Designing through an Accessibility lens

I was recently asked what I meant when I say that I come at design problems through an accessibility lens, and on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, it seems a great day to answer that question.

Man holding a lens, with the Global Accessibility Awareness Day logo added.

Companies with some UX maturity will use a methodology to tackle problems creatively.

Design Thinking

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” — Tim Brown, president and CEO, IDEO

However, from my experience, unless the problem that is defined explicitly mentions the need to solve the issue for people with access needs, then their needs are not considered in the eventual solution. In best-case scenarios, these ‘fixes’ may be retrofitted in later, which often only result in technical solutions rather than equal or equivalent experiences.

Inclusive Design Thinking

By understanding the access needs of others it allows designers to come at problems through a different lens.

My area of interest involves solving problems for persons with disabilities, so by coming at problems through an accessibility lens I find solutions which include a broader audience, such as the elderly, or people with situational or temporary impairments.

Inclusive Design

Inclusive Design is often shorthand for solving these types of problems, but of course, inclusion is not just about respecting and supporting people with disabilities, but also the many other dimensions of diversity, such as ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, sexual orientation, etc.

“Design thinking privileges the designer above the people she serves, and in doing so limits participation in the design process.” — Natasha Iskander, Associate Professor, New York University

Although many organisations may have a way to go before they even reach Inclusive Design Thinking, the ultimate goal for all of us should be to work with a range of diverse people who can help remove the blindspots to enable us all to create better more inclusive products.

If your company needs help or assistance with in-person or remote workshops, then check out the Inclusive Design Workshops that I offer.

This post was originally published on May 21st 2020

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

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Dean Birkett

Dean Birkett

Versatile, Senior-Level UX Designer on a mission to design and inspire more accessible solutions.

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