Inclusive Design Framework
The emerging interrelationships between people, technology and spaces (their neighbourhoods and communities) create new, complex problems. People are diverse and have unique needs, the technology is moving quickly, and the context is rapidly changing. Investment in designing for hypothetical “norms” and average populations, and creating fixed standards and design criteria, leads us to ignore the changes, deny the complexity, and exclude the diversity—resulting in technologies, systems, and services that are rigid rather than adaptable and fail to address the needs of many citizens. Data ownership, governance, and privacy are significant issues that must be addressed collectively; with careful attention paid to both the potentials that are enabled and to the social risks that new technologies in civic spaces present.
Inclusive design assumes no predetermined end point and no generalized success criteria, instead inviting diverse participants to determine the outcomes and measures collectively. The inclusive design framework is intended to be more like a trellis that supports organic growth and provides a foundation from which to innovate and evolve. The three dimensions of the framework are:
- Recognize, respect, and design for human uniqueness and variability.
- Use inclusive, open & transparent processes, and co-design with people who have a diversity of perspectives, including people that can’t use or have difficulty using the current environments.
- Realize that you are designing in a complex adaptive system.
Co-Design (A Community-Driven Approach)
With the current pace of urban development and adoption of emerging technologies, new connected neighbourhoods are developing around the world. However, residents are generally not included in the process of designing these spaces and the technologies that connect them. The burden is then placed on the individual residents to figure out how to adapt to a connected lifestyle in which their unique needs were not taken into consideration.
The practice of co-design tries to bridge this gap. It offers citizens a way to actively participate in the iterative design and growth of communities that meet their needs. Including the most unique and diverse needs—the “edges”—in the co-design process is an effective strategy to ensure our design stretches and responds to a broader range of needs. If we reach the edge, the design will also work better for the centre and will be more flexible and generous. Co-designing cities with citizens whose needs are typically considered to be “at the margin” leads to integrating inclusive design and accessibility into the planning of cities and civic technologies right from the start, minimizing the need for segregated, specialized solutions or expensive retrofitting later.