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How Can Inclusive Design Shape the Future?

Kat Holmes Lecture 1

Kat Holmes spoke to IxD about how the inclusive design principles behind her book can be used to reshape the world we live in and the products we use, showing its not only sound business practice but an economic imperative. Learn a little more from student blogger Jason Branch.

When you think about accessibility and design a few names come to mind. Kat Holmes is one of the first. Named one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business” in 2017, she founded, a firm dedicated to inclusive design resources and education. One might say accessible design found Holmes rather than the other way around. Holmes got her start at Microsoft working on the Voice software Cortana. It was there she had the aha moment in which she noticed their voice software development had no individuals who used voiced tools regularly, much less for accessibility reasons. She has since been a strong advocate within the space, if not the strongest. Holmes spoke on the need for inclusive design and a call to mindfulness amongst designers. She described what she called the cycle of exclusion. A cycle at which in each step in the process you have an opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate the actions one took or overlooked to get to that point. This opportunity is used to address who is being left out of those decisions and those impacted.

Kat Holmes Cycle of Inclusion
Kat Holmes’ Cycle of Inclusion

Acknowledging the history of exclusion, the current state, and the role we play in the process are paramount to stopping the cycle of exclusion which will lead to a better designed future. Too often we overlook our own biases, prejudices, and more importantly that of those at the helm. The goal of inclusive design is not only to change our actions but our mental model around the subject. Transforming the way we think about inclusivity: not a means to open up a circle to let people in, but a means of getting rid of the circle all together. Holmes notion of the current structure of things being shut in within the circle of exclusivity mirrors a-lot of the products and services we interact with; things designed to only include certain people, demographics, capabilities. Her last words were a call to action to rethink how we go about designing,“Inclusive design is about creating a shared diversity of ways to participate in a place with a sense of belonging“.

Stay tuned for our spring lecture series with Treyce Meredith of carbon 5, Andrew Herzog of HAWRAF, and Ingrid Fetell Lee.

More about Kat Holmes: She served as the Principal Director of Inclusive Design at Microsoft from 2014-2017, and led that company’s executive program for inclusive product innovation. Her award-winning toolkit was inducted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. In 2018, Holmes joined Google and continues to advance inclusive development for some of the most influential technologies in the world. She is the author of Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design.

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