Clothes that speak – literally

The picture shows white rectangular tags that provide audio description and they are also tactile.We live in a visual world where we make judgments about people and things according to what they look like. So that’s why fashion, or at least looking good, is important to most people. But how do people who are blind work out what to buy and what to wear? On the AARP Facebook page is a video of a fashion designer who has taken this on board and designed some garments that solve the problem – they even talk to you! Included in the garments are tags (pictured) with QR and colour codes that generate audio description. You can find out more about Camila Chiribogo and the award she won for her work in “disrupt ageing design challenge” run by AARP. Wearing fashionable garments is part of feeling included in mainstream society.

Note: if you want to see closed captions on the video links, click the wheel icon on the videos. 


When the shop is a screen

A screenshot of the webpage for Mobile Ready Hero Image Guidelines. The title banner is purple with white text. There are 8 product pack shorts in the frame and some explanatory text on the righthand sideSelling online is not just a simple matter of taking a photo of the product and writing a description with the price.  The screen is the shop shelf – it’s a digital shelf. Too often pack shots fail to communicate critical information to shoppers, particularly on mobile devices. 

The Inclusive Design Group at Cambridge University, with their  Mobile Ready Hero Images solve this problem by digitally representing the product and augmenting with off-pack communications. Some of the information can be applied to the selling of experiences, events and services. Adopting the findings from the Cambridge research team, companies such as Proctor and Gamble and Unilever are moving ahead of the rest. In the Bain Brief, Winning the Race for Digital Commerce, senior staff discuss this and other factors in the e-commerce world. The Bain article has an excellent checklist table included. You can see the Mobile Ready Hero Images Guidelines, downloadable templates and the Summary of Recommendations on the Cambridge University dedicated website.


Do we need another form of Braille?

The picture shows a book in landscape with large red icons of the Elia Frames system and a person's hand touching the raised icons.People who are born blind are introduced to Braille from an early age. But what if you become blind at a later age? Is Braille the most suitable system for accessing text, and even if it is, how easy is it to learn? This is a tricky area to navigate in terms of design and policy. However, someone has come up with a tactile system that is based on the alphabet that sighted people know and is easier to learn later in life. It has one an award for innovation. In the article, The Complicated Quest to Redesign Braille, readers are taken through the story and the rationale for the development. The developer claims the new tactile markers are easier and quicker to learn than Braille. Of course, there is no reason why both systems can’t co-exist – the universal solution. The point is also made that the digital world has changed much for people who are blind with products and services such as talking books and podcasts.

The article was found on the Fast Co.Design website.  


Colour Kindness

A group of people standing holding a pink banner with the words You are Not Alone, but you can't see the word NOT because it is in pale red and blends into the background colourIt’s one thing to talk about colour blindness, but it is quite another to see what it looks like to the 6-10 percent of the population that have colour vision deficiency. Axess Lab has produced an excellent set of successes and failures using real life examples of colours used by web designers. These examples provide really good guidance for anyone involved in web content and design, as well as printed material. The blog page has links to more information. There is a nice pic of what a football field looks like to someone who can’t see red and green – so it’s not all about the web – it’s all around us as the picture shows. If you want to see more on this topic see ColourBlindAwareness Twitter feed. 

The banner in the picture shown should read You Are Not Alone, instead it looks like, You Are Alone.


Smart and functional bathroom fittings

A bathroom setting showing a wall mounted vanity bsin, a stool and in the background a hand held shower and a shower seat. There is also a mounted magnifying mirror.The Hewi home bathroom catalogue is extensive and shows the latest European designs for fixtures and fittings. It includes some classy designs that would be suitable for a wide range of users. Some of the items that are often associated with a “hospital look” get a make-over. Modern grab rails, elegant shower seats, functional and height adjustable vanity designs are included. There is a separate section for particular users, such as people with dementia and wheelchair users. However, many of the standard items would suit most people, including those receiving care at home. The catalogue is extensive with different design styles and full of pictures. So you need to browse through to see the different options. 

Editor’s Note: The only Australian supplier of Hewi products I can find is Hafele. They show a shower seat and adjustable mirror only. No doubt other items would need to be specially ordered. Expect prices in the upper range. The Hewi catalogue shows how designing universally can still create beautiful products.


Nutrition and UD

An older woman is eating a large sandwich. She is wearing a brown dress with a cream collarAs we know, the principles of universal design can be applied to anything that is designed, both tangible (eg products) and intangible (eg policies). The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour has published an abstract where UD is applied to health and appetite for people with dementia. It is also presented as a poster.

The ambiance of the eating environment and individualising the dining experience were key factors in improvements. Simple solutions such as contrasting colours for place settings and avoiding patterned plates were recommended. The title is, “Designing for Health and Appetite: Nutrition and Interior Design Professionals Create Appropriate Environment to Achieve Meal Satisfaction in Dementia Residents.” The aim of the study was to see how interior designers might work with nutritionists to improve the food intake of residents in a dementia facility. An interesting development in UD.


Look here: Kitchen lighting refocused

A modern kitchen with a bowl of fruit in the foreground and a stove and microwave in the backgroundDoug Walter writes in ProRemodeller magazine about new research in kitchen lighting. He says, “Most kitchens are woefully underlit. Lighting is often an afterthought, yet even when it’s carefully planned, designers and lighting experts often don’t agree on which lamps work best in particular fixtures and where those fixtures should be located.” It seems housing standards aren’t much help and it is left up to the kitchen designer or the homeowner to work it out for themselves. The article offers practical and technical advice about lighting the kitchen so you can see what you are doing, safely and conveniently. 

Lighting is of particular importance to anyone with low vision – even people who wear glasses need good light to make sure the work-space and benches are hygienic and safe. And more light isn’t always better if it produces glare.  


Advances in design for inclusion – book

Front cover of the book: yellow background with dark blue text.This book is practice-orientated and covers many fields of design.The overview of this publication states, “This book focuses on a range of topics in design, such as universal design, design for all, digital inclusion, universal usability, and accessibility of technologies independently of people’s age, economic situation, education, geographic location, culture and language. … Based on the AHFE 2016 International Conference on Design for Inclusion, held on July 27-31, 2016, in Walt Disney World®, Florida, USA, this book discusses new design technologies, highlighting various requirements of individuals within a community. Thanks to its multidisciplinary approach, the book represents a useful resource for readers with different kinds of backgrounds and provides them with a timely, practice-oriented guide to design for inclusion.” You can download the promotional flyer or go to the link allows you to download the Table of Contents.


Universal design for apparel products

Picture of a rack of dresses in all kinds of fabric designsHow can clothing design be inclusive and allow individual expression at the same time? Design for many, design for me: Universal design for apparel products reports on a study examining just that question. The article begins with an explanation and application of UD principles and then provides two case studies. Slow Design and Thoughtful Consumption enter the discussion as well as the concept of co-design. It is good to see clothing design joining the UD movement.

Abstract:  This study examined the potential of universal design in the field of apparel. The particular purpose of the study was to explore the use of the concept and principles of universal design as guidance for developing innovative design solutions that accommodate ‘inclusivity’ while maintaining ‘individuality’ regarding the wearer’s aesthetic tastes and functional needs. To verify the applicability of universal design in apparel products, two case studies of design practice were conducted, and the principles of universal design were evaluated through practical applications. This study suggests that universal design provides an effective framework for the apparel design process to achieve flexible and versatile outcomes. However, due to product proximity to the wearer, modification of the original definition and principles of universal design must be considered in applications for apparel design.

You can see another article on this topic.


Product Design: Inclusive Design Toolkit

The Inclusive Design Toolkit is a great resource for product designers. This page link takes you to the section on user capabilities that need to be considered when designing products. It shows how many potential purchasers are left out by not considering universal design principles. Good information is available on other parts of the website as well.

The Toolkit was devised by the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge (UK) – in Britain they use “inclusive” rather than “universal” design.