What do blindness and typewriters have in common? How are the telephone and deafness linked? This article from www.fastcodesign.com describes how inventors were spurred on by someone in their family having a disability to invent something that turned out to be useful for everyone. It is a fairly long, but a good read, and includes the work of Patricia Moore, a designer who worked tirelessly to get the needs of older people recognised in designs. Here is an excerpt:
“Perhaps you’re sitting here, reading this on your phone, absently checking your email … You stand at the end of a long line of inventions, which might have never existed, but for the disabled. The keyboard on your phone, the telecommunications lines it connects with, the inner workings of email: In 1808, Pellegrino Turri built the first typewriter, so that his blind lover, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, could write letters more legibly. In 1872, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone to support his work helping the deaf. And, in 1972, Vint Cerf programmed the first email protocols for the nascent Internet. He believed fervently in the power of electronic letters. His proof was his own experience: Electronic messaging was the only seamless way to communicate with his wife, who was deaf, while he was at work.”
Download the article written by one of Microsoft’s designers for more history, insights and directions for the future.
Also, if you didn’t see this in a previous post, have a look at Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit – a great resource for any design discipline.