Seeing Red – or is it Green?

Colour diagram showing the three different types of colour vision deficiencyNot everyone experiences colour in the same way, yet the use of colour in illustrations is rarely questioned in terms of universal design. If people with Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) are not included when illustrations, charts and images are designed, what colours should a designer use to include the 8% of the population with CVD? There are three types of CVD as shown in the image: green blindness, blue blindness and red blindness. People with CVD also have other difficulties in discerning some types of text, shapes and lines.

Preparing Images for All to See explains in detail how people with different versions of CVD experience colour. The article also gives some great guidelines for illustrators, map makers and others who communicate using coloured images. Included is a summary of the most frequently cited best practices for publication, presentation and instruction. Here is a synopsis of their recommendations.

  1. Select graphic styles for accessibility and use bar charts instead of pie charts 
  2. Distinguish items by more than color. Use circles and squares and solid and dashed lines. 
  3. Red and Green usually have the same hue (density of colour) and can’t be distinguished. Dark red–dark green, blue–violet, red–orange, and yellow–green are also not good. Magenta and turquoise are good choices because people with RedGreen-CVD can see the blue component.
  4. Make fonts and lines thick bright and with contrast.  
  5. Avoid rainbow color maps as this is the worst possible choice

You can also find out more about CVD or colour blindness from going to the National Eye Institute website

Three circular charts showing how people with colour deficiency see different colours on the colour wheel




Kitchen appliances

close up of the knobs on a stainless steel oven and a diswasherThe Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (RICA) has a set of online resources about easy to use appliances. While this information is great for consumers, it also highlights the factors industrial designers should consider when designing kitchen appliances. Using information from Which magazine in the UK and Choice magazine in Australia they provide a good overview on appliances such as kettles, washing machines and microwaves. 

logo of the centre for inclusive design and environmental accessThe IDeA Center at Buffalo has also has an online section on Accessible Appliances and Universal Design. It covers a little history of product development and the issues involved, and regulations. Using the seven classic principles of universal design, it has details on reach range, dexterity, and size and space for approach. Some of the information is a little dated as technology and design ideas move on, but it gives another perspective on how to design products that almost everyone can use.

The links below take you directly to some of the appliances reviewed by Which and Choice:

To see more, go to the RICA website


Neat ideas for the kitchen

The latest newsletter from Todd Brickhouse Associates includes some good kitchen design ideas. Scrolling down the page, you can see a picture of a pull-out table that nests neatly under the kitchen bench and over the storage drawers when not in use. Colour contrast is mentioned as an important feature. Another idea is a dual height island bench which has multi functional use. The newsletter includes other items that are probably more specific to north America and also some disability specific items.

Editor’s note: I included a pull-out workboard in my kitchen. It is at a height for sitting to prepare food, for a child to make a sandwich, and for stirring a large mixing bowl at a more convenient height for my arms and shoulders than the bench.


From specialised to ubiquitous

standard jug lifted in the air to read the levelWhen product designers start with a “disability market” focus they can be surprised to find they have created an easy to use product for everyone. The OXO Good Grips story is just one such example – an item designed for someone with arthritic hands has evolved into a range of some of the best selling kitchen OXO jug with level markers that can be read from looking down into the jugutensils on the market. A good example is being able to easily read the liquid level in a measuring jug. Instead of reading from the side of the jug (a bit hit and miss), with the OXO jug you can see the level from above and get it right first time – so much more convenient!

This item is courtesy website

Editor’s note: Arthritis Australia has been working with several product manufacturers in Australia to reconsider some of their packaging designs. I will post information on their activities soon. In marketing theory the packaging is considered part of the product which is why so much emphasis is put on making packaging look good. However, if you can’t open the carefully designed packaging, you can’t use the product.


The Access Symbol: time for a revision?

The access symbol, often called the “disabled” or “wheelchair” symbol is one of the most recognised in the world. However, this icon is often interpreted as indicating use by wheelchair users only. Given that only some 15% of all people with disability use wheelchairs, this sign can be misleading and confusing. The TED Ed video below explains the history of the design, some of the issues in use, and puts out a call for action for updating the symbol.

Editor’s Note: Confusion exists on whether non-wheelchair users can use a “disabled” facility, such as a toilet. Some think that accessible toilets must be reserved for wheelchair users. But someone who is ambulant may need assistance with toiletting. A regular cubicle cannot accommodate two people and besides, may they not be of the same gender. Parents with strollers and small children, and people with continence issues, also need to use these facilities. Accessible car parking is another matter and that is why a permit is required. A factor that annoys some people is the accessible toilet being used for “other” purposes. These “other” purposes can also be done in a regular toilet. My view is that I only care that they don’t take too long, and leave the place clean. It matters not what they are doing. What matters is that everyone benefits from more useable and convenient facilities – I think it would be a rare case for a person to think a ramp is only for wheelchair users.


Overcoming Barriers to Participation: An Aquarium Case Study

view of an aquarium window with two silhouetted figures in front Informal learning, such as that gained by visiting a museum, gallery, zoo or aquarium, is part of everyday life for most people. Generally, they are unaware of how they are learning and taking in information. For people who are blind or have low vision, informal learning in the context of an aquarium with moving animals rather than static exhibits is another kind of design challenge. Providing audio descriptions about the fish, for example, does not describe the visual scene in real time, such as “there is a large stingray coming towards us and a shoal of fish is moving out of its path”. In her article, Overcoming Barriers to Participation: An Aquarium Case Study, Carrie Bruce reports the results of a trial of a prototype system for providing both real time information with descriptive information.

Editor’s note: It is too easy to assume that a blind person would not want to participate in something that for most people is about the visual experience, such as sight seeing or a stage show. I recently travelled to Peru with a small tour group which included a blind man. He could not see Machu Picchu and all the ancient relics, he could not see Lake Titicaca, and all the other wonderful sights, but with the help of a companion he still walked around Machu Picchu and sailed on Lake Titicaca as well as joining in all other activities and enjoying excellent meals. Although he became blind in his childhood, in 70 years he has travelled widely across the world and has many interesting tales to tell.  Also a point to note for inclusive tourism. 


A video paints a thousand words

Shows a female driver parking and getting into her wheelchair while traffic is passing dangerously closeThere is more to accessible parking than marking out a section of road by the kerbside. This video from Finland does not need any words – the actions of the wheelchair user and film-maker say it all. When the wheelchair user is a passenger, they can safely get out onto the footpath, but when the driver is the wheelchair user….

The video also shows what is involved in transferring from a car to a wheelchair. This next video from Finland has English captions, but again, the vision says it all as a woman with a twin stroller tries to get through doors and into a lift.

And one on the height of ticket machines…