For four years the Design Council Spark program in the UK has been mentoring and funding new designers to help get great products to market. The Design Council website has an overview of all the finalists and their projects – which vary considerably. Among the finalists are these products:
- Making strength training easier for people with long term conditions
- Beautiful functional lingerie that works for women with dexterity problems
- Comfort and style after mastectomy
- A saddle for all riders
- Opening doors with ease
Beer, electric bikes, lemons, virtual reality, saving fingers, and exercise also feature. See the web page for more details.
Ted Talker John Carey makes some great statements. “Dignity is to design is what justice is to law and health is to medicine”. “The design reflects back to you your value”. “If good design is only for a privileged few, what good is it?” “Good design shapes our idea of who we are in the world and what we deserve.” John calls fellow architects to account – to design for people other than themselves – who, for the most part, are white males. Unlike law and medicine, architecture has failed to attract and sustain women and people of colour (in the US). A passionate talk that does not mention accessibility in particular, but is a call for good design for everyone – to consider everyone. Worth a listen/view.
A very interesting conversation between a WordPress designer and an advisor to Automattic where they discuss inclusion and how people understand the concepts of inclusive design in different ways. They claim that a diverse team does not necessarily mean that diversity will be reflected in designs – it is a company-wide culture change that is needed. “Success is when inclusive design is the default way to design any aspect of society.” The conversation is between John Maeda of WordPress, and Kat Holmes the advisor to Automattic. Nicely written, large text, lots of good points and tips, and easy to read with extra links at the end of the article.
Google has officially introduced wheelchair-accessible transit routes in Google Maps. It will help people moving with wheels to get around more easily – assuming there is an easy option. Similar ideas and apps have been developed elsewhere. However Google Maps already has such widespread use, any other apps will need to focus on niche conditions and areas. We might have to wait a little longer for the Google Maps app to include Australia, but they claim to be adding this feature world wide. Here is an excerpt from their blog on the official launch:
“Google Maps was built to help people navigate and explore the world, providing directions, worldwide, to people traveling by car, bicycle or on foot. But in city centers, buses and trains are often the best way to get around, which presents a challenge for people who use wheelchairs or with other mobility needs. Information about which stations and routes are wheelchair friendly isn’t always readily available or easy to find. To make public transit work for everyone, today we’re introducing “wheelchair accessible” routes in transit navigation to make getting around easier for those with mobility needs.”
The New York Times has a great article, How Design for One Turns Into Design for All. It traces the number of designs that were originally meant to solve the problem for one person and later it was found many others could use the item too. The article also addresses the issue of ugliness; most designs for people with disability have been constructed by engineers without any user input. Those days are starting to disappear. Prosthetic limbs in different designs is one case in point. You can’t hide the prosthesis but there is no need to make it ugly – or too sci-fi either. This statement says much:
“This is plain logic, really. All our shoes, coats and sweaters, the beds we sleep on, the forks and knives we eat with, our lamps and loudspeakers, stairs and elevators, central heat and air-conditioning exist to compensate for what every human being, to some degree, lacks and needs.”
Yes, all technology is “assistive” but “assistive technology” is a term assigned for people with disability and when it comes to design, too often no thought is given to aesthetics. That includes some hideous ramps added to buildings. Lots of pictures illustrate the article.
Runaway Play has embraced the concept of inclusion for their virtual reality games. And they go beyond physical accessibility. Some people get motion sickness, so they came up with a solution. Some people get anxious, particularly from sensory overload – another solution found. The company’s approach to design stemmed from working with a return to work rehabilitation organisation. The title of the article is Learning to design virtual reality for accessibility, by Emma Johansson, and is featured on the Venture Beat website. Good to see IT, AI, and VR going in the right direction.
What will the digital world have for us in 2018? How much should we worry about artificial intelligence (AI), fake news, and new devices and social media services? Nick Newman sought out the views of various tech people and provides insights and ideas for 2018. Some might cause concern, but there is also some good mainstream tech stuff that can assist almost anyone. For example, hearables: Amazon Glasses with bone-conducting audio that links to Alexa and a smartphone. What about ear buds that offer instant translations from other languages? How will we know our news feeds are real news and not fake? Perhaps instant fact-checkers will help us decide. For a fascinating overview of what we can expect in journalism, social media and technology, see Nick Newman’s report.
Editor’s note: While some technology will be great for everyone (universal) and create more independence and inclusion, we still have to watch out for designs that exclude.
The latest issue of the ACAA Access Insight Newsletter has a focus on play spaces with two articles and a review of a report on Livvi’s Place at Port Macquarie. The report is the result of research by the Institute for Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University. One of the findings is that a well designed inclusive play space can become a visitor attraction – a destination that can be added to the list of local tourist attractions. Nick Loder writes a thoughtful piece on culture change for design with a focus on housing standards and universal design. World Braille Day and some technical advice on the size of accessible public toilets also feature along with general association material for members. It can be read online or downloaded in PDF.
Mark Wilson has posted an article on the FastCoDesign website about the role of design and designers going forward. He says that 2017 has felt like a year where people in positions of power have been revealed “to be a total dirt bag”. Also, data was stolen from everywhere and that is no good for designers either. So what can designer do differently for 2018? Wilson has asked designers for their thoughts: political-oriented design will emerge, inclusivity will go mainstream, AI will take off, digital will no longer be the centrepiece of a brand, and what consumers value will change. And there is more. It’s a long read, but very thought provoking.
The link to the Lifemark webpage, Choose Universal Design has some good short messages with nice pics about universal design – from the perspective of, “it seemed like a good idea at the time!” The one pictured here says, “My kitchen will be all white, I love this trend. This is what she said when she chose her home decor. Now her mother can’t see the light switches and turn the light on! CHOOSE UNIVERSAL DESIGN”