When I joined Braze Mobility, I found all discussion of the design process fascinating, and the iterations undertaken by the design team are a great study in accessible design. The following blog series will discuss Universal Design and Accessible Design, and will profile some great design concepts that inspire and help.
There is no such thing as disability, only poor design*. Of course, some people have a harder time navigating the built environment than others, and there are people who have physical and cognitive abilities that change the way in which they interact with the world. But, when a person is unable to go into a restaurant because someone built stairs instead of a ramp, is it their disability holding them back, or the short-sightedness of the architect who failed to realize not everyone gets around using two legs? Likewise, if someone who is on the Autism spectrum has difficulty visiting a shopping mall at during the holiday times, the poor overstimulating design is to blame for their inability to interact with the environment.
The world is beginning to become more accessible. Governments are producing legislation that forces businesses to ensure their premises are as accessible as possible, such as the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). Ensuring that spaces and products are able to be used specifically by people with disabilities is important. People regardless of ability and mobility should have the same opportunities to succeed and interact with their environment, no question. Ensuring that a business is accessible also benefits the business itself. By being inaccessible, not only are you losing the business of the person who can’t get into the store, but also everyone who is with them. Accessible design benefits everyone.
But, design for people with disabilities has an added benefit- spaces and products designed to be used by people with disabilities also tend to be easier to use for people without disabilities as well. Take the example of the curb cut, for instance. (If you haven’t heard the story of the Rolling Quads at Berkeley in the 1970’s, there is a great 99% invisible podcast that outlines the story.)
The positive impact of curb cuts benefits everyone, not just those with disabilities. Whether a person using a wheelchair, a parent pushing a stroller, an elderly person wheeling their groceries or just someone crossing the road who doesn’t want to take a step up, curb cuts help make travelling on sidewalks easier. Studies have shown that 90% of people will alter their course to use a curb cut instead of stepping up onto a curb, regardless of physical ability.
This phenomenon is known as the “curb cut effect”, and is a widespread aspect of design.
So, how can we design things to be universally accessible, and therefore a better design for everyone? Follow this blog series to follow our accessible design process! I would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts about accessible design. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
*This statement is intended to demonstrate the necessity of considering all abilities in design, and how good design can enable all people to interact with their environment. It is not intended to minimize the impact a disability has on someone’s life.
Further reading: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_curb_cut_effect