Do me a favor and try to make yourself a cup of coffee with your eyes closed. Be it in the home kitchen or in the office. I want to bet that the majority will end up with instant powder and a kettle. Because modern displays do not provide any sensory information about their operation. All the illuminated buttons on any Nespresso are shaped identically and the super-stylish portafilter machines from Italy are a risk of injury. And that’s exactly what exclusive design is.
I don’t imply any bad intentions of any designer or industry, but even a Reddit feed from last year remained unanswered despite the high response. There doesn’t seem to be a coffee machine for the visually impaired coffee gourmet. Why not? Most likely we are not sufficiently aware of the question. Maybe we concentrate too much on the mainstream and neglect target groups with great potential. But is it a good idea in the face of an aging population and a broad consensus that inequality means injustice and as such cannot be tolerated by a modern society?
So, it is high time that we as innovators and designers deal more, again and again with the topic of inclusive or universal design.
What does inclusive mean?
Inclusive is what does not exclude. A touchscreen without haptic feedback or voice over is exclusive. A room on the top floor without an elevator is exclusive. An elevator on platforms with a guidance system, visual and acoustic as well as haptic controls of appropriate dimensions and accessibility is inclusive. This service product does not exclude blind people, wheelchair users, people with luggage and / or strollers, non-literary people or people with other forms of restrictions or special needs.
There are accessible user experiences in the digital world – perhaps even more than analog. Well-structured websites can be read aloud, information in simple language is provided by almost every authority and braille keyboards and displays facilitate access to digital offers. Even iPhones have numerous operating aids to enable use by everyone regardless of their restrictions. And here you can also see that inclusiveness brings unimagined advantages for the mainstream. If you only look at the light signal or vibration function for incoming messages: it might be a minimum requirement for people with poor hearing, but it became an indispensable sign of understatement for busy office people, one sees or feels a message without disturbing the surroundings.
Haben Girma emphasize exactly that in her talks: Inclusiveness is not only the opposite of exclusivity but an added value for all people as well as institutions and societies.
“Inclusive Design means better Design for all“
Consistently summarized by the British Civil Service Design Team. And published in a series of posters on the subject that offer first and easily understandable hints for the dedicated designer.
Design for Accessibility
Barrier-free design has become a matter of course (and an order) for authorities and state institutions, although the implementation takes time. Modifications are lengthy and costly, programming takes a little longer – not everything is perfect yet, but the direction is clear. Accessibility means participation. Incidentally, also participation in consumption, which in turn should spur the private sector to understand accessibility as an attribute and to use integrative design as a method.
So why does inclusivity hardly play a role in everyday design?
Warum spielt dann Inklusivität trotzdem kaum eine Rolle im Designalltag?
To be honest, it’s a question of the lobby and the numerical superiority of the mainstream. I have never had a buyer persona with a handicap and that’s probably true for many designers out there. It is time to train ourselves despite the missing personas – not only out of respect but out of the need to create a better design for everyone.
Further texts about Accessible, Universal or Inclusive Design:
Civil Service Design Team about Accessible Design (s. poster)
The Inclusive Design Tool Kit
Another Inclusive Design Tool Kit
Cooper Hewitt Museum “Design Access”
Guidance from the Interaction Design Foundation
Reasonable priced online course from the Interaction Design Foundation (hold regularly)
Business Disability Forum (s. graphics)