User-sensitive inclusive design

A. F. Newell, P. Gregor, M. Morgan, G. Pullin, C. Macaulay

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    123 Citations (Scopus)


    Although "User-Centred", "Participatory", and other similar design approaches have proved to be very valuable for mainstream design, their principles are more difficult to apply successfully when the user group contains, or is composed of, older and/or disabled users. In the field of design for older and disabled people, the "Universal Design", "Inclusive Design" and "Design for All" movements have encouraged designers to extend their design briefs to include older and disabled people. The downside of these approaches is that they can tend to encourage designers to follow a traditional design path to produce a prototype design, and only then investigate how to modify their interfaces and systems to cope with older and/or disabled users. This can lead to an inefficient design process and sometimes an inappropriate design, which may be "accessible" to people with disabilities, but in practice unusable. This paper reviews the concept that the authors have called "User-Sensitive Inclusive Design", which suggests a different approach to designing for marginalised groups of people. Rather than suggesting that designers rely on standards and guidelines, it is suggested that designers need to develop a real empathy with their user groups. A number of ways to achieve this are recommended, including the use of ethnography and techniques derived from professional theatre both for requirements gathering and for improving designers' empathy for marginalised groups of users, such as older and disabled people.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)235-243
    Number of pages9
    JournalUniversal Access in the Information Society
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


    • User-Centred Design
    • Inclusive Design
    • Universal Design
    • Older and disabled people


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