Inclusive design, also known as universal design, is defined as the design of products and environments in such a way that they can be used by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design.
Inclusive design is a philosophy, a strategy and a practice. In Norway, it has developed based on our ideas of equality and inclusion. The Norwegian model of social governance, also labelled the Nordic Model, goes beyond the provision of basic needs to protect human rights, focusing on social and democratic ambitions.
For nearly two decades, inclusive design has been a government focus, aiming for a society where every citizen can participate on equal terms. This might be a utopia but it is setting a direction and by cross-section collaboration committing 16 ministries to achieve milestones as set in the first Government Action Plan for Universal Design already in 2005. A lot has been achieved since, based on new legislation and a top down – bottom up approach, involving local government and municipalities as well. It started with establishing legislation, with several acts and regulations that has been amended in key areas such as transport, built environment, buildings, employment and ICT.
Now the third action plan is running until 2019 focusing on digitalisation, technology and a follow up on long-term projects and milestones towards 2025. This is part of the government strategy for sustainability; benefitting society, business and the individual.
To ensure citizen participation and equal opportunities across all areas of society, inclusive design is the strategy to achieve this, putting people at the centre of the process when developing products, services and environments. Human diversity is key, and goes far beyond age, gender and disability, to include sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural and social background to mention a few. Using various tools and methods for involving users and stake holders within the design and development process is becoming a more successful and proven way of engaging with people.
Inclusive Design brings the perspective of real people to a problem and inspires a multitude of viewpoints and unexpected insights. The resulting solutions can therefore be more creative, innovative and user-friendly, bringing new thinking to familiar challenges within business and public sector, and in that way, contribute to a better and more inclusive society. These tools and methods are applicable also when developing more inclusive, people friendly cities; but urban planning take-up of the approach is still at an early stage.
The Innovation for All programme at DOGA is one of the many measures in the Government Action Plan and has since 2005 been focusing on promoting inclusive design as an effective strategy for innovation. Main activities are knowledge transfer and competence building besides conducting pilot projects with enterprises in public and private sector.
This presentation will look at the historic background, how government, trade and industry together with design and architecture are the drivers for a more inclusive and democratic society. A few Norwegian cases will be included.