What is the difference between inclusive design and designing assistive products?

Inclusive Design is the

“design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible on a global basis, in a wide variety of situations and to the greatest extent possible without the need for special adaptation or specialised design.”(1)

Inclusive design is also referred to as design for all in Europe, and universal design in America.

Assistive technology is

“Any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customised that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” (1)

This is also referred to as assistive aids or assistive products. Whilst inclusive design is something that I believe we should be aiming for in the design of mainstream products, Band-it is more of an assistive aid as it is designed for a specific group of individuals with varying levels of visual impairment. The broader aim of my business is therefore to design assistive products that make everyday life easier and more accessible to people who are visually impaired, rather than to make mainstream products that are also suitable for people who are visually impaired – although I would love to hear of examples of when this happens. A couple that spring to mind includes the accessible cash machines in the UK and the Amazon Echo device.

Have you come across any other mainstream products that are fully accessible to people with a visual impairment? How about assistive products that have revolutionised your access to independent living?


1 HERRIOTT, Richard. 2013. ‘Are Inclusive Designers designing inclusively? An Analysis of 66 Design Cases.’ The Design Journal, 16 (2), 139. 


Image shows a woman being shown how to use an iPad, which is a mainstream product that makes everyday life easier for many disabled people. Do you find tablets useful? What apps have most helped you in your everyday life?

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published