Another look at missed business

Close up of a a man's hand holding a wallet with some bank notes sticking out.Champions of universal design are often told that to effect change you need a good economic argument. Several such arguments have been written, but have met with little success in terms of gaining greater acceptance of universal design and inclusive practice. Shops, buses, buildings, hotels, meeting places, schools, parks, tourist destinations, and homes still remain inaccessible to many. The tourism sector has recognised that telling hotels and holiday businesses that they are missing out on a significant market is not sufficient of itself to make change. What is needed is more “How to…”.  The latest publication  discussing economics, is on the purchasing power of working age people with disability. It travels over familiar ground with the latest statistics, facts and figures relative to the United States. It compares the disposable income of people with and without disability and with Front cover of the reportdifferent disabilities, and goes on to discuss the data from a marketing perspective.

The full title of the paper is, A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults with Disabilities, by  Yin, Shaewitz, Overton & Smith. Published by the American Institutes for Research. You can download from Researchgate

Note: The economics of universal design in housing by Smith, Rayer, Smith (2008) is an excellent example of economists applying their skills to a social problem. Nothing has changed yet.

UD Principles in Service Design

Top half of the front cover of the plan. The graphic is various shades of blue with a woman operating an automatic teller machineService design is yet to get on board with universal design according to a Norwegian Masters thesis study by Oda Lintho Bue. Norway leads the way with its overarching policy and commitment in their policy document, Norway Universally Designed by 2025. So it is no surprise to see this study undertaken here. Universal design is not a profession in its own right, but many projects need a UD champion on the team. Committing resources on universal design early in the project will most likely ensure that there will be no need for resources used on redesign later. This point is well made in the thesis. Given that Norway has such a strong stance on UD, it is interesting to note that even Norway is struggling with getting implementation across the board. 

No More Missed Business

Front cover of the Missed Business guide showing an empty car park and an empty accessible car spaceThe Missed Business booklet originally devised by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Marrickville Council has been updated by the NSW Business Chamber. It gives key messages in simple sentences and information is presented on three pages with lots of graphics. The layout is designed for two page spread so font is small for online reading. Nevertheless it is good to see this publication appear again to help small business. There are links to additional documents. You can access the guide online or by downloading the PDF document directly. So, no more missed business!

Lane Cove Council, and Macarthur Council, have developed their own similar guides with a little more information. Check you local council too. For more on customer service and digital access, see the Human Rights Commission’s additional booklet, Access for all: Improving accessibility for consumers with disability (2016).

Gender Inclusive: Designing forms for everyone

Gender Neutral restroom sign showing three figuresDo any of your written or online registration forms ask for a gender specific title such as Ms or Mr? Or female, male? If so, you might want to think about being more gender inclusive. You might also want to consider whether this information is really necessary. 

Sabrina Fonseca has written a very interesting article, Designing forms for gender diversity and inclusion. The focus is on designing surveys and marketing materials and whether the collection of gender information is really necessary, and if it is, how can you be inclusive?

Fonseca did some of her own research within trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) communities to come up with some good gender question recommendations. Giving people a really good reason for asking their gender is a start. If you can’t then probably you shouldn’t ask the question.

Fonseca includes an example of a complex form asking for a lot of statistical detail. This is the kind of form governments use. She says,

“Be transparent, explain what exactly you are asking about, and how it will benefit them. Reassure that your organization strives to be inclusive of everyone so they can feel welcome and protected while disclosing their information. As with any form field, if there isn’t a clear benefit to the user, you probably shouldn’t ask about it.”

A great comprehensive look at some of the issues trans and gender non-conforming people face when filling out forms and identity documents. This article was posted on the uxdesign.cc website.

Ask Me: Inclusive research methods

Picture of a hand holding a pen and filling in boxes on a survey form. Are they using inclusive research methods?When researching the topic of disability, how can researchers know if their methods are the right ones? Do all the standard academically accepted methods used in research projects suit this topic? Are they inclusive research methods?

Researchers with the lived experience of disability are few and far between, and then they are often schooled in the mainstream methods. So how can research methods be tested to show that they are doing the right job? Simple answer: involve people with disability from the start with the design of the research and again in the analysis. It’s one thing to do the job right (accepted methods), but it another to be doing the right job (the job that needs to be done).

The title of this academic paper indicates a very academic approach to the subject, but further into the article, the writing becomes more accessible: Problematizing Reflexivity, Validity, and Disclosure: Research by People with Disabilities About Disability, by James Sheldon, University of Arizona. The paper also discusses the LGBTQ community as another disenfranchised group when it comes to research.

Prosperity for All: another aspect of UD

Logo for the inclusive growth commission. Grey background with yellow and white textThe Inclusive Growth Commission in the UK recently published the findings of an enquiry into how the UK can achieve inclusive growth. The Design Council’s article about the findings outlines the key challenges in the report as:

  1. Creating high wage, high value-add jobs across the country
  2. Designing resilient inclusive places
  3. Creating governance systems fit for the modern era

There is an emerging global consensus that inequality not only has a social cost, but that it also hampers long-term economic performance and the productive potential of people and places. This would include mature age workers and people with disability.

You can see the full article by the Design Council, How Design Can Help Inclusive Growth. The Inclusive Growth Commission is an independent organisation set up to understand and identify practical ways to make local economies more economically inclusive and prosperous. Download their final report from their website.

Editor’s comment: It is interesting to note there is such a thing as an Inclusive Growth Commission. While the Design Council article does not specifically mention universal design, it is alluded to in the second point above. This emphasises the importance of thinking about designing for inclusion alongside other factors. Too often inclusion is treated as an add-on factor instead of integral to the project. Jobs, healthy lifestyles, inclusion and economics are all impacted by design processes and design outcomes. This is particularly the case at the local level where real lives are lived. The helicopter view of planning needs to be questioned. Our lives are not an abstract construct.

 

 

Universal Design: Is it Accessible?

A blank sheet of paper with an eraser, two pencils and a light globe. Universal Design, is it accessible?This opinion piece, Universal Design: Is it Accessible? critiques the 7 Principles of Universal Design. Several aspects of universal design are questioned including the terminology and inherent difficulties in understanding the concepts. Jane Bringolf argues that the 7 Principles of Universal Design are not themselves universally designed. 

The article was published by Multi:The RIT Journal of Plurality and Diversity in Design. It is also available on ResearchGate

The article was written in 2008 before the 8 Goals of Universal Design were devised by Steinfeld and Maisel in 2012. These goals have a more practical focus. More recently, the concept of universal design has evolved to embrace diversity and inclusion in their broadest sense.

The beginnings of the universal design movement are attributed to Ron Mace, a polio survivor who went on to be an architect. 

Abstract

Designing products and environments to be usable by the majority of people is the underpinning concept of universal design. In some aspects, however, universal design fails to meet some of its own principles. This has resulted in a lack of understanding of the concept, which in turn, has allowed the terms “accessibility” and “disability” to inhabit the language of universal design. Consequently, universal design is bounded by concepts of accessibility, regulations and disability rights, rather than the intellectual challenges inherent in designing for the whole of the population bell curve.

The universal design movement recognizes that making headway is proving difficult and is seeking ways to improve its position. Market research, however, indicates universal design is branded as a disability product and this has implications for consumers, practitioners, and for the universal design movement in general. Discussed are the influence of terminology on the direction and perceptions of universal design, and the dilemmas of applying a regulatory framework as an implementation strategy.

 

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