The public playground is, by far, one of the most important settings for child development. It is one of the few environments where a child has the freedom to run and jump, climb, swing and leap, yell, reign, conjure, create, dream or meditate. In this complicated world that we live in, the playground is a safe and common place for children to come together, to discover the value of play, to learn about each other, to recognize their similarities and differences, to meet physical and social challenges, to leave comfort zones and evolve into the little young people they are meant to be. It is a microcosm for life lessons, from challenge and risk to conflict resolution and cooperation. When we design for these purposes and apply the Principles of Universal Design, we design for inclusive play where every child, regardless of ability or disability, is welcomed and benefits physically, developmentally, emotionally and socially from the environment.
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Streets are People Places
I have a favorite saying about transportation: “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.” It sounds obvious, but when I make this point to audiences around the country, it’s a real eye-opener. They love it.
Beginnings of Deafblind Education
Before any child who was deaf and blind had been educated, philosophers had long speculated that the mind of a child who was deafblind could reveal what is basic and true about human beings. They believed that such a child deprived of sensory input and ignorant of the world would offer them insight into innate human knowledge of a higher being.
Communicating Across a Life Span: Universal Design in Print and Web-based Communication
Universal design is an important concept in effective communication. Signage, for example, addresses people’s diverse abilities when it includes easy-to-recognize graphics, large print, raised or Braille lettering, and color combinations that people can see. “If a design works well for a person with a disability,” says Fletcher, “it probably works better for everybody.”
U-verse Easy Remote App
TV provider AT&T U-verse recently launched an app that allows their customers turn their iPhone or iPad into a Universally Designed TV remote. When used on an iPad, the remote is much larger than traditional TV remotes, making it easier to use for people with low vision or fine motor impairments. The app provides different options for the screen color, button size and font size, so that users can customize the screen to work with their vision needs, plus the app works with Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader technology to provide audio feedback. The app also uses AT&T’s Watson℠ speech recognition technology, so that users can perform a variety of commands, including Channel Up, Channel Down, Fast Forward, Rewind, Replay, Pause, Play, Record and Go to channel (name or number) simply by talking into the device. The voice command feature also lets users choose a show by simply saying the show title into the device. The app can also respond to gesture commands, which allows you to control shows you’re viewing with different gesture movements. One-touch access to closed captioning makes it unnecessary to navigate through complicated menus in to turn on closed captions.
Instagram for People who are Blind
Tommy Edison, also known as “the Blind Film Critic”, posts movie reviews on hisYouTube channel that are filled with humor and charm. In addition to his movie reviews, Edison has also posted videos that illustrate how he navigates everyday activities as a man who is blind. For instance, the video below demonstrates how he uses Instagram on the iPhone 4S, using the iPhone’s VoiceOver accessibility feature. Some of the comments that viewers have left on Edison’s You Tube channel expression confusion over why a man who is blind would be interested in using Instagram. Edison clearly demonstrates that even though he can’t personally see the images that he posts, they are still a fun way for him to communicate with his sighted friends and followers. It serves as a an important reminder of the benefits of Universal Design and why designers should provide accessibility without making prior assumptions about who will or won’t be interested in using their product. Watch the video after the jump.
Concept for a Futuristic Inclusive Design Car
The Norwegian Design Council has featured a concept car, designed by the electric car company Think, as an example of how companies should incorperate inclusive design in the design process. Think’s concept car incorporates modern communication and information technology, allowing users to connect to various applications or social media sites. Users can create personalized profiles that set the size, color, and contrast of the digital dashboard as well as the car’s other interfaces. These profiles could be saved and transferred from car to car, so that even when you rent or borrow a car, it can “become your car” by displaying your personalized settings. During the design process, Think interviewed users with a wide range of ages and mobility requirements in order to understand their needs. The result is that the car company has developed a concept that would work for a wide range of potential users.
No Country for Old Men
Design firm L+W created the “No Country for Old Men” collection in 2012, which consists of Together – a set of walking aids and carts, Aussunta – a chair that tilts forwards to help users rise from a seated position, and MonoLight – a table lamp that illuminates and magnifies. While these products were designed with older adults in mind, their appearance is so friendly and approachable that anyone would love to own them.
Aesthetics is important to Universal Design, because people are often hesitant to buy projects that look institutional or stigmatizing. If Universal Design is going to be brought into the mainstream it will have to be available at the hardware and big box stores where most people shop. At the same time, high-end products, like L+W’s collection, often combine innovation with aesthetics, illustrating just how lovely Universal Design can be.
Advocates Fight CAPTCHA
Australian consumer and disability organizations have begun a campaign to reduce the use of CAPTCHA, the visual tests used by websites to distinguish human users from automated computer bots. CAPTCHA tests are generally not user friendly and they are often completely inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision. While audio CAPTCHAs are available, many users find them even more difficult to understand. The official web standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has said CAPTCHA excludes people with disabilities. It proposes several alternative methods of proving web users are human. The “kill CAPTCHA” petition can be viewed at Change.org.