When we design for disability, we create a superior environment to appeal to other senses and experiences. If we use creative solutions for design, so that someone will be able to follow the scent to the cafe or feel their way around an office building, we create a society of inclusion, which increases quality of life for millions of disabled people.
First we must define the problem and understand the limitations. For example a wheelchair user will be faced with a huge obstacle if the building has a grand staircase at the front entrance but it’s not practical to remove a staircase so an extending or fixed wheelchair ramp could be an option.
It’s always useful to empathise and observe people in real situations. Able bodied people can sometimes be ignorant of the effect disability plays in a person’s life and so to observe people in real life situations will help people to understand exactly what the limitations of disability are and how they affect everyday tasks.
Ideation – the formation of ideas or concepts. This step is the most important. Brainstorming, bouncing ideas from each other, developing focused ideas and suggestions. The wilder the better. It’s useful to get into the mind of those you’re creating for and find out what it is that will help them everyday.
The next step is to prototype and test out what it is that you’ve come up with. Testing allows you to realise the existing problems, create a solution to fix it and see it live in action. It also highlights any issues within your design, any holes that need to be patched up. Mimic the solution and record the results, whether positive or negative. Refine and develop your best ideas.
Implement your refined improvement and see how people react. Is it easier for the blind woman to get around? Is it easier for that deaf man to interact in the workplace?
Designing for disability is ultimately about intent. What is it you’re setting out to do? What is it that the person needs? And most importantly, are those needs being met?