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Achieving Design Justice through inclusive design

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

So you found our post, that means you’re either lost or are on a journey to embed inclusive design. You’re here now! So why don't we start in the middle since it's rather boring going from the start.


At People Street, we use the term Design Justice with a capital J to refer to practices which embed equity and intersectional thinking along the design process. There are many principles governing our praxis. In today’s blog, we are going to unpick 3 of these principles to demonstrate how you can achieve gold-standard design wherever you are in the world. Let’s treat this as an inquiry and explore the questions you could begin asking yourself. Are you ready?


Centring the ‘right’ voices


Before you start on your journey, reflect on and note down whose voices you're centring in the design, development and research process. Is it your Director’s voice? Developer? If you’ve managed to get user research participants, how do they differ from your voice? Your team’s voice? Are they the usual voices, you know what I mean here right? If we asked you to centre the voices of those most impacted by the service or product you’re creating, who would those people be?


Proportionate Universalism


It's a mouthful to say. It comes from the world of health inequality thinking but it's a power-couple. When I use it here, I’m asking you to design with the 20% of people most at risk of exclusion and/or the poorest outcomes as a result of the product you’re designing, but to roll it out for everyone.


For example, your research brief privileges involving and listening to communities with protected characteristics. You tackle the barriers to access upfront, mitigate against exclusion and roll it out for everyone to use. It's the secret of achieving great tech for all, not for some.


Are you aware of how your product or service exacerbates inequalities? Are you documenting which communities are most at risk of exclusion as a result?


Change as an accessible, accountable and collaborative process


The third principle we are sharing today goes something like this; Change as an accessible, accountable and collaborative process rather than as a point at the end of a process. Here, we want to emphasise the importance of perceiving change as an ongoing, inclusive, and participatory process, rather than as a single event or outcome.


By promoting accessibility, barriers to entry or exclusionary practices can be minimised, and a more inclusive and diverse range of perspectives can be incorporated. Ensuring accountability fosters transparency, trust, and a commitment to achieving the desired outcomes. And by encouraging collaboration, different viewpoints can be shared, innovative ideas can emerge, and collective ownership of the change can be established.


How does your current practice consider accessibility? Are you accountable to the communities you serve or only your SLT? How intersectional and diverse are the voices you’re collaborating with?


So what?


By considering a diverse range of users and their needs upfront, inclusive design aims to make services accessible to all without requiring specialised services. This reduces the costs and helps government departments to comply with legal requirements related to accessibility and non-discrimination. By investing in inclusive design, we can create services that are accessible, efficient, and beneficial to all citizens, resulting in improved outcomes and reduced financial burdens.


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