September 20, 2023
Disability drives innovation.
“When we design for disability first, we often stumble upon solutions that are not only inclusive but also are often better than when we design for the norm.”
~ Elise Roy, disability rights lawyer and design thinker
Elise Roy created a pair of glasses for woodworkers. These innovative glasses light up when a table saw is going to “kickback”. As a deaf individual, Elise Roy cannot hear this sound, yet the glasses create the safety she needs to continue doing the thing she loves, woodworking. These glasses “hear” the “kickback” prior to an individual with typical hearing creating more time for any woodworker to react to a potentially dangerous situation. Elise’ creation had created better safety for the woodworking community.
There have been many things designed to create a solution for the disability community but in turn have ended up benefiting everyone at some point in their life. The Curb Cut Effect explains this idea in that curb cuts were designed for the disability community but benefit everyone. Curb cuts were mainly designed so that people who use wheelchairs can enter and exit sidewalks. However, skateboarders, individuals pushing strollers or carts, as well as anyone who temporarily has a leg injury benefits from a curb cut.
Here are Wandke Consulting’s top solutions that have been designed for the disability community that ended up benefiting society as a whole.
In addition to the curb cut, there are also ramps and elevators. Today, ramps and elevators are implemented into the design to provide access to wheelchair users or anyone who cannot access stairs. However, just like curb cuts, ramps and elevators benefit more than just wheelchair users; they too benefit anyone pushing a cart or stroller or anyone who has a temporary injury. There are also many people with invisible disabilities that look like they may be able to access a flight of stairs but an elevator provides better access for them.
Automatic doors and door levers are also implemented into overall designs of buildings to provide access to the disability community. These designs greatly benefit people with limited manual dexterity as well as wheelchair users. However, automatic doors and door levers provide access to anyone who has their hands full or to anyone who does not want to touch a door knob with their hand for health purposes; a button or a lever could be utilized with an elbow or a hip.
Even better than a button or a lever would be the newer style of wave-to-open or censored doors as very minimal dexterity is needed. These are also great for anyone pushing a cart or stroller. Our favorite is an airport style bathroom doorway as there is no door at all. This means electricity is not needed nor is having to maneuver around a door necessary. Wheelchair users have easy access with this style of doorway but it also benefits anyone pushing a cart, stroller, or pulling luggage.
Just like Elise Roy’s woodworking glasses, texting and email were both created for the Deaf community’s access but now everyone utilizes these modes of communication almost every day. The majority of us could not live without these tools and businesses have thrived because of them. This inclusive design has revolutionized how we as a society live our lives.
When we design for the disability community, we all benefit.
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