Out of the Office

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Accessible for One and All

What does a prescription medication and a spatula have in common?  Well, if one is from Target and the other from Oxo Good Grips then the answer is universal design.

Last week our Birds-of-a-Feather for Design Research hosted Whitney Quesenbery who spoke on design and research for accessibility.

Her main thesis is that by designing for people first, and not technology, and then the systems and tools end up simple, usable and often delightful. Two great examples are the Target pharmacy pill bottles (read the story) and Oxo Good Grips kitchen tools (their story). In both cases, they designed for what might be called extreme users – people who had been challenged by the existing solutions (small type, hard to open bottles or slippery handles) – and came up with solutions that not only met those users needs, but a broader audience as well.

A while ago, my colleague Brian Moose hopped in a wheel chair at SFO, went through security and onto a Jet Blue flight. He was participating in a thinking session with Jet Blue on disabled passengers. (Jet Blue’s design thinking story)

If you’re looking for a shortcut, Whitney’s new book A Web for Everyone provides a set of guidelines (nicely detailed so that you could use them for heuristic reviews, plus a ton of technical advice on coding practices for the web) and a terrific set of sharable design personas. These can be combined with your existing personas (for example: the same person with same goals, just happens to be blind).