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The Inclusion Principle by Margit Link-Rodrigue outlines the concept of inclusion as a principle of design. We've already introduced universal design earlier in this blog, and accessibility - what is inclusion, and why is it important? Inclusion is a third pillar of acceptance for people with disabilities into community, and it is incredibly important.

Rodrigue outlines a problem with universal design and accessible design: many designers say it limits their creativity because it requires them to design for one particular target group. Does universal design, when applied to an online community, truly limit us? If we design for people with disabilities, does that mean we don't also design for everyone?

Rodrigue's hypothetical designer argues:

This design approach results in a product that works for only one target group—we’ve achieved accessible design, but not universal design. And while accessible design is important, it doesn’t reach everyone in the same way, so we should logically strive for universal design whenever possible, and concentrate on accessible design only when necessary.


We can counter their objections - that universal design and accessible design are design only for a few - with the notion of inclusion as an additional design principle:

Inclusive behaviors are those practices and behaviors that leverage and honor the uniqueness of people’s different talents, beliefs, and ways of living. [...] When one is defined by the concept of a group, people can be limited by their knowledge or beliefs about that particular group. Instead, inclusion embraces similarities and differences at the individual and group levels for the attainment of the common endeavor.


The idea of inclusion in an online community suggests that including all people, including people with disabilities, has value. It has return on investment because those people have something to give to your community, whether it's about their disability or not. And designing for universal design and affordance allows them to feel welcome - so universal design allows everyone to feel included, and welcome, even those who do not directly take advantage of universal design features.

I want to use Dreamwidth as an example of a community that uses inclusion as a deliberate design principle.

Dreamwidth is a diverse community that tries to be deliberately welcoming of all people - its diversity statement is why this blog is here and not on some other platform. The Dreamwidth team of open source developers is actively working on accessiblity over in .

"We think accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority, not an afterthought. We think neurodiversity is a feature, not a bug. We believe in being inclusive, welcoming, and supportive of anyone who comes to us with good faith and the desire to build a community."

The key to this paragraph is the word inclusive. Dreamwidth is welcoming and inclusive of everyone, and so they are making efforts to design the platform so it includes as many people as possible, because all people are valued and important in building Dreamwidth's community - disability or no.

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