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Busting myths and making services more inclusive

Our passion for making services more inclusive is deep rooted within our approach to service design.

This is demonstrated in our ongoing work with Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals service, where our redesign and transformation of the asylum appeals process has been shortlisted for this year’s global Service Design Awards.

Despite the public sector leading the way with ensuring its services are inclusive, there is still a lot of myths about how widespread the issue of accessibility is. Did you know 22% of the UK population lack the digital capabilities needed to access your online services? A figure that is more poignant than ever, given the impacts of COVID-19 accelerating the demand for digital services. We spoke with Natalie Harney who is one of our inclusive design experts to help bust some myths…

Inclusion is only about making things accessible to people with disabilities, right?

Making things accessible to people who live with disabilities is hugely important. We need to consider how people who have a range of abilities, which are different to our own, are able to engage with and feel included in the work we do.

In order to do that, we need to go beyond just thinking about perhaps the obvious things you imagine as disabilities, and instead consider a whole range of barriers that might typically make it harder for someone to use services online. That means thinking about how people across the spectrum of age, gender, race, neurodiversity, literacy, access and confidence, amongst lots of other factors, can be included in your service. It also means thinking about how you might, unintentionally, be excluding people.

When we make services that are inclusive and flexible to as wide a range of people as possible, we’re making them better for everyone, not just those people who you might have thought about facing barriers to access.

But surely that’s still only a small number of people?

There are far more people than you might expect. Let me hit you with some statistics…

In the UK alone there are around 14.1million people who live with a disability, that’s around 1 in 5 working age adults and just under half of people old enough to receive a pension.

Around 15% of people are neurodivergent, including those who are autistic or dyslexic, which means that their brains function, learn and process information in ways different to what society expects.

Then 22% of people in the UK lack the digital skills they need for everyday life, the skills and confidence you might take for granted if you’re reading this blog post.

When we’re thinking about who might use our services online, we also need to think about people with disabilities that might be temporary (like breaking your arm for example!) and situational (like having to carry a crying baby in one arm).

So, a huge number of people are often, unfairly, excluded from services.

Isn’t most of the internet inclusive as standard?

Not at all, actually, only 2% of the world’s most popular website actually meet the legal requirements for accessibility. So, 98% do not. That’s before you think about how inclusive their content and design is once you can access it.

Well, people can just get someone to help them can’t they?

Particularly in light of COVID-19, where many of us where isolated from our usual support networks, it’s wrong to assume that everyone has access to support. There are many things we all want to, and should, have the ability to do on our own. So, we should be striving to create inclusive services which empower people to access what they want and need on their own terms.

Okay, but surely this is going to cost money, is it commercially viable to improve services?

Let’s be honest, working inclusively does require an investment. Making sure you’re doing high quality research and design with users with a range of abilities takes time, money and effort.

But it’s an investment that will repay you many times over. Services that are easy to use require less support to fix errors and answer queries. They’re also more likely to get a share of the £11,750,000,000 estimated spending power of assisted digital users. I know from experience in testing services and running inclusive design workshops that the power of a hard to use service to turns people away, but also the loyalty (and genuine joy) that comes with using something that makes you feel included.

So, what do you think, has that changed your thinking on inclusive design? If so, and you want to learn some top tips on where to start thinking inclusively about your digital offering or just ask a question, drop us an email at You can also check our entry as a winner for 2021 annual Service Design Awards, speaking about the incredible work we’ve done with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service here*.

*Delivered when we were Engine Transformation.

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