10 Learnings From 10 Interviews About Inclusive Design, Part 2
Welcome back! In our last article, we began to unpack the results of IQ Interview Series, in which we spoke with an amazing array of people from the world of inclusive design. From policy makers to programmers, they shared their experiences, passion, and insight on the future of inclusive design- where we need to go, and where the technology and culture of design are already taking us. As we looked back on these ten interviews, we noticed that certain issues and ideas came up time and time again, and when we distilled them all through the lens of our subjects, we found some important truths worth sharing.
In today’s article, we’ll continue exploring what we believe to be the 10 most significant learnings from our first 10 interviews about inclusive design.
4. Orient your design. Start with the needs first. Inclusion is about people, not problems.
This suggestion may seem counterintuitive; after all, design is about solving problems and meeting needs- and that’s true, but what inclusive design proposes is a different way of orienting yourself to that goal. Instead of beginning with assumptions about what problems your design must overcome, begin by learning what your intended users specifically ASK for or express as a need. This requires research to be a part of all of your early steps- interview a diverse sample of your target users, get feedback on MVDs from that same broad spectrum, and involve them in the planning process.
Another useful technique that illustrates this principle as part of your preliminary research is what I like to call the “Crank Test.” When I as a consumer am about to purchase something, as many of us do, I first read reviews and customer ratings online for various brands and models. When I find something highly-rated, you might think my search is over- but then, I apply the Crank Test: I look at the one-star (or zero star, if they exist!) reviews of this “universally” loved product.
Why? When people make the effort to give a VERY NEGATIVE review, chances are, they’re sharing a BIG problem- something that, even though it isn’t likely to happen to me based on all those other great reviews, would be pretty disastrous if it did. Of course, I ignore the one-star reviews that say simply, “this stinks.” Specifically poor reviews are very valuable, though: they often point out design flaws (every left hander that uses this drill gets horrible cramps!) or highlight uncommon but major risks (most people’s phones are fine, but about 1% of the ones reviewed explode! No thanks.) If I were designing the competitor to or the next generation of this product, or a similar one, I’d know exactly where to begin- with the features that people have already TOLD me are missing from their present experience.
5. The market for inclusive design is already happening. It’s here (and always has been), and its needs are profitable- or will be with the right approach.
This principle highlights the fact that solving unmet demands and market gaps isn’t just a good and just thing to do, it makes good business sense. It also reminds us that people and organizations with the will to identify these needs and their most practical solutions will win big- both in market share and in bringing underserved communities to participate in the economy.
Have you noticed how many more titles streamed on Netflix have captions? That isn’t an accident. Ever since a historic 2012 lawsuit against Netflix by the National Association for the Deaf, Netflix has committed itself to providing captioning for all its streaming media, and adding those services into their older media as quickly as possible. The reason? Hearing impaired audiences felt expressly excluded from media that they loved, and when services were available, they were of low enough quality that they led to a lesser experience.
Content creators eager to scramble for a piece of the Netflix pie- Netflix spends BILLIONS on content every year, and the selection process is still extremely competitive- now rush to conform to rigid quality standards, generally needing to pay third-party services to provide the highest quality captioning for their media.
It’s easy to see the profitability here- adding a feature just as beloved by the hearing impaired, people in loud sports bars, and second language learners alike will expand viewership of your content. A 2016 study by the Return On Disability group estimated that the global disability market is as large as China. This is a market share worth caring about for many reasons, and from a position of opportunity.
6. The inclusion market is fluid. People’s need for inclusion change throughout their life and even throughout their day- we all move in and out of the demographic.
It’s possible that you don’t consider yourself disabled. Maybe you have the full use of all your senses, can communicate clearly, and can move around in all the ways you need or want to.
Have you ever broken your leg? Had to find your way somewhere in the dark? Had to navigate a public space carrying two children, a stroller, or groceries (or some combination of all of these?) Travelled in a foreign country that did not prioritize English language signage or communications? Needed to call an ambulance while you’re alone having an asthma or heart attack or other crippling condition that would make it hard to dial your phone?
Over our lives, we move in and out of various needs. 20 percent of Americans have a legally recognized disability at any given time; all of us will be increasingly likely of developing a special need as we become older, whether or not it will be recognized- and our population, like nearly every developed nation on earth, will be older in general as human lifespans continue to increase.
Just as the population of people requiring inclusive solutions is fluid, so too should our understanding of what it means to belong to that population. Inclusive design will benefit a user over their lifetime, or the lifetime of their relationship to the experience; the “able” user today may be the “disabled” user tomorrow- and vice versa- but they’ll be a consumer and citizen of the world every day.
Join us next time for the last installment of our examination of Ten Learnings From Ten Interviews on Inclusive Design! As always, check out our library of interviews as we continue to grow.
If you found this subject matter as fascinating as we do, and you’re beginning to wonder how these and other principles of inclusive design might apply to your business, your product or service idea, or a user experience important to you, contact us! We offer a range of consulting services from brand strategy, planning, and expert advice in design and development.