Focus this month: Humanity & Belonging

So many of us take everyday things for granted. We know where to look, what to click, how to act and how to order yet another gadget from our favourite online stores. But if you are one of the one billion people worldwide living with a disability, many of these things might not be so obvious. People with permanent or temporary visual, auditory, speech, motor, or cognitive disabilities are living in a world that for a long time didn’t take their needs into account.

Luckily the world is changing, and we have, or are at least starting to have, legislation in place to secure a more level playing field for everyone. But creating accessible services for everyone is not just about following legislation or the latest trends in technology. It’s about connecting people and creating equal opportunities. Accessibility enriches the lives of everyone, whether we are living with a disability or not. And consumers are holding you accountable for putting accessibility on your agenda too.

Why now?

The pandemic showed us even more than before that consumers love brands who take matters into their own hands even before our governments do. We are getting more and more used to trusting brands to be the first to react. Just look at Kyrö Distillery starting to produce hand sanitizer that became a hit right at the beginning of the pandemic. Even though here in Europe we have the European Accessibility Act in place and it’s implementation has begun, there’s still room for new leading figures to show the way and exceed expectations and the minimum level required.

We are already seeing e.g. assistive technology in marketing campaigns and as much as we love to see diversity and destigmatisation in this context, as a brand, you have to put your money where your mouth is. Can you stand proudly behind the diverse imagery?

What’s in it for me?

Technology is advancing rapidly as we speak, and the use of concepts such as voice tech, image recognition and haptic design, is already creating more equal opportunities. But it’s not really about the futuristic wearables or thought-reading head gear, but rather about experiences, services and products that are able to give meaning and connect all kinds of people on the same level. Technology isn’t going to solve any problems by itself, and can rather create new ones, especially accessibility-wise.

So don’t just put a “This is accessible” stamp on your product and call it a day: accessibility should be the guiding light in all parts of your design and development processes, from brainstorming to execution. And that’s what it’s all about anyway. The tiniest details don’t need to be fully accessible as long as the overall experience is and you are able to provide the same quality to everyone. Universal design is good design – it makes services and products better for everyone.

The perfect example(s)

#1 Style for everyone
Zalando is arguably Europe’s biggest online shopping platform for fashion: with 50 million active customers, they are the one to beat. But rather than sitting comfortable in their winning chairs, Zalando announced the launch of their first adaptive fashion collection, that is just one of the many examples of the company’s commitment to inclusivity and creating experiences only for the majority, but for underrepresented groups of people as well.

#2 AI increasing health product accessibility
Haleon and Microsoft have joined their forces on a new collaboration that makes health products, such as medicine, more accessible for blind and visually impaired individuals, using AI technology.  Seeing AI is a free mobile application that is designed to help people who have trouble reading by narrating the world around them. The heart-warming bonus is that this innovation can also be used to help people gather and understand information in countries with low levels of literacy.

#3 No need to choose between aesthetics and functionality
Australian design studio Hop Design created a cutlery set called Font that challenges the typical, orthopedic look and feel of such products tailored to people with different disabilities. While creating a universal solution for all levels of hand strength, dexterity and control is close to impossible, the collection accommodates to different types of needs with several versions and helps to alleviate the feeling of “other” when dining with people using “regular” cutlery.

“What’s Next” is our weekly series focusing on a relevant trend that manifests one of the six forces of change by Kuudes. Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to learn about the next trend.