The Power of Inclusion: Designing UX for Marginalized Communities

UX Ideas

Government services are becoming increasingly innovative. Users can access the services and resources they need online or through dedicated apps, but there’s still a problem – barriers to access leave marginalized groups without the help they need.

Inclusive user experience (UX) design can remove these barriers, but only if approached with the needs of these individuals in mind.

Understanding Marginalized Communities

Marginalized communities are communities that experience exclusion, either social, political, or economic, because of unequal power relationships. This may include people of color, women, LGBTQIA+, low-income individuals, the disabled, senior citizens, and others.

A wide range of government services and initiatives are designed to support these communities, but because of their unique needs and barriers, they often can’t reach those they’re intended to help.

For example, people with visual impairments like blindness or color blindness may struggle with the contrast on a website or app or text that’s too small. Websites with media content that’s audio only with no subtitles excluded hearing-impaired users. And people with poor fine motor function, such as people with physical disabilities or the elderly, may struggle to navigate a website with poor responsiveness.

Inclusive UX Design Principles


An accessible design is one that allows anyone to engage with freedom and comfort. Though accessibility often refers to people with disabilities, such as a wheelchair ramp for a business or subtitles for hearing-impaired individuals, it’s a broader concept than people with disabilities.

According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), web content should be “perceivable, operable, and understandable by the broadest possible range of users and compatible with their wide range of assistive technologies.” These principles include:

  • Content that is perceivable.
  • Interface elements that must be operable.
  • Content and controls that are understandable.
  • Content that is robust enough to work with current and future technologies.

Accessible design isn’t just for the benefit of those who require it, but for everyone. For example, subtitles may be used to help hearing-impaired individuals, but they’re also helpful for people who can’t listen in a particular environment. Captions also help search engines deliver better results to users.

If web content adheres to these guidelines, users will be able to access it using adaptive and assistive technologies, which are widely available. 

Cultural Sensitivity

Operating in multicultural environments requires more than simply changing a language. There are nuances to culture and language that may be missed by a “one-for-one” swap of images and text.

Cultural sensitivity is a deeper understanding that considers all the nuances of culture and language, including different interpretations of color psychology, regional dialects, navigational patterns, and cultural sentiment surrounding different icons.

Designers must thoroughly research and understand local customs, cross-cultural psychology, and local information with in-depth research or UX consulting.

User-Centered Design

Participatory design is an approach to design that collaborates with the end user. The end users, such as marginalized individuals, take an active role in designing solutions that address their specific pain points, ensuring that designers aren’t missing information at various stages of the process.

This approach can be done several ways, but focus groups, interviews, and direct observation are effective. Designers have an opportunity to view the process and experience with a fresh perspective to address the actual needs of these users, rather than relying on assumptions.

Flexibility and Adaptability

One of the best ways to assure that a design is truly for everyone is with flexibility. These designs accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities with choice in methods of use. They adapt to the user’s pace, facilitate their accuracy, and accommodate different dexterity and reading patterns.

For example, flexible and adaptable design allows users to resize the text and elements, add subtitles by choice, or adjust right- or left-hand access and use.

Once the designer is designing with marginalized groups and accessibility in mind, a UX audit can reveal specific barriers that should be addressed in the design process.

Embrace Inclusive UX

Inclusive UX design ensures that everyone – including people with different backgrounds and abilities – has access to the same experiences. With inclusive UX design, government agencies can provide modern solutions that provide support to all users equally.

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