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Is everyone in?

12 January 2021

Multiform ©Gabriel Fontana
Some years ago, awareness of diversity, the mix of different people, came increasingly to the fore. These days, inclusivity is attracting more and more attention. How do we deal with this mix of different people in our society? How do we ensure that everyone participates, regardless of cultural background, gender, age or disabilities?

We want to be an inclusive society. Great strides have been made, but there is still room for improvement. The latter is also reflected in inclusive design. On the one hand, inclusive design shows where we can bridge the gaps. On the other hand, it is also the responsibility of designers to take all target groups into consideration. During Dutch Design Week (DDW), designers presented their solutions for improved inclusion.

There are some two million people with a visible or invisible disability in the Netherlands. They regularly experience obstacles at various levels and the same goes for physical or online shopping. There is still so much to be gained in this area. At the request of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), five design studios have come up with practical solutions for an improved shopping experience within the What if Lab: Unhindered Participation. This was done in collaboration with users and partners from the retail sector. Two designs will be developed further: the Thresholdless Game and People Experts. Both are intended to raise awareness of the obstacles and the lack of understanding that people with disabilities encounter.

Thressholdless toolkit
© Studio Corvers


The Thresholdless game of Wouter Corvers is designed for shop owners and staff to test the accessibility of their businesses in a playful way. With the supplied tools, shop owners are better equipped to put themselves in the position of customers with a disability. People Experts broadens the scope of the desired awareness even more. Their Instagram course offers a platform to a very diverse group of people to tell their story and thus foster a better understanding of each other. As explained by them: "A real people expert knows how to interact with all types and creeds of people". The course is, according to the originators, a lesson in empathy for everyone.

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Inclusion in digital interactions

In the digital sphere, people with a disability are also not always able to participate. And the future of the digital world is becoming more and more exclusive with floating AR interfaces and gesture control devices, resulting in 'digital' exclusion. With this in mind, Valentin Weilun Gong, Xiaohui Wang and Lan Xiao, an interdisciplinary team of Royal College of Art (London) students, have developed Dots. Dots enables people with a disability to have full control of Mixed Reality and Internet of Things by designing their own interactions.

Joint responsibility for care

Inclusivity is also an important issue for the Embassy of Health. Healthcare concerns us all. In future, only complicated medical care will be provided in hospitals. With a shift to neighbourhood level, our immediate living environment will have an ever-increasing impact on our health. This makes us jointly responsible: for ourselves and for our neighbours. How can we involve the most vulnerable people in the community and protect them at the same time? Here too: how do we ensure everyone participates and no one feels excluded? The Embassy of Health journal addresses these questions. Simon Broersma, chief editor and publisher of Skipr, talks to Jetske van Oosten, curator of the online exposition Chronic Health – Happily ever after? and Gijsbert van Herk, Chief Executive Officer of the Humanitas foundation. The speakers will show you a number of special projects from the exhibition.

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Which team are you on?

Sport and exercise have a positive effect on almost everyone. Yet, many people are still literally on the sidelines because they are unable to participate. Multiform by Gabriel Fontana shows sportsmen a new perspective on diversity and inclusion. Sport frequently enhances contrasts, leads to conflict and differentiation, but can also result in fraternisation, ensures social cohesion and promotes integration. Multiform is an unconventional game of handball as the players' outfits change colour during the game, so that players find themselves in other teams. The more the whistle is blown, the more diverse the mix of players becomes. Do you remember which side you are on and who your teammates are? Who belongs to your team?

Speed Queen
© Nazli Inci


A very different branch of sport is taking place on the racetrack. With Speed Queen Nazli Inci exposes patterns in society, criticizes them and draws a parallel with motor sports. By considering religious clothing as a piece of equipment, a comparison is made between a professional racing driver and the Muslim woman behind the wheel.Muslims increasingly are the subject of stereotyping, stigmatizing, racism and discrimination by fellow citizens, but also by politicians, the media, security personnel and other groups. A hijab or niqab purportedly poses a danger in traffic. Women supposedly can't hear or see properly wearing these. But what about a racing driver with his array of face coverage?

Creating awareness with design

Not only Muslim women need positive attention. Women all over the world face unequal opportunities. This also applies to maternal care for black women in the United States. With Birth Reborn, Victoria Ayo addresses equitable maternal care for black women. The maternal mortality rate in the US is soaring. Ayo's thesis, Birth Reborn: 'Using Design to Address Barriers to Equitable Maternal Care for Black Women', aims to give voice and power back to black women and mothers. This project researches how design can create more awareness, facilitate the integration of ancestral knowledge, strengthen the community and help eliminate barriers for equitable births. New realities for collective care, bringing the well-being of mothers out of isolation and into solidarity.

Emotion Whisperer
© Simon Dogger

Participation and social integration

As discussed earlier, we dealt with inclusion of people with a disability. Disability need not be an obstacle, according to the blind designer Simon Dogger. For his Emotion-whisperer design, his disability is, in fact, a source of inspiration and of added value to the design. He experiences daily that emotions and body language play and important role in a conversation. A raised eyebrow, a wry smile or a defiant glance; emotions and body language play an important role in a conversation.  But how do you experience body language when you're blind? De Emotion-whisperer is a subtle product that translates facial expressions into a vibration. Simon Dogger was elected DDA Young Designer. His design contributes towards good communication which promotes participation and social integration. And when it comes down to it, that's all we really want. Those are the necessary elements which will bring an inclusive society a step closer.