Equity and Inclusive Design

Alastair Somerville
2 min readApr 26, 2024


Photo of London floating bus stop with bicyclist in the lane that means they avoid parked buses but cut across pathway for pedestrians trying to get to bus stop

Read for free https://acuity.design/equity-and-inclusive-design/

Floating Bus Stops represent what I distrust about Inclusive Design processes (compared to Accessible Design methods).

I was reminded by a speech this week by Lord Holmes (who is blind) in the House of Lords about the dangers of such bus stop designs for blind and visually impaired people.

Accessible issues

Accessible Design has issues. With a focus on impairments, rather than intents or even individuals, it can easily become just a tick box exercise of meeting certain specifications and standards. Yet it does recognise that people have essential design needs to perceive, decide and act. It is about autonomy and enablement. The Social Model of Disability sense of the environment is broken and needs fixing to enable people to do the thing they want to do.

Inclusive Stretches

Inclusive Design tries to stretch that but tensions appear in that movement. There are compromises and hierarching of needs. What is essential to a minority encounters what is convenient to a majority. Hard choices are made and they can be hidden by a fake sense of Equality.

Equity Matters

This is why Equity is important.

Floating Bus Stops are public design with intersecting intents and privilege. What is missing in the Incluive Design is an equitable balance of essential and convenient intents and needs.

It’s convenient for bicyclists to be able to avoid the bus stopping problem in traffic. However, that designed swerve away from road thru shared space of pavement crashes into the essential needs of people with visual impairments (and many others) of being able to get to the bus stop simply and without anxiety. As with shared space schemes like Exhibition Road, by failing to make explicit the hierarchies of privilege in public spaces (cars > cycles > pedestrians), there is no consideration of equity and thus no design intervention to rebalance such inequities.

Inclusive Design which is not firmly based in Equity and founded in recognising essential accessibility needs will fail.

Originally published at https://acuity.design on April 26, 2024.



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX