Social factors and accessibility

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsSocial factors influence how people with disability choose to use their technology. So they are sometimes disadvantaged because they don’t want to be “different”. Design for Social Accessibility is an approach that encourages designers to focus on social as well as functional factors in their designs. 

Using a workshop method, researchers worked with designers to bring about a change in their attitudes, and to see the effectiveness of the Design for Social Accessibility approach. The results are published in Incorporating Social Factors in Accessible Design. It is a lengthy read because it includes quotes from workshop participants and the reporting is very thorough. They conclude that accessible design is within the reach of professional designers if given appropriate tools and resources. Designing technologies for people with disability does not exclude people without disability. The focus of this study is on people with vision impairment. However, the principles are applicable to the design of any product or place. The article is open source.

Abstract: Personal technologies are rarely designed to be accessible to disabled people, partly due to the perceived challenge of including disability in design. Through design workshops, we addressed this challenge by infusing user-centered design activities with Design for Social Accessibility—a perspective emphasizing social aspects of accessibility—to investigate how professional designers can leverage social factors to include accessibility in design. We focused on how professional designers incorporated Design for Social Accessibility’s three tenets: (1) to work with users with and without visual impairments; (2) to consider social and functional factors; (3) to employ tools—a framework and method cards—to raise awareness and prompt reflection on social aspects toward accessible design. We then interviewed designers about their workshop experiences. We found DSA to be an effective set of tools and strategies incorporating social/functional and non/disabled perspectives that helped designers create accessible design.