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By promoting the importance of Inclusive Design & Design Justice and providing education and resources on how to implement it, we hope to ensure design practices at the U that reflect the needs and experiences of all students, not just those who fall within the majority.

This page serves as a space to introduce members of the U to inclusive design and design justice principles, as well as a number of resources.

Plenary Talk by Dr. Amy Collier

University Connected Learning invited Dr. Amy Collier, Associate Provost for Digital Learning at Middlebury College, to lead a series of workshops on Inclusive Design & Design Justice for faculty across the U. Watch the October 18, 2021, plenary talk below, and access the toolkit on this page.  

What Are Inclusive Design and Design Justice?

In the book Mismatch, Kat Holmes writes, "Design shapes our ability to access, participate in, and contribute to the world."  When we speak of design in the context of our educational institutions, we mean primarily the design of our courses, which shapes students' ability to access, participate in, and contribute to meaningful, transformative learning.  

Inclusive design is "design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other forms of human difference"(Inclusive Design Research Center). Kevin Gannon writes that inclusive design in education is "a commitment to put actual substance behind our cheerful declarations that all students deserve access to higher education." As we work to design more inclusively for diverse students, we create paths that benefit many students. Gannon notes: "The beauty of inclusive pedagogy is that, rather than making special accommodations that would decrease inequity, it actually benefits all students, not just those at whose needs it was originally aimed." 

Design justice is design that centers and prioritizes students who have been marginalized by our designs, and that asks us to recognize how designs exclude or even exploit some students. In the book Design Justice, Sasha Costanza-Chock writes that the goal of design justice is to more equitably distribute the benefits and burdens of design, recognizing that our typical design processes create disproportionate burdens for marginalized folks. We should embrace design processes that bring a more equitable distribution of benefits to as many learners as possible. We do this by centering the experiences and needs of marginalized and disenfranchised learners in our educational designs.

Designs that do not intentionally attend to equity and inclusion are likely to perpetuate and even exacerbate inequities. Exclusions are designed into all parts of our institutions, whether intentionally or not, and disproportionately impact marginalized and disenfranchised learners. That is why we should look to embrace design approaches that are attentive to our learners for whom education has not typically been designed, approaches that intentionally design for inclusion. Inclusive design and design justice provide frameworks and practices for doing so. They are also challenging frameworks, requiring us to constantly reevaluate our design choices to recognize how each choice can open up new forms of exclusion and barriers for learners.

Where Do I Start?

Last Updated: 10/20/21