Commentary

Designing And Marketing With Accessibility In Mind

We’ve read/talked/learned a lot about smart devices -- how they can help you gain control and confidence via self-monitoring your health and wellness, how they can provide proactive support for lifestyle changes, how they enable you to live an untethered, on-the-go life (not so super-useful this past year, though), etc.

But that utility, and that ability to start tracking your workout or pick up a call from your Apple Watch, is predicated on the assumption you can easily tap the watch screen and navigate the device with your fingers. For many people with disabilities, this is simply impossible. Now how is that device providing any sense of “smart” to someone who can’t access and unlock (literally and physically) its critical features to enhance and improve life?

As part of its previews of software updates designed for people with disabilities, Apple recently shared that it’s seeking to rectify the way its devices were traditionally designed. By noting that “accessibility is a human right,” Apple’s improved design approach seeks to provide better accessibility for people with disabilities ranging from mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive.

Among the updates was my personal favorite, AssistiveTouch, a motion-controlled feature (based on Apple Watch’s built-in gyroscope, accelerometer, and heart rate sensor-based data) empowering those with limb differences a way to navigate Apple Watch without having to touch the controls or display, unlocking true utility and value.

Designing with accessibility in mind is a critical, yet often overlooked conversation. We design for targets, for reach, for platforms, but we don’t always design for accessibility.  This challenge isn’t reserved solely for technology, either.

When it comes to inclusivity, it can’t just be about your marketing. Everything, from the product to the packaging and advertising -- inadvertently or purposefully -- highlights your stance on inclusivity and how you deliver it.

For example, Degree Deodorant sought to address the challenges of typical deodorants may pose for those with visual impairment and upper limb motor disabilities with Degree Inclusive, a complete remake of Degree’s standard offering. For example, the cap has a hook to be hung up while the rest of the package can be pulled down, a magnetic cap closure to make putting the cap back on easier, grips built into the packaging to make it easier to hold, a larger application to minimize how many swipes you need, and a Braille label on the packaging to make it easier to find and identity your deodorant.

The recent celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day reminds us that design for all requires the input, feedback, and insight from all, for all. This speaks to the power your product, and your packaging has, to convey a message, and how important your design can be when impacting someone’s everyday life.

Whether or not you have control over your brand’s product or service, the marketing strategy -- from what is shared to how it’s shared -- needs to include the lens of accessibility. Whether that means bringing in advocates, tech specialists, and/or other stakeholders that understand and live with disabilities, recognizing and embracing the power of design to push the boundaries of how you previously saw your products and strategies is critical to delivering true utility for all.

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