Response: “Design Meets Disability”

Design depends largely on constraints.

There’s a preconceived belief about discretion and invisibility being the priority in designs for disability, but in this chapter, to argue against this, the author proposes the example of eyeglasses, and how they’ve become not only accepted but also sought after as fashion statements. This acceptability is not due to their invisibility, and their ability to blend discreetly with a human’s features, etc. but that does not mean that some people do not still opt for invisibility, seeing as many people use contact lenses. However, the significance of this lies in the fact that people use both. Even when an option for complete invisibility exists, people still choose to use glasses.

So how can we design for disability, without allowing the product to become a stigma of some sorts?

The author made an interesting point about semantics or terminology in relation to design. He explains how eyeglasses are called “eyewear”, which suggests that you wear spectacles rather than just use or carry them, in a way, “wearer sets up a different relationship between the designer and the person being designed for” and this changes the perspective of prescription from “medical model” to “social model”, which is what destigmatizes medical design and allows it to become a part of the social sphere, in a way. It becomes a form of fashion, a statement, where you’re able to use your own style and customize its use based on your taste.

Towards the end, the author also mentions the importance of simplicity, as opposed to being “all things to all people”, which I whole-heartedly agree with. Especially because cognitive accessibility is an important yet overlooked aspect of disability design, perhaps because it is harder to quantify than say, disability on the basis of sight or hearing. But simple products are the most culturally and cognitively inclusive. (p.85)

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