Designers like Hanne Eidsvik and Maren Sjåholm Rimehaug (pictured at TedXTrondheim) and Kathleen Casford argue that inclusive design is not only a moral imperative, it's good for business.

Kathleen Casford on the power of inclusive design

By taking small, thoughtful steps, we can all create designs that serve all members of our community.

1 in 6 Australians live with a disability. That's 4.4 million people, and of those, one-third have severe or profound disabilities, meaning they often need help with daily activities like self-care, mobility, or communication. 

Can you imagine navigating the world with constant barriers that make simple tasks daunting or even impossible? 

For those living with disabilities, this is a huge reality. The challenges are not just physical but also social and emotional, and it’s reported that nearly one-third of people with a disability actively avoid situations because of their condition. This includes essential activities like shopping, which most of us take for granted. 

As brands and businesses, I believe we have a responsibility to not only recognise this reality but to work towards inclusive experiences and offerings that truly value and integrate the contributions, presence, and perspectives of all individuals. It’s about designing products and experiences that remove barriers and make life easier for everyone.

My team and I at By Ninja recently worked on a project that aimed to do just this by incorporating braille on an everyday beauty item. Collaborating with Australian haircare brand, Wilde, we recently debuted the Enrich Shampoo and Conditioner line, featuring braille on both the interior and exterior packaging.

The entire design and collaborative process showed us that thoughtful, inclusive design was not only possible but something that can be implemented efficiently and cost-effectively by both brands and designers. 

The idea for Braille-modified packaging was born from my interactions with Narelle Gatti, a legally blind friend who I met through my partner’s involvement with Achilles Australia. Narelle shared the daily challenges she faces in identifying products, a struggle that is echoed by 453,000 Australians living with blindness or low vision. Her insights highlighted a significant gap in the market - one that we, as designers, have the power to fill.

When I approached Oscar Cullinan, founder of Wilde and Oscar Oscar Salons, about this project, his response was overwhelmingly positive. Together, we embarked on a journey to integrate Braille into Wilde’s product packaging. We explored various methods and determined that 3D raised printing was the most economical for bottles and tubes, and blind embossing the most viable for exterior packaging. This approach ensured that we could offer accessible products without significant additional costs.

Narelle’s feedback was invaluable throughout this process. Her expertise with Digital Access Solutions and Assistive Technology (DASAT) allowed us to refine our designs to meet the real needs of the vision-impaired community. The result? A product line that empowers users, providing them with independence and confidence.

For Narelle, and many others, distinguishing between everyday products can be a source of frustration and dependency. By incorporating Braille into the hair care packaging, we removed this barrier, offering a simple yet profound solution for those living with vision impairment. 

While brands have made strides toward inclusivity, there is still much work to be done and we have the tools and creativity to make a solid difference. It doesn’t always require inventing something entirely new; often, we can apply existing solutions in innovative ways. Our project with Wilde is proof that inclusivity can be seamlessly integrated into design without sacrificing aesthetics or functionality.

I urge everyone working across brands, design and communications to review your current practices and consider how you can contribute to a more inclusive future. By taking small, thoughtful steps, we can all create designs that serve everyone.

Kathleen Casford is the Founder and Creative Overlord of By Ninja, an award-winning brand studio based in Meanjin (Brisbane), built on a shared passion to do better; to create a better world through human connection and thoughtful design leadership.