Accessibility as an afterthought

Dean Birkett
Jun 22, 2020 · 2 min read

Yesterday evening, Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of The Netherlands announced that a number of restrictions that had been put in place due to the global pandemic are being slowly lifted. From June 1st, public transport will be running as normal. With one notable difference.

Hairdressers and other professions can restart operations from May 11, cafes and restaurants will be able to open from June 1 — within limits — and face masks will also be compulsory on public transport from that date.

There have been numerous articles and thought pieces already about face masks being inaccessible for people with hearing impairments and some solutions, which can be used in certain situations, such as The Communicator Surgical Mask and ClearMask, but although they may solve this particular issue, or at least improve the experience for some of this audience this situation feels so familiar.

Lady wearing ClearMask, a mask which allows Deaf people to see the persons mouth.
Lady wearing ClearMask, a mask which allows Deaf people to see the persons mouth.

Accessibility in the digital realm is nearly always an afterthought by many companies.

‘Solutions’ that are implemented are nearly always retrofitted and, like these masks, feel like workarounds to a problem that has not been clearly thought through from the start.

Are the designers to blame, or is it the fault of the businesses who pay their cheques? I personally believe that there is more that we can all do. Designers need the experience to understand whom they are excluding with their designs, and businesses need to understand that not only is this good to do from an ethical standpoint, but also a financial one.

As more and more of us are shifting to remote work we are creating more barriers and the exclusion gaps will only increase unless we are mindful of the tools we use and the products we create.

This post was originally published on May 7th 2020

Dean Birkett Design

Removing barriers to include more people, with design solutions that benefit all.

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