Others Working on This

Lainey Feingold and V. David Zvenyach

Over 12% of the population has a disability of some kind, and nearly everyone will experience a disability or incapacity at some point in their lives—broken bones, sickness, failing vision or hearing, etc. As a matter of law—and best practices—the justice system—from courthouses to websites to self-help apps—must be designed to be accessible to everyone.

Designing for accessibility often improves everyone’s lives. When the Rolling Quads persuaded Berkeley to add curb cuts in the 1970s, they made it easier for people with bicycles, skateboards, and baby strollers to get around, too. The device on which you are reading this page—whether a phone, tablet, or computer—was created to make it easier for people who are hard of hearing to communicate. So were the typewriter and keyboard. Flexible straws, velcro, and audiobooks, were also designed to accommodate disabilities. And it turns out that search engine algorithms require some of the same accommodations—alt tags and semantic markups—that screen reader apps do.

The concept of universal design emerged in the 1960s, and around 2016 Microsoft made universal design central to its design philosophy, and called it Inclusive Design. Since then, companies like Adobe, Logitech, and others have adopted the universal/inclusive design philosophy.

Of course, designing for accessibility is not just a good idea; it is the law. Countries around the world require digital and physical accommodation for people with disabilities.

Published on January 21st, 2021. Last updated on April 14th, 2021, by Sam Glover.