The inclusive design is a broad topic that contains universal design and digital accessibility too. Knowing one is often a good idea to grasp the other one.
For me learning about universal design is an excellent addition to web accessibility. The concept is usually the same, just with different tools and in a different environment. For this reason, I always keep my eyes peeled for any good design that makes something useable for more people.
What is Universal Design?
Universal design is the design of buildings, products, environments to make them accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability, or other factors. [Source: Wikipedia]
Today universal design is more prevalent than digital accessibility mostly because it is the older one. Fortunately, the web and digital inclusivity can and develop faster, so the gap is shrinking.
But what can teach us real-life accessibility? Firstly, it can help us to recognize a problem. Secondly, it can teach us how to solve that problem. In general, it can educate us. Because of this, I will show you some great, usable, and ordinary solutions from our everyday life.
Different Places, Different Solutions
At this point, you have to note some things. The available, accessible solutions are differed by country. Not every place is equal here. There are countries – mostly the developed ones – where the community has more focus on inclusivity like the USA, Canada, EU, Japan, New Zeland, and so on. But still, the level of accessibility can be very different.
The tactile pavement (also known as Tenji blocks or tactile blocks) is an amazingly simple solution that solves so much. It is a system of textured ground surface indicators that can be easier to detect with cane or foot.
It has two types, one with parallel lines (which guides you into a direction) and one with dots (that warns you some danger or crossroad).
Usually, it has a bright yellow color, and we can find it in several places.
- In Japan, it is common on sidewalks generally everywhere.
- You can also find it on railway station platforms in Europe where it warns you the edge of the platform.
- Another everyday use case is at the crossroads, where it guides you to the pedestrian crossing, telling you where to stop.
- As you understand know, it is useful for people with low vision who need some assistance to navigate. It was initially developed in Japan by Seiichi Miyake in 1965.
When you design something to be inclusive, you create a generally usable product; this is a generic concept and selling point when we speak about accessibility. The low-floor buses are a good example to prove this point.
The goal of the low-floor bus is to eliminate the stairs. The difference in height between the bus’s floor and the sidewalk is small, so anybody can step in more quickly and easily, which is a by-product.
These buses are easy to use for a lot of us:
- It comes with a ramp (a usable one because of the low floor) for people with a wheelchair so they can get in with zero assistance.
- It is more usable for the elderly because it is safer and needs less effort.
- With a temporary injury, that affects our walking skills (using crutch).
- For the parents with a baby carriage, they can also use public transportation without any help.
- For the abled persons, it is more comfortable too. No steps, fewer possibilities for accidents.
ATM and Ticket Machine
ATMs and other kiosk machines like a ticket machine can also be a good example; in the United States, there were 100,000 talking ATMs in 2012.
A talking ATM is like a regular one, but you can plug in a headphone and after the machine will guide you through the process.
These machines are good generic examples, too, for usability. Usually, these have braille captions on its keys, simple to use, visually simple, and have sound and visual feedback.
The Teletext is a videotex standard for displaying text and basic graphics on the supported televisions. It was created at Philips in the 1970s by John Adams. The World System Teletext is based on it, which made it widespread across Europe in the 1980s.
And why it is a great system and still useful today? Firstly, you could and can check the program guide through it. Secondly, you can turn on captions if it was available on a particular program. In public media, inclusivity is more common, so most of the programs have one.
The caption or subtitle is a handy solution for anybody with hard of hearing or watching something with a foreign language (like I always turn on Hungarian or English subtitle when I watch Netflix). Also, a caption can be useful in many circumstances, like in a noisy bar or in a public space where you don’t have access to a headphone.