Huge financial and social benefits to inclusive design, report shows
A new report shows inclusively designed products and services could benefit the Australian retail sector alone by as much as $4 billion.
Commissioned by the Centre for Inclusive Design in partnership with Adobe and Microsoft, the report shows designing products and services with the needs of people experiencing the effects of ageing, poverty and disability in mind can reach four times as many consumers as opposed to not doing so.
According to the report, the needs of people who experience difficulty accessing or using products and services are often not considered during the design process. This can result in disregarding a significant percentage of the Australian population as well as costly retrofits for products and services, which can reach up to 10,000 times the cost of introducing inclusive design earlier on.
Five million Australians across the country are unable to access products and services because of poor design, yet they possess over $40 billion in annual disposable income. This number includes people living with a disability and seniors, however there are millions of Australians who are also vulnerable to exclusion due to location, gender, ethnicity or financial status.
Findings from the report showed the Australian retail, education and financial services sectors could benefit from implementing an inclusive approach in the design process.
Within the retail products sector, up to 20% of Australians are unable to access and use goods appropriately. More inclusively designed retail products would promote accessibility and improve the user experience for all Australians, the report states. For example, the ‘household goods’ and ‘clothing, footwear and personal accessory’ categories, which comprise products used by most of the population, would be greatly impacted through inclusive design. According to the report, this impact would see a $4 billion increase in revenue for these retail categories.
Applying this approach across multiple retail products would equate to considerable financial benefits in an untapped market for many retail businesses.
According to the report, a variety of inclusively-designed retail products are now used by a wide majority of consumers. Electric toothbrushes were created for patients with limited motor skills but have also become popular with consumers who don’t have this issue.
Last year, Coles introduced an autism-spectrum-friendly low-sensory ‘Quiet Hour’ experience in 173 of its stores. The initiative has not only impacted shoppers with autism, but also shoppers who want peace and quiet while they shop.
Only 17% of Australians living with disability will complete a bachelor level qualification or above, compared to 30 per cent without a disability. The research showed placing inclusive design at the forefront of higher education would lead to an improved student experience, as well as attracting more students from local and global regions, which could result in an additional 228,000 tertiary qualifications being earned. This increase would translate directly to the Australian economy, which would receive a further $4.5 billion through salary earnings.
Inclusive design in tertiary education has already enabled students to complete online courses, studying whenever and wherever best fits with their lives. According to the report, this emphasis on diversity should be extended to the way in which higher education is taught and accessed, especially among excluded population groups.
Almost 17% of Australians are currently financially excluded, which is significantly higher than comparable developed nations such as the UK, Germany or France. This percentage includes people living with disability as well as underprivileged groups.
Financial inclusion improves financial capacity, capability and independence, allowing individuals to participate more in social and economic activities and create better outcomes for their communities. Reducing financial exclusion through inclusive design by even 25% would result in 832,000 additional Australians being financially included. The financial services industry would also benefit significantly, receiving $1.5 billion in additional revenue from annual fees.
Dr Manisha Amin, CEO of Centre for Inclusive Design, says, “Design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference means more people are included. We commissioned the research to identify and determine the necessary means by which Australia can act to reduce these gaps.
“Inclusively designed products and services that have end users in mind can reach and benefit up to four times the size of the intended audience and enable organisations to increase their revenue by growing the size of their target markets. Designers, companies and government all have a role to play, by designing, investing and legislating with difference in mind, so that a design process that is inclusive becomes standard practice.”
Partner and PwC chief economist Jeremy Thorpe says, “Inclusive design is a no-regrets process that creates significant benefits which are currently being left on the table. It is an overlooked step in maximising the potential of Australian business and ensuring a more productive Australia.”
Global technology and digital experience leaders, Adobe and Microsoft are innovators in the inclusive design space and two of the first organisations worldwide to recognise the importance of understanding the needs, wants and limitations of customers as part of the design process. Both companies have inclusive design roles within their teams, which are in charge of driving transformation and rethinking products.
Adobe Australia and New Zealand managing director Suzanne Steele says, “Inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone, and it’s up to Australian businesses to give employees accessible tools that can enhance the creation process to bring their ideas to life.
“Through our partnership with the Centre for Inclusive Design and Microsoft, we want to raise awareness of the importance for organisations to include a diverse range of voices and perspectives within their teams in order to reflect the diversity of the Australian population in their products and services.”
Microsoft Australia corporate affairs director David Masters says, “Accessibility is often focused on compliance, and while that is incredibly important, this report clearly shows that inclusion drives economic benefit too. Embedding inclusion in the upfront design phase ensures organisations are delivering products and services for everyone. Inclusive design is driving innovation at Microsoft and is a concept that all organisations should be embracing.”
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Image Credit: Charles