An approach towards universal design
Eric Anderson, FIDSA | Carnegie Mellon
A key measure of success for consumer products that are designed for broad markets is how well principles of universal design have been addressed. NCSU-CUD defines universal design as “The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” However, despite initial goals, many products fail to truly address a universal user. While more products are becoming inclusive of consumers with physical or hearing disabilities, fewer address the needs of consumers with visual disabilities.
Industrial design students of a first semester junior studio were challenged to conceive or redesign a consumer housewares product that addresses the needs of blind consumers while being universal in its function and appeal. They had an opportunity to focus in the area of kitchen, laundry, bath, home entertainment or environmental controls (thermostats, alarm keypads, etc.). The Director of Access Technology for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the largest organization of the blind in the United States, who is blind, was invited to talk with students and establish a foundation to understand the value of universal design. This paper highlights the experience of designing for the blind that engaged students in a deeper level of empathy and heightened their sensitivities towards universal design.