Exclusive design glossary

Ability bias

An ability bias is a tendency to solve problems while using our own abilities as a baseline.

—Kat Holmes, Mismatch


  1. The qualities that make an experience open to all.
  2. A professional discipline aimed at achieving No. 1

According to Kat Holmes an important distinction is that accessibility is an attribute, while inclusive design is a method.

Bram Duvigneau

Bram Duvigneau gave a so called expert lecture at the Master Design in Rotterdam. It was basically a conversation between Bram and me about the difference between expert screen reader users and laypeople.

Bram Duvigneau is an accessibility researcher and consultant at Firm Ground. He has a background in web development. His aim is to provide accessible solutions that are usable for everyone.


There are two common models of disability.

The medical model of disability

According to this model disability is a personal problem, a deviation from the norm. In this model disability is something that should be cured.

The social model of disability

In this model disability is seen as a complex interaction between society and individuals. In this model solutions are to be found in lowering of removing hurdles that exclude people from parts of society.

Exclusion habit

In design, an exclusion habit could be a pattern, or a design method we use every day which doesn’t work for everybody. We use this pattern out of habit, without realising the consequences of it. Oftentimes these habits are chosen because of understandable reasons, like tight deadlines, business goals. They may be based on (false) assumptions as well.

Exclusive design

A provocative term I use to describe the design method I use in order to create expert knowledge on accessible design: designing for and with one real person with a real disability.

Exclusivity can have a luxurious feel to it, yet at the same time it’s the opposite of inclusion, which has a very negative feel to it.

Focus states

Interactive elements in applications and on websites (like links and buttons) can be controlled with a keyboard or switch controls. When the interactive element receives focus the user can interact with it. This focus state can be styled. Default styles often show some sort of coloured or dotted border around the element.

Hamburger menu

An icon of three lines, often found in the top right, or top left corner of a screen. When clicked, the navigation menu is shown. The name comes from the idea that an oversimplified hamburger consists of three layers of the same width (bread, meat, bread).

Hannes Wallrafen

With Hannes Wallrafen I redesigned the website that hosts his audio projects. We designed it first and foremost for his specific way of using the web. Which is with JAWS as a screen reader. Together we worked on the invisible animations, and the giggling screen reader projects.

Hannes Wallrafen is a famous Dutch photographer who became blind in 2003. He has been working on audio objects ever since. With his Geluid in Zicht foundation he works on projects like Acoustic Scale Models for important Dutch architecture.

Inclusive design

A methodology that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. Most importantly this means including and learning from people with a range of perspectives.

Léonie Watson

During my research Léonie gave a talk at our university about pleasurable user interfaces for people who are blind. This talk formed the basis for my exclusive design research.

Until recently Léonie was Communications director and Principal engineer at The Paciello Group . She has also worked with Government Digital Service on the GOV.UK platform.

As a member of the W3C Advisory Board, and co-chair of the W3C Web Platform WG (working on specs like HTML5), Léonie is closely involved with the web standards community. She is frequently asked to talk about web standards and/or accessibility at conferences.

Marijn Meijles

A group of students worked together with Marijn Meijles to create pleasurable digital user experiences for him. Marijn has a very specific way of controlling his computer. He can only use one hand, and this hand lacks fine motor control.

Marijn is chief architect at a tech company specialising in the metadata of sound.

Mystery meat

An interaction pattern that is unclear in what will happen once you click on it. Examples are hamburger menus and other navigation items that use an icon without a label.

Responsive web design

With the rise of smart phone usage, and the introduction of tablets at the end of the 00’s came the idea that one website can adapt itself to different screen sizes.

Screen reader

Software that speaks the contents of a computer screen to the user. It’s often used by people who are unable to see their screen. Output is usually by voice, but other forms of output, like specialist braille displays are possible as well.

Semantic HTML

This term is used to describe the use of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) elements to give more meaning and structure to HTML documents. Assistive technology like screen readers can use these semantics to explain things like document hierarchy and the function of elements to users.

Simon Dogger

Simon Dogger is a product designer from the Netherlands. We worked together on a tailor made version of the 2doc website, a version he can actually use. Simon is blind and uses a screen reader.

Simon has won the award for best design work at the 2018 graduation at the prestigious Eindhoven Design Academy. Currently he is working on several products, like indoor navigation at a Dutch museum.

Universal design

A term that often used as a synonym of inclusive design. The differences are subtle.

The Design of an environment so that it might be accessed and used in the widest possible range of situations without the need for adaptation.

According to Kat Holmes there is a difference:

  1. Universal design is strongest at describing the qualities of a final design. I is exceptionally good at describing the nature of physical objects. Inclusive design, conversely, focuses on how a designer arrived at that design. Did their process include the contributions of excluded communities?
  2. Universal design is one-size-fits-all. Inclusive design is one-size-fits-one.