The Extent of the Problem
A widespread problem?
We have described how inclusive design can be seen as a matter of common sense. Nevertheless research repeatedly confirms that everyday products are needlessly hard to use.
A survey carried out in the (then) twelve member states of the EU found that over a fifth of adults said they had been hampered in daily activities because of a chronic condition, health problem or hospitalisation in the last year (see reference 12). A DTI study (see reference13) assessed the relative difficulty that older and disabled people had in carrying out everyday activities, such as preparing canned soup and bread, mopping the floor and using a telephone. In all 72 types of product (such as plug sockets, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and dustpans) were used in these tasks. The research revealed design deficiencies in a range of them. The cognitive or mechanical skills they required were beyond the reach of a majority of older and disabled people. For example, the study found that more than one million people would simply be unable to open a jam jar.
Ricabilitys work is geared towards providing comparative test reports. To date over 200 everyday domestic appliances have been assessed (see reference 14). Of these products only one, a top-of-the-range washing machine, has been unreservedly recommended as meeting basic standards of inclusive design. All others are a mix of accessible and inaccessible features. Choosing between them is a matter of juggling the relative importance of different features, which often means ending up with an unsatisfactory compromise. Yet the changes needed to make most of these products inclusive are technically simple and straightforward.
Picture shows computer mouse and mouse mat.
"People with arthritis who couldnt use my standard mouse; a left hander who couldnt use my corkscrew; a shopper who couldnt grab that packet of cereal off the top shelf without pulling the whole lot down on her head; a telephone menu that wouldnt allow me to request a repeat of current options when I had a momentary lapse of concentration; literally millions of people who cant read the print default on their office computer because the font and size, combined with the low contrast setting, inappropriate colours and indifferent ambient lighting, all conspire to make it illegible."
Carey Kevin, Design for life, paper presented at a DFEE/Demos seminar, London March 1999.
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