Scottish Enterprise Service Design

Designing in the open

Inclusion, Accessibility, Assisted digital needs - what’s the difference?

A short post to help define these terms


Usually, when they hear “Accessibility” most people think: screen readers, wheelchairs, and more recently they might even think of dyslexia for example. But there is much more to it:

collage of 8 posters from the Home Office showing we you should do / don't do regardinf designing for deaf or hard of hearing, users on the autistic spectrum, dyslexia, anxiety, physical or motor disabilities, low vision, or screen readers

Do and Don’t posters from the Home Office

In the UK, 1 in 5 people have a disability

The concept of accessibility doesn’t just apply to people with disabilities — all users will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances.

The World Health Organization defines disability as:

“a mismatch in interaction between the features of a person’s body and the features of the environment in which they live.”

The impairment can be permanent, temporary or situational, but in the end, it’s the same requirements:

showing temporary permanent situational impairment for speak, hear and more

From the Inclusive toolkit Microsoft Design

Assisted Digital - Digital exclusion

Sometimes people need help to use services online. This is known as assisted digital support.

Any user may need assisted digital support, if they lack:

A recent study shows that almost one-fifth of Britons ‘do not use internet’.

In this article, from the BBC, you get a better idea of the various reasons why people don’t use internet:

10% do not use the net because of privacy worries 40% of those earning less than £12,500 do not go online 70% of all respondents “uncomfortable” with targeted advertising and data tracking 12% have been hit by computer viruses 11% got abusive emails

Just like for accessibility, users will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances

For example:

In Scotland - Digital exclusion

About 1 in 7 people in Scotland can’t get online. This is about 800,000 people.

There are various reasons:

We usually don’t realise how many are affected:

Sources: Scottish household survey 2018: annual report and UK Consumer Digital Index 2019 from the Lloyds Bank

More on this


This is a broader term: Inclusive design is about designing for a diverse range of people. Whatever their gender, sexuality, age, ethnicity, social class, communications abilities or culture.

diagram showing diversity: gender and sexuality, age, diets, religion, income, culture, size and shape, education, language

Common inclusion issues in services

For example asking for:

Bakken & Bæck, a digital studio based in Oslo, Bonn and Amsterdam, have a very good Diversity and Inclusion guide if you want to learn more.

You can also check their A to Z Inclusion and diversity glossary.

This post was written to become part of the resources we will share on the Global Accessibility Awareness Day on Thursday 21 May 2020.

Written on 18 May 2020 by Stéphanie