Going The Extra Mile for Inclusive Design

Can creating a product to suit ‘everyone’ be easy?


Most of us take it for granted that we can perform simple tasks on a daily basis without too much bother or effort. For instance, if someone should say that your laces are undone, you would simply bend over and tie them without a moment’s thought wouldn’t you?  Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case for some; these normal tasks can be very difficult due to a number of factors, such as age or disability. 

When looking at products designed for people with reduced ability, it isn’t uncommon to find different derivatives of an existing item where simple modifications have been made in order to cater for reduced mobility. These can be quite minor, the introduction of wider or lower handles being a prime example. Logically having two ‘different’ products on the market - one for the able bodied the second for less abled people doesn’t really make sense. Why have two products with the exact same function when one with considered design will do?  This is where inclusive design comes into play – it aims to mitigate by creating products that are suitable for everyone. 

But what is the approach product designers use in order to achieve effective inclusive design? The answer lies in the phrase “to walk in someone else’s shoes”. This method is often used when reduced ability and the associated difficulties need to be considered for product development. Designers will literally put themselves into situations to gain a greater understanding of the end user’s experience, this empathy and deeper insight proves invaluable in the end design process.

As product designers we apply this approach every day and it is not always as easy as you would expect. At the very simple end of the scale it might be possible to sit in a wheelchair and experience the problems of self-closing doors or reaching for items on the top shelf in a supermarket, however, the majority of the experiences designers need to understand are often far more complex and do warrant a good deal of thought in order to achieve the right outcomes for the exercise. 

Here at Hillside Product Design, our designers have ‘fallen’ off the backs of boats, undertaken countless assembly processes, clambered around the insides of aircraft engine bays, worked at extreme elevation, cared for severely physically disabled persons and must have walked a thousand miles in another person’s shoes. 

We wonder whose shoes they should wear as part of your product development?

Contact us today

Could your product benefit from inclusive design? We can assist you through your development journey. We work closely with all our clients to ensure they have all the support they need throughout the product design process.

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