What is inclusive design?
Inclusive Design is neither a new genre of design, nor a separate specialism. It is a general approach to designing in which designers ensure that their products and services address the needs of the widest possible audience, irrespective of age or ability. Two major trends have driven the growth of Inclusive Design (also known as Design for All and as Universal Design in the USA) – population ageing and the growing movement to integrate disabled people into mainstream society.

why is it important?
Demographic change is a major challenge to the design profession – and the business community which commissons it. There are already 130 million people over 50 in the European Union. By 2020, one in every two European adults will be over that age. The effects of rapidly ageing populations, and growing numbers of people with disabilities, are having a profound effect on new product and service development. The need for a more socially inclusive approach to designing is rising up the business agenda. Design development which includes the needs of marginalised groups of people is regarded as not just socially desirable but a commercial opportunity. As The Economist noted in August 2002: ‘Over the past two decades, consumption by the over-50s in Europe has increased three times as fast as that by the rest of the population’.

what is the relevance to design education?
Inclusive Design is important to the designers of tomorrow – and those who educate them. Future consumer markets will be more diverse than ever in terms of age and physical ability. In the past, design education looked at special needs design for special needs group. That attitude is changing. Now the focus is on better mainstream solutions for everyone, supported by new design research techniques to make the development process more user-centred.

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