Inclusion is a term that is difficult to define, even among experts.
But what is clear is that accessibility is only the means to the end of inclusion.
Wheelchair users, who have to use a ramp in the backyard instead of the main entrance. This is because the main entrance is not threshold-free.
Visually impaired people, who have to ask for a menu that is easy to read or in audio. Because the standard menu has a small font with poor contrasts.
Such special solutions address people with disabilities only. They are not offered to people without disabilities. Instead, people have to actively request them when needed. This creates accessibility, but not inclusion. On the contrary, such solutions are often discriminatory.
That’s why advocacy groups for people with disabilities also demand universal design instead of special solutions.
Once universal design is applied, accessible solutions become the standard available to all.
Think of Braille on medication packaging. That is a standard for ALL medications, for ALL patients.
So blind people don’t have to ask the pharmacist for Braille embossing.
Or train stations with exclusively threshold-free crossings, automatic doors and a tactile guidance system. Today, this is already a matter of course and required by law.
Inclusion through design for all has advantages for everyone: For some, it is a prerequisite for access to localities or information. For all, universal design offers greater convenience. And for the providers, the customer base increases.
Subsequent solutions to meet the minimum legal requirements for accessibility are always more expensive, usually visually unattractive and rarely inclusive.
If you try to provide the easiest possible access for as many people as possible right from the start, during product development or building design, you will end up with a truly customer-friendly and therefore successful result. Universal design or design for All avoids special solutions, saves money and ensures true inclusion.
Find examples of smart solutions in Universal Design here.