Difference between accessible and inclusive design

Torresburriel Estudio
4 min readMay 17, 2022


In the UX world there are two very frequent concepts: accessibility and inclusion. Both concepts have the same bases, but there are big differences between them.

The goal of accessibility is that every product is useful for every kind of user. On the other hand, inclusive design means that we must take into account the diversity within the users. These two concepts might seem the same, but there are certain differences between them.

What is accessible design?

Accessible design aim to achieve that every person can use a digital product, regardless of their capacities.

Accessible design relies on the technical capacities of a product that make it easier to use. This is regulated by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). These guidelines describe technical, coding, interaction and design standards based on their principles, advice, conformity criteria and sufficient and recommended techniques.

WAI tries to achieve web accessibility working so that every technology is accessible and is developing guidelines for web content and creative tools, easing the evaluation and repairing tools for accessibility, carrying out education and exposure activities and also coordinating research regarding accessibility of the future of the web.

By accomplishing these standards we can guarantee that people with hearing, visual (such as colorblinds), speech or cognitive disabilities can understand and interact with digital products without impediment.

To further understand this concept we recommend watching UX Design TED Talks. Specifically Elise Roy’s “When we design for disability, we all benefit” and Sinéad Burke’s “Why design should include everyone”.

What is inclusive design?

Inclusive design dives into a deeper spectrum, and its objective is building products that everyone can use. In this case inclusivity takes into account people who have certain kinds of disabilities, but also minorities and other population groups.

Inclusivity takes into consideration features such as economic position, age, culture, language, education level, technical skills, physical environment, connectivity and some other socioeconomic factors.

Differences between accessible and inclusive design

Accessible and inclusive design are strongly linked, but they have a slightly different focus.

Accessible design is focused on the final product, and its main objective is to guarantee easy use for people with disabilities. Accessible design has standards that must be achieved by law.

Accessibility standards take into account the structure and format of the content, but not its information. Use of words, images or other resources may be offensive or discriminatory, even if the product is accessible. For instance, we must be especially careful with the use of emojis, since they may be a problem in accessibility as well as regarding inclusivity. This is why inclusive design is also important, since following best practices in accessibility does not guarantee that people will feel represented.

In contrast, Inclusive Design is a methodology. Its purpose is that UX experts think holistically about how to build a product that is easier to use for all people, regardless of their situation.

For example, we must build accessible designs for the elderly, and that is an accessibility issue, but we cannot forget about inclusivity. Building products for everyone is a cornerstone of UX, and it will mean a substantial improvement for any person that will want to use the product.

To achieve that the development of a product is inclusive and adapts to inclusivity, we must make sure that we take into consideration all the options from the beginning of the project. UX Research is key to guarantee inclusivity and diversity, starting with the participant recruitment phase so that research is relevant.

Value of accessibility and inclusivity

We all want that everyone is treated equally and have the same opportunities, and access to digital products plays a main role in this issue. If we achieve that everybody can use a digital product there can be perks such as:

  • Reducing risk. Digital products must be accessible and meet certain established rules, in case they don’t meet these standards they could face legal actions.
  • Creating added value. The more people who have their needs satisfied by a digital product, the more attractive the product is, and it could also try to expand towards more potential markets. The greater the number of clients who can use a digital product, the greater the benefit.
  • Improve user satisfaction. If we understand the needs of every user, we will improve their satisfaction. Furthermore, it is easier to maintain the existing users than trying to convince new users.

Read more: How to build accessible designs on our digital products

Tips for integrating accessibility and inclusivity into UX

As UX experts we have to make sure that we put into action every accessibility and inclusivity measure available. These are some of the most important pieces of advice:

  • Establish objectives that are specific to accessibility and inclusivity, and which are aligned with the audience that we are trying to reach and the resources we have available for the project.
  • Using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to identify the fields where we can improve.
  • Recruit diverse users who will allow us to understand the challenges that we are facing during the development of the digital product. Inclusivity has to start during the project’s ideation phase, going through investigation and up until the launch of our product.
  • Show empathy and iterate the project as many times as it is needed, watching closely the results that research reveals.
  • Create diverse teams so we can have different points of view that will impact the design development process.

To sum up, both concepts are key when working in UX, and we must know them in order to apply them correctly in our digital product projects. Only then we will be able to achieve that they are accessible and inclusive, and that every person can benefit from them.



Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance

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