• Brittany Kwan

Accessible Design: Bringing Equality to Stores

Imagine if you had difficulty seeing, and you needed to go out to buy one bottle of shampoo and conditioner. How would you differentiate between the two if the shape of the bottles are nearly identical? Similarly, how would you know which one you were using while taking your shower? With the level of technology that is currently available, this is still a major challenge that many visually-impaired and blind individuals face on a regular basis. In order to tackle this issue, designers take a look at accessible design, a valuable tool in making things more accessible.

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, accessibility refers to whether or not a product or service can be used by everyone. It concerns itself with ensuring regardless if someone is disabled, the product or service still provides an equal and easy experience. By creating something that everyone can access equally, it helps build the company’s reputation while providing equality to stores.

For many designers, there are a few tricks to help with accessible design. Many of these strategies heavily rely on the other human senses, such as touch, hearing, or even smell. One common example is adding Braille imprints, where visually-impaired individuals can read the characters through the changes in texture. Moreover, technology companies often take advantage of audible features to eliminate any difficulties in navigation. This is evidently seen in virtual assistants, such as Apple’s Siri or Google Home. Similarly, some companies that create hygiene or makeup products also add scents into their products. Not only is this an appealing selling factor for non-disabled users, it doubles as a way for individuals to identify the object based on the scent.

One incredible example that demonstrated the importance of accessible design in October 2020, when the Royal National Institute of Blind People proposed a pregnancy test available for blind women. Currently there are no readily-available pregnancy tests dedicated to blind women. This severely impacts the privacy and dignity that many of them wish to maintain, as pregnancy is a personal subject for many women.

Image: https://www.forbes.com/sites/marijabutkovic/2021/03/03/accessible-design-mattersrnib-creates-a-revolutionary-prototype-of-a-pregnancy-test-for-blind-and-partially-sighted-people/?sh=52fdadee7a61

The designer of the pregnancy test, Josh Wasserman, created the test based on research conducted by the RNIB. The foundation ran a survey on visually-impaired women, in which they discovered that many want the test to be “sense of touch-friendly” while keeping their privacy. Rather than powering an LCD display, which is what most normal pregnancy tests use, the test powers a small motor that raises a series of bumps on the device, to indicate if the user is pregnant.

The RNIB provides an excellent reason for the importance of accessible design, and how promising the results can be. Accessibility provides many benefits in the long run, as it provides the opportunity for innovation, and most importantly, improves product experience for the visually-impaired.






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