Barclays debunk five myths

Five red balloons in a row with the title 5 common myths about accessibilityNeat video by Barclays Bank that debunks common myths about customer complaints, costs of being accessible, access being someone else’s job, it’s too small a market for all that time and effort, and accessible design is boring design. Towards the end there is a great statement, “accessible design should work well for those who need it, and be invisible to those who don’t”. A really useful video for anyone promoting accessible customer service in our digital world, and for others wondering if it really is worth the effort. The video is captioned. You can find out more about Barclays work in this area. They also have a Twitter feed.


Lifelong mobility with automation

cars on a two lane highway Connected and automated vehicles are being trialled across the world, but will their use and facility be universally designed? The arrival of the driverless car could be life-changing for people who have been unable to own and/or drive a car. In their article, Towards Life-Long Mobility: Accessible Transportation with Automation, the authors explore some of the challenges and opportunities for automated vehicles for people usually excluded from driving. They conclude that the future of automated vehicles for currently excluded people seems to be promising.

Despite the prevalent discussions on automated vehicles, little research has been conducted with a focus on inclusiveness of traditionally excluded populations from driving. Even though we may envision a future where everyone can drive with perfect automation, the problem will not be that simple. As with any other problem domains, we need to scrutinize all the design considerations – not only each population’s characteristics (capabilities and limitations), but also the entire system, technological limitations, and task environments. To this end, the present paper explores challenges and opportunities of automated vehicles for multiple populations, including people with various difficulties/disabilities, older adults, and children. This paper brings up some controversial points and is expected to promote lively discussions at the conference.


Time for the inclusive revolution

book cover showing outline drawing of an older couple with an iPad tabletThe sub title from the e-book “Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility: Time for a revolution!” says it all. The book includes chapters from UK, Denmark, USA, Slovenia and Norway. The theme is the digital age and how to include everyone. It covers the economic case, putting people at the centre of the design, keeping it simple, and user testing.

In the foreword CEO of BT Retail, Gavin Patterson, says, “The experts interviewed for this book have given all who are involved in developing technology food for thought. It sets out the opportunities, challenges and impacts that communication solutions present to users, to help ensure that what we develop in the future does not end up excluding people whose lives we actually set out to improve. “

Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility is published by the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge and is free to download. Several well known authors are featured, including Valerie Fletcher, Roger Coleman, Ger Craddock, Hua Dong, and Baroness Sally Greengross.


Product marketing practices need to change

Graph showing the percentage of the population with different disabilitiesA recent Nielsen Report on consumers with disability, including older people, states what is obvious to anyone interested in universal design and inclusion, “Disabilities span across age, race, and gender so there is reason to believe consumers with disabilities should not differ much from the general population. People with disabilities are not a homogeneous group, as each person has unique skills and abilities which impact their unique desires.” 

While serious researchers might have a few problems with their methods, it is good to see that the marketing profession are finally catching up with the notion that there is a large cohort of potential customers just waiting to be served more appropriate products and services. The report, Reaching Prevalent, Diverse Consumers with Disabilities found that one in three households of their sample group of 86,000 people had one or more person with a disability. The graphs are courtesy The Nielsen Company.

Nielsen statistics on the prevalence of disability

This report was found on the Silver Blog which is focused on marketing to older people. There is another item on the dangers of marketing specifically to older adults as this borders on ageism. Older people want brands to focus on needs and interests, not their age.


Considering body size and shape

CEUD Site-LogoThe Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has developed a really useful set of fact sheets on considering body size and shape in designs.

The Overview fact sheet explains some of the statistical measurements used and how they can mislead designers.

The Data fact sheet explains the steps in using the data within minimum and maximum values

The Adjustability fact sheet  looks at “accommodation” and “adjustability” factors.

The Testing fact sheet introduces user testing and identifying how users will interact with the design, and lists the steps to take in a user study.



I haven’t got anything to wear…

fashion cat walkNot having appropriate clothing is a major social barrier for many people with disability. This is possibly one of the last barriers to participation to become visible. Academics focus on health and activities but not on the self esteem and confidence that comes from feeling well dressed, particularly on important occasions. Some specialised garments are available that are easy to put on (petal back openings) and easy to fasten (velcro), but they focus on function and lack visual appeal. 

Below is an abstract of an academic article published in Disability and Rehabilitation on this important topic. You will need institutional access to download a free copy.

Abstract:   Purpose To document apparel-related barriers faced by people with disabilities (PWD) and their families as they attempted to engage in various aspects of social participation, and explore the often invisible relationship between apparel-related barriers and disablement. Method For this qualitative research, we used focus groups to interview PWD, their caregivers and/or parents and health providers to document the experience of apparel-related barriers to community or social participation. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to analyse interview transcripts and noted. Results Participant’s responses were grouped into categories of unmet need for adaptive apparel as well as a list of specific apparel-related barriers that participants struggled to navigate in daily life; including functional, cultural and sensory-based issues. Conclusions The lack of adequate accessible apparel for PWD exacerbated barriers to community participation and disablement, and identified the need for innovation in design, production, distribution and sale, of adaptive clothing.

From the editor: On my Churchill Fellowship study tour in 2004 I came across a Style Centre within the Disabled Living Foundation premises in Manchester. It is unlikely that funding was continued for this project. This is what I wrote in my Churchill report:

“People of short stature, wheelchair users and people with asymmetrical body shapes all have difficulty finding clothes to fit and many just give up and buy shapeless stretch fabric garments to keep themselves covered and warm. The Style Centre challenges established concepts of dull and shapeless clothes. People with a disability are not exempt from wanting to look and feel good. Mostly they dress as they do because it is too hard to get clothes to fit or to put on. I think style, fashion, and clothing are a neglected area and they will become more important as more people with a disability are included in regular schools, colleges, and workplaces. Younger people don’t want old-style floral, petal-back clothes because they are easier for carers to dress them – they want the latest styles, the same as their friends. To be able to go to the school formal wearing a great outfit is a major emotional need for a young person, as is, dressing appropriately for a job interview. There is no government funding for this – charity money has to pay for this program. Maybe that is why this seems to be the only one.

The Style Centre developed from a Russian program aimed at overcoming limb deficiency. Chernobyl, frostbite, wars and workplace accidents are the cause of limb deficiency. The Style Centre runs a five day style and fashion program where a class of five, mostly young people, design, cut and sew their own garment. They also get advice on colours and hairstyles that suit them. Many of the students have an intellectual disability, and the program does wonders for their self esteem.

The Style Centre also designs clothes for people who continually undress, selfharm, and for one who eats their clothes. Really large people find underwear impossible to buy, so they go without it. Now they can have the comfort of underwear the same as anyone else.”

Jane Bringolf


UD for packaging

This excellent slideshow from Thailand has some great ideas for easy to use packaging using the seven principles of universal design. In practical terms, it also shows how to apply the principles to design thinking across the seven principles. Very instructive and educational, particularly for people new to the concept.