Last session, we discussed Design as Service for the differently-abled. One of the key concepts that I think is center-fold to the practice of Design is the understanding that the world we live in is not built equally. To counter this, we need to always have considerations in our minds for all perspectives, narratives and approaches when we design. One of these perspectives is of that of the differently-abled. As always, this is a tall order. There are all manners of people in our world, all with different complications, but it falls to us as the designers and shapers of our society to take these challenges and rise to the occasion.
Perhaps it is difficult to match our designs for every person in the world. Sometimes, you cannot design one size that fits all, and trying to would eventually be counter-productive and unfortunately a waste of effort. Sometimes, you HAVE to design for a select clientele or a specific audience. Yet, we have to consider that designing for the differently-abled more often than not produces designs, concepts and ideas that work more efficiently for everyone.
When you design for the differently-abled, you don’t necessarily have to remove complicated systems or parts from what you design. Rather, what can happen is that you conceptualize different, unique approaches to your design that are not not necessarily “less” than the original design. These considerations can often change the world at large, and impact design practices and social practices in a much larger capacity than we think.
As we discussed in our Principles of Interaction course, our designs shape our culture and social practices, and our social practices shape our designs. This cycle, I believe, is quintessential to designing for the differently-abled. As we say in Sarah Hendren’s practice, why design by yourself when you can have the input and conversation for exactly those you design for? People find ways to cope and adapt — that is a tenet of our identity as humans. It can be as simple as replicating and improving these ideas into our formats to help.
It is crucial that we begin to teach and implement these ideas and approaches to our design practices. In a manner of speaking, the conscience of the design world is waking up. Already, we have made leaps into the world of conscientious design. I myself have seen the results of this, as in the field of game design and designing for differently-abled gamers, the charity SpecialEffect works to bring the medium of video games to those that find it difficult to access and enjoy them. At the end of the day, we should remember that our duty as designers, nay, human beings, is to share our joys and happiness with those around us, and to spread our stories so that all can join in.