Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Good design benefits everyone

Each year the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is celebrated on 3 December and this year’s theme of “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want” is particularly important to me.

These Sustainable Development Goals have been established with the aim of building a fairer and more inclusive world for all of us to live in. Now doesn’t that sound like the best, most exciting and challenging design brief ever?

My name is Denise Stephens and I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis in 2003, when I was 24 years old. Since then, my experiences have given me an interesting insight into how the world can be transformed by the lens of disability. From taking day-to-day things for granted to struggling with the most mundane of tasks, I’ve become all too aware of how good design can enable and at its worst sadly disable.

Over the years, I have become a champion of Design for All / Inclusive Design, but ultimately good design, and how it can help people to live independently and make life easier. I set up the Enabled by Design community in support of this and more recently have been working with Rica, a consumer research organisation for older and disabled people.

I’m particularly excited about my involvement with Rica, as they’re also passionate about Design for All / Inclusive Design and how it can be harnessed to make the world a more inclusive place.

So this IDPD I would like to dedicate this blog to Design for All / Inclusive Design, its benefits and how it can help to mainstream accessibility.

Design for All and Inclusive Design (as well as Universal Design) are closely related and a useful definition from The British Standards Institute is:

'The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible ... without the need for special adaptation or specialised design.'

Examples of Inclusive Design include:

  • OXO Good Grips kitchen gadgets and utensils that feature wide, non-slip, cushioned handles for better grip and comfort
  • Buses with lowering floors and ramps and automatic sliding doors that improve accessibility for a range of people such as wheelchair users and those using walking aids, carrying heavy items, using pushchairs or similar
  • Wheeled suitcases that reduce the need for carrying heavy loads
  • Lever taps that can be useful for people with dexterity difficulties or hands-free use

Inclusive Design offers a range of benefits from making products / services easier to use and helping to destigmatise accessible products to increased customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

We’re passionate about Design for All / Inclusive Design and truly believe that this holds the key to a more inclusive world!

What are your favourite examples of Inclusive Design and how do they help to make life easier for you? Let us know here...

Interested in finding out more? See Rica's Inclusive Design resources here.


See also: The case for inclusive designInclusive design and smart technology for disabled and older people