Collective Connects July 2013

Accessibility By Design
Design, by its nature is human centered. Existing to provide creative solutions for the full support and enhancement of all human response and activities, design is required to defy any discrimination in favor of its successful response to a client’s specific design brief.
Various current terms, such as Universal Design, Inclusive Design, and Design-for-All, generally have been considered synonyms. These are used to describe products and environments which are usable by all people without the need for specialized or separate design. But at its core human centered design represents the social evolution of universal design and its terminology continues to be discussed internationally.
Design, which functions to bring about such convergence, has emerged as the key differentiation strategy for businesses. Within this purview, several contemporary and important design methodologies pervasive today are:

  • Universal Design, or Inclusive Design or Design-for-All, are broad concepts used to describe the design of all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. At its core are considerations derived from earlier barrier-free models of design. The broader accessibility movement as it exists today seeks to blend adaptive and assistive technology with aesthetics without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
  • Accessible Design is a design process in which the needs of people with disabilities are specifically considered. Accessibility sometimes refers to the characteristic that products, services, and facilities can be independently used by people with a variety of disabilities.
  • Usable Design shares some key goals with Accessible and Universal Design. Designers in all three cases seek to create product features that are easily identified, activated and operated by the user. Usability is concerned with aspects of the user experience that includes learnability, consistency, efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Human centered design is used to meet the needs of people, and deliver innovative solutions that work in specific cultural and economic contexts. Centered in optimism and embracing constraints and complexity, this process helps designers to ask the right questions. As is to be expected, concerns for human centered design will evolve and change with the changing landscape of our society and culture. New technologies and changes of processes will result in changed policies and building and practice codes, which in turn, help to provide the general public with an ever greater accessibility and opportunity for full engagement with all aspects of society. This is one of the biggest design responsibilities and also designs greatest contribution in this century.

A Changed Paradigm

Accessibility as a design concern has a long history, but public awareness about accessibility increased just recently. In 2006 the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the United Nations, promoting equal rights for persons with disabilities. Similarly, the World Health Organization shifted thinking towards disabilities from a medical model, which views disability as a feature of the person, to a social model, which views disability resulting from an interaction of people with the environment. A shift in paradigm this expansion now includes not only the permanently impaired but persons who also find themselves temporarily so. All of the built environment must allow for all people to be equally active and contributing to society, no matter their status.

In part a fallout of humanity’s success with our extraordinary advances to support and preserve life (regardless of whether saving a premature baby or in the extension of life which allows the average person to soon live past 100, or due to the considerable growth of the world’s population which is expected to triple in the next 90 years), supporting our human life in all of its diversity has become a pressing challenge. This in conjunction with the world’s ever more sedentary and mentally focused workforce has given rise to new disabilities – depression, heart and lung disease, arthritis, etc, – requiring a refocus and expansion of the parameters of “human centered design”.

Ultimately, human centered design has the possibility to increase the speed and effectiveness of implementing solutions that have a real impact on the lives of the people these solutions were designed for. But we must start from the inside and work more intently to incorporate all of the qualities of experience.

Tezuka Architects fuji kindergarden_394