The Pain of Design

A work table is filled with paper and folders and a woman is cutting a piece of paper with scissors. It looks like a group of people are working on a design.Arthritis is a common condition and is not often referred to as a disability. However, the pain of arthritis is disabling. So how to design out pain? Design Council ran a workshop with people with arthritis. They found that no-one was interested in special products, which are often stigmatising. So the principle of inclusive design became the top issue.

“Inclusive design is crucial. You have to step away from the idea that it’s “older people” having a problem and start looking at a universal problem and therefore a universal solution.”

They found the most important thing was that people want desirable, stylish, mainstream products that anyone would want to own. People don’t want medicalised, stigmatising equipment. Clearly, including the user-voice is the way to design for all rather than the mythical average. 

The article is titled, Ollie Phelan of Versus Arthritis writes about the importance of the end-user being at the heart of design, and can be accessed on the Medium.com website where there is more information.

Universally Designed Digital Life

Opening frame of the video: Universal Design of ICT - a better digital life.This short video about universal design and communications technology is powerful in its simplicity. The concepts can be applied to anything. One of the best explanations around. Great for introducing the idea of inclusion and universal design to others. A good example of a universally designed video and universally designed explanation as well.

Oslo University is offering a Masters course in UD of ICT.

Principles of inclusive design

page from the booklet with the explanation of how developments will turnout if inclusive design principles are used.Universal design is diverse in its terminology and explanations. Those who prefer “inclusive” design will also have their take on this. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) describes inclusive design as: 

“Inclusive design is about making places everyone can use. It enables everyone to participate equally, confidently and independently. Inclusive design is everyone’s responsibility. That means everyone in the design and construction process”. CABE has a booklet explaining each of the principles of inclusive design in more detail and with photos:

1. Inclusive design places people at the heart of the design process.
2. Inclusive design acknowledges diversity and difference.
3. Inclusive design offers choice where a single design solution cannot accommodate all users
4. Inclusive design provides for flexibility in use.
5. Inclusive design provides buildings and environments that are convenient and enjoyable to use for everyone

CABE says, if the principles are applied, developments will be:

Inclusive so everyone can use them safely, easily and with dignity.
Responsive taking account of what people say they need and want.
Flexible so different people can use them in different ways.
Convenient so everyone can use them without too much effort or separation.
Accommodating for all people, regardless of their age, gender, mobility,
ethnicity or circumstances.
Welcoming with no disabling barriers that might exclude some people.
Realistic offering more than one solution to help balance everyone’s needs
and recognising that one solution may not work for all.

At the heart of all explanations is the quest for inclusion – to include as many people as possible in every design. The list above has similarities with the classic 7 principles of universal design and the 8 goalsBarclays Bank also has a set of principles for inclusive design for the digital world

Innovation, inclusion and leadership

Students and teachers in a lecture room.“Inclusive design can help all human beings experience the world around them in a fair and equal way”. This is the definition on the Global Disability Innovation Hub website. Their blog page is titled,  “Why inclusive design matters and how we are leading change”.  The blog leads up to their new Masters course Disability, Design and Innovation. The course design process included people with disability.

This multidisciplinary course is run in conjunction with the University College London, Loughborough University, University of the Arts and London College of Fashion. International students can also apply. There are bursaries available for UK and EU residents (submission dates closed for this year).  Here is a video with a brief overview.

The Global Disability Innovation Hub has more information on their website on research, education and practice.

The Disability Innovation Summit will be run alongside the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Call for papers will run between October 2019 and March 2020. Priority will be given to submissions with: a passion to collaborate globally; products and ideas that are ready to go to market, or have the ability to be scaled; and tangible solutions that can impact lives around the world.  

Inclusive Design: A Microsoft Perspective

A black and white graphic of stick people in various states of being.Microsoft has updated their Inclusive Design Toolkit. It’s a comprehensive guide that focuses on design principles that can be applied in any design situation. Their key advice is to recognise exclusion, solve for one and extend to many, and learn from diversity.

You can download the toolkit in sections. It also includes several case studies in the form of video clips. These are not all about websites or phone apps either. They have been chosen to help inspire all kinds of designers to think about diversity. I liked the one about Antoine, the dancer. 

Microsoft’s definition of inclusive design is a methodology, born out of digital environments, that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. Most importantly, this means including and learning from people with a range of perspectives.

Microsoft’s design principles: Exclusion happens when we solve problems using our own biases. As Microsoft designers, we seek out those exclusions, and use them as opportunities to create new ideas and inclusive designs.  

A very useful design guide for students and practitioners alike.

A city designed only for young and old?

a Disney type street facade with imaginative designs that look appealing to childrenA city only for children and older people and all other age groups are welcome on visitor passes? What would such a city look like?  A good question because having a visitor pass to your own city is what it feels like to groups who have not been considered in the design. The article, Diversity and belonging in the city comes from the Urban Design and Mental Health Journal. Erin Sharp Newton.poses various human perspectives on the city, urban form, architecture and design. A somewhat philosophical piece, but a step away from the usual thinking.

Web guidelines don’t cover everything

one hand is holding a smart phone and the other is pointing at the screenA nicely written and easy to read article on the Axess Lab website explains that the WCAG – the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were only updated to include vision impairments and assistive technologies. But what about hand control? Motor impairments were not included, but this doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. Uusing a smart phone can be very frustrating when bumping to a page that’s not wanted and having to get back again – frustrating for anyone, but more so when it happens all the time. Axess Lab have provided some simple design solutions. See the article for more and for more about WCAG. Axess Lab lives the message and has a really clean site with easy language – a good example for others. Lots of resources here.  

A beer and a packet of chips

Large packets of chips are standing in a line on a benchA simple pleasure for most, but if you can’t open the chip pack then not so pleasurable. This is a problem for more people than you might think. An article in the Inclusive Design Toolkit Bulletin explains how a student redesigned the chip packet for easier opening. Around 10 million people have arthritis in the UK, and over 10 million chip packets are consumed each week, so student Thomas Woodburn decided to redesign the packaging considering the needs of this user group. He found that many people with arthritis use scissors to open the typical seal used in packaging. While wearing the Cambridge Simulation Gloves, Thomas experienced great difficulty trying to ‘pinch and pull’ to open chip packaging. He designed a corrugated fibreboard pack that opens with a small amount of force applied to the lid, using a mechanism for the lid that folds out three-dimensionally and enables the fingers to remain in a natural position. You can see similar articles in Issue 4 of the Bulletin. There is more good material on the Inclusive Design Toolkit site. 

Cognition and inclusive design

An older man sits with his back to the camera in a cafePractitioners and researchers are seeking more solutions for people with sensory and cognitive impairments, particularly dementia. But our building standards are silent on this growing issue. The value of designing an age-friendly environment is discussed in an article by Hadjri, Afacan, and Gadakari. As with all universal design features, the authors argue inclusion needs to be embedded in the early stages of design. See the abstract below for more on the content.

Front cover of the bookIt is good to see the topic nestling between chapters on passive design and energy efficiency. The chapter “Inclusive Design” unexpectedly appears in ZEMCH: Toward the Delivery of Zero Energy Mass Custom Homes, and is available from SpringerLink and ResearchGate.

Abstract: This chapter will explain and discuss the principles, role and importance of Inclusive Design particularly in the context of an ageing society. It will review the changing and complex user needs and requirements through case studies and current work of leading organizations. Current standards used in the UK and elsewhere will be reviewed to establish whether they need to take into account sensory and cognitive impairments into consideration. So far, these have not been fully accepted by industry and practice and more needs to be done by policy makers. Findings of recent research on users’ needs and requirements will be reviewed to highlight the needs for more inclusivity in the design of the built environment. Additionally, barrier-free design and Inclusive Design will be further examined to assess the use of technology in embedding accessibility during the design stage. This chapter will allow students, lecturers and designers to understand the value and purpose of Inclusive Design and its potential to provide an accessible and age-friendly built environment.

You will need institutional access for a free read, otherwise purchase the chapter. You can also try ResearchGate to ask for a free read. 

Inclusive Design Toolkit updates

inclusive design toolkitThe Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge (UK) has launched a new quarterly bulletin to complement the content of their Inclusive Design Toolkit. The Toolkit was originally devised for product manufacturers to better understand who they include and exclude from their designs. While the focus is on industrial design, there are lessons for designers across all disciplines. For example, the work on grasping hot cups can be applied to handles, hand held devices, touch screens, and taps, and the SEE-IT tool applies to every organisation with a webpage. This first issue has six items with links to appropriate pages:

  1. SEE-IT Tool for assessing visual exclusion for mobile friendly websites
  2. The passenger experience at Heathrow Airport
  3. Making e-commerce images fit for purpose – the Unilever experience
  4. Barclays Bank simulation equipment to help better design
  5. Opening food packaging
  6. 3D prototyping workshop from Include 2105 with a focus on gripping and holding hot drink cups