Why This Problem Exists
1. The diversity of functional needs of the disability community isn’t comprehensively understood by most design professionals.
2. The people who have in-depth knowledge about disability (i.e., health professionals and people with personal experience with disability) are rarely involved with design.
3. No one has really explored what’s possible when design professionals, health professionals, and people with life experience with disability collaborate.
The Market Perception
Universal design is perceived as specialized, even though it’s useful for everyone. For people with disabilities, its main benefit is independence. For people not affected by disability, its main benefit is convenience.
Universal design is a tough sell to the mainstream when there’s prominent benefit to the disability community. The misperception is that “universal design is for those other people, but not people like me.”
The Stigma of Disability
Disability, as associated with health problems, is part of the human experience, yet our pride creates a sense of denial about it being something that affects us personally until there’s no way it can be denied.
Disability, as a design problem that results from a mismatch between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives (as defined by the World Health Organization), isn’t well understood by those who have different experiences than others.
In order to develop a sense of care for people affected by disability, which leads to an understanding of their equal value in our society, and thus the importance of universal design, we must first overcome our own ignorance about disability, and then get over the subsequent feelings of pity. Only then will we be able to move into meaningful action of creating inclusive design solutions.