Designer Liz Jackson from New York, tells her story in a video talk of how she became known as the woman with the purple cane. She has a theory that when parents tell their children not to stare at someone who looks different they take this behaviour into adulthood. In a straightforward manner she laments how designs for people with disability are so often ugly. She critiques the seven principles of universal design for not including beauty in the list; focusing only on functionality. And that every design designs for exception because there will always be someone left out. This 15 minute talk is well worth the time. If you can’t access the video there is a full transcript on the site.
Editor’s note: Aesthetics are mentioned in the fuller length of the seven principles of universal design. This quote from Bill Stumpt and Don Chadwick, points this out: “The essence of universal design lies in its ability to create beauty and mediate extremes without destroying differences in places, experiences, and things”. However, it seems that if designers only ever look at the short list of principles, an eighth principle should be added – Thou shalt make it beautiful!
The design of lighting does more than just overcome darkness. According to David McNair, after food, lighting is the most important factor for supporting physical wellbeing. This is particularly so for older people and people with dementia. McNair, a lighting engineer, has written a book on the topic, Enlighten: Lighting for older people and people with dementia. It is written with care professionals, engineers, architects and designers in mind. Dementia and acquired brain injury can affect visual perception and well designed lighting can help overcome some of these issues. Aged Care Insight has an article about the book and also has a podcast interview with one of the book’s authors.
Editor’s note: The picture shows how the line shadows of the arches fall across the pathway. These can look like steps, or the distant arches can look too small to walk through. Not knowing if there are steps or if the arches are big enough can affect confidence in getting out and about. However, from personal experience, this is a very pleasant area to walk in the evening (Brisbane South Bank).
The Fastcodesign website has another interesting article about design. Every designer has the principles they work by. So they asked eight prominent designers who were either judges of or honored in the 2017 Innovation By Design Awards: “What is the one principle you never compromise on?” The answers are consistent with universal design principles: Good design is both invisible and obvious; Ignore trends; Ban mediocrity, Design to elicit emotion; Articulate your purpose, honestly and explicitly; Users are people not statistics; Design thinking isn’t for designers and; Design for the big idea. See the article for the designers’ explanations.
Tactile models of buildings and spaces are made with blind people in mind to help them orientate in unfamiliar surroundings. Many are found in tourist destinations where they can also provide information about the building or space itself. It turns out that sighted people like to use them and touch them too. While this can cause some problems with inappropriate use, there is another, unexpected up side. The author argues that tactile models may become a “completely valuable, universal tool for learning and a great way of studying architecture in an alternative way”. The article reports on a study of this perspective of tactile models. This is another example that highlights the idea that so-called “designing for the disabled” is in fact, designing for everyone. The title of the article is Tactile Architectural Models as Universal ‘Urban Furniture’. (“Furniture” is a bit misleading in this title).
Smartphones are now the device of choice. Survey question: would you rather give up your smartphone or sex for a year? The answer could surprise you. The video below shows how to present products for sale in a format suitable for smartphones and fast scrolling viewers. Taking a simple photo, or packshot, of the product rarely gives enough information for purchasers on a small screen. The first part of the video gives the answer to the question above. At about ten minutes into the video, Sam Waller explains all the reasoning behind the design of product pictures to give information clearly and quickly. Good for selling and good for buying – inclusive thinking. The thinking behind the designs could be applied to any type of product or service. It makes the information easy to access on a small screen – the device of choice for so many of us. Research is showing we are gravitating to the smartphone in greater numbers and leaving the computer screen behind.
Sam Waller is with the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge and has done extensive research with Unilever on this project. The EDC is also the home of the Inclusive Design Group and the Inclusive Design Toolkit.
Captioning of videos and TV is now being recognised as a mainstream convenience for any viewer. Captioning in theatres is an improvement for people who are deaf, but the way they are delivered can be a bit clunky and can be distracting for other audience members. Closed captioning glasses have arrived thanks to two young inventors. You can read their story in the Smithsonian magazine. People with hearing loss can now go to the movies with these live captioning glasses without anyone else being affected. They designers claim the glasses also work in social situations, such as the dinner table, where speech is transcribed into text. With hearing loss one of the most reported disabilities, inventions like these can be life-changing. You can see a video on how it works and to read a review .
The Inclusive Design Toolkit has proved to be an invaluable tool for designers and it’s received a revamp for its tenth birthday. Also updated is the exclusion calculator which gives a great guide to how many potential users might be excluded from a design. The news bulletin from the Engineering Design Centre that produces the Toolkit and other resources has information on:
- The tenth anniversary of the Inclusive Design Toolkit and what has been achieved in that time
- New exclusion calculator for better assessment for vision and dexterity
- E-commerce image guidelines for mobile phone viewing
- Impairment simulator software for vision and hearing is now freely available and very handy for showing people what vision impairments look and sound like.
The Engineering Design Centre has made great progress in inclusive design. It began with funding to work with business and commerce to show the business benefits of including as many people as possible in the design. The design team continue to break new ground keeping users at the centre of the process. Their resources are good for working out how to include everyone.
The picture shows left to right: Joy Goodman-Deane, Sam Waller, Mike Bradley, Ian Hosking, and John Clarkson.