Portada del libro Designing cities for all.

Book: Designing Cities for All (I)

This book is the result of the success of the Designing cities for all programme at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. After participating as a speaker at a round table entitled “Design from Inclusion: Products and Services” in May 202, I was asked to write an article about my research and experience in Inclusive Fashion, together with other experts in Design and Inclusion.

The book is published in English and there is a PDF version for use with screen readers. Here are some excerpts from our article All Abilities Fashion, I hope you enjoy it!

“Products and services must be accessible, otherwise they are not well designed.

People with disabilities have been key to innovating solutions that have later been used by the entire population. This is the challenge for designers in the 21st century, to design accessibility to create inclusion.

In fact, we all use accessibility daily, but most people don’t know about it. Could you tell me an accessible item that you use in your daily life? Your answer is probably no if you do not have a disability, so here are some examples that will surprise you!

Ramps and stairs were initially designed to create access for wheelchair users in buildings and public spaces. But in reality, which ones do you prefer to use?

Unconsciously people prefer ramps because they are more comfortable: you don’t strain your legs and knees, you can use them without a handrail, and they have more stability which means more balance and safety. As a result, ramps go beyond wheelchair users, they were soon used by mums with baby trolleys, elderly people with walking frames or crutches, travellers with wheeled suitcases, skateboarders, and — in general — the whole population. We just use the ramps because they are more comfortable. (…) “

“And how is it possible that by meeting the challenges for people with disabilities, almost the entire population benefits?

Simple, accessibility is universal, because disability is the only common value that affects all people equally. 

Disability has no gender, no race, no geographical area, no social status, no culture, no age. Disability affects us all to a greater or lesser degree. It can be permanent, 100% of the time, temporary when you break an arm for example, or circumstantial (a small period of time): when you wear headphones you do not hear what’s happening around you.

This is the reason why accessibility is the basis of any inclusive solution. Because it affects all humans.” (…)

We know that accessibility and inclusion go hand in hand and improve the lives of people and organisations, why is it not a common practice?

In my opinion, there are three main reasons for this:

The first is the lack of education in accessibility and inclusive design. It is necessary to incorporate university training and to add specialised masters in Accessibility and Inclusion in all design disciplines — the same as sustainability became mainstream.

The second reason is ignorance, lack of knowledge of the benefits of accessibility and the benefits of working with people with disabilities. People with disabilities are often seen as inspirational, strong, motivational people, but they are rarely asked directly. People with disabilities are not the source of inspiration, they are the basis of product development.

If a person with a disability — sensory, cognitive, or physical — cannot use a product or service, then the product is not well designed.

The third is empathy, a soft skill that is increasingly valued.

Are we truly fair and equal for all people, or are we prejudiced by default? Whether it’s because of cultural differences, ideologies, stereotypes, etcetera. Having the ability to have conversations with different people outside your core group will make you more empathetic, have a broader vision, and better understand the needs of others.

Today, creating inclusive products is fast becoming an essential skill within companies and organisations”. (…)

And what does inclusive fashion look like?  ( Read more in the next post)

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