Design meets Disability

The Reading: Design Meets Disability

My Takeaways and Thoughts:

Design problems can be solved with utility, fashion or both. And the user should be the one setting the priorities.

I like the idea of designing assistive technology (glasses, hearing aids, etc.) to be less hidden and more fashionable. Particularly because I need glasses and are happy they are in fashion. I met an elder man a few weeks ago who complained of his hearing problems- I complimented him that I could barely see his hearing aids (which I found to be impressively camouflaged,) and he said “Yeah, $7,000 to look nice but I can’t hear a damn thing!”

It got me thinking about crazy cyborg stuff…

Prosthesis enable the unique opportunity to improve on the human body. It’s a nice topsy turfy idea- that instead of designing technology to fit our bodies, designing our bodies to fit our technology. As I watch my hands typing right now, It’s pretty obvious that my left thumb is unnecessary. It just hovers over the spacebar and never gets used. Given today’s application of typing it is useless- so chop it off! NO, don’t chop it off but…What would be the perfect hand? Could we design the hand then the keyboard that fits it? Would it have 26 fingers? One for each letter? or maybe only 13- with each finger responsible for two positions and characters. For conveying language, our natural tool is our mouth not the end of our arms, is there a better place? Would it give more feedback to the brain than the feeling of touch? Can we disorient it?

On the other hand, let’s discuss Simplicity-

Yes. iPod. However, I did not buy an iPod for the simple interface on the product. I bought it for iTunes. The simple, reorder-able database was GOLD.

And another thought -Cognitive accessibility-

I work with iMovie, where some controls are turned off by default. Could a few less buttons really make a clearer interface? Now, I understand that having less clutter really ads to the understanding of the program by someone of less cognitive abilities due to age or disability. The versatility of one object like a computer or a phone can be both rich and conservative in features depending on the users preferences. It’s empowering. Hooray.


2 thoughts on “Design meets Disability

  1. Is typing the central activity around which you want to design the perfect hand? What other activities are equally, or more, central to quality of life? Eating, perhaps? Exercise? Navigation through one’s world? What would the ideal hand for those be?

  2. Ha ha – Right. Aren’t our hands “Universal Designs” – designed for the whole population?

    It may be a fact that for some people’s hands, typing is their most common use. Or for someone else’s hands the priority is exercising, or eating too…

    So, versatility is a must, but the “universal design” could be thought of as a disability solved by customization.

    Hands are great. We take them for granted. They work so well for us because everything we do includes them. So– something about typing bothers me. It’s a muscle memory language producer. Typing shouldn’t be done with our hands- It’s a waste of all those good nerve endings.

    I don’t have an answer with a perfect design, but I do like thinking about it. :o)

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