everyone’, the flexibility and control provided to participants via the NDIS will not achieve community participation on its own. Mainstream service providers need to initiate changes to become more inclusive of people with disability – and the changes that will be the most meaningful will involve input of people with disabilities. The article reflects the common practice of businesses and services ensuring accessible facilities – but failing to manage them in a way that makes them truly inclusive.

All the evidence points to the same conclusion; hiring people with a disability is not only good for business, it’s essential to ensuring your design practices, services or policies are truly inclusive.

Get the support you need for your job search

We recently wrote about the organisations that are leading the charge in diversity inclusion – and where you can find lists of companies that are proactive in this space.

Disability Employment Australia is the national peak body for the industry and another great resource to connect people with disability employment service providers. These providers can assist with your job search, bring together employers and employees and provide support in your workplace.

Mable’s community of independent support workers have assisted NDIS participants in a range of ways with their job searches. From daily personal support, assistance with getting to an interview or more specialised support in the workplace, choose the worker who’s right for you by searching in your local area today.