Do-IT Solutions Supporting Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2021
Do-IT Solutions is proud to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Joining together with great companies like Recite Me. Raising awareness of the importance of creating a world where more than 1 billion people with disabilities/impairments have no barriers to success.
This is the 10th Global Accessibility Awareness Day’s. On this day (GAAD) 2021 let us consider why we need to stop designing for the mythical average man. Instead, let’s consider universal design at the beginning of every design journey.
Who is the ‘Average’ person?
I have been reading some interesting articles about the basis of every day design. How our cities have BEEN BUILT FOR 6 FEET MEN. Designing for the average seemed to make sense at one level but in reality, means it works for almost nobody.
The WORLD’S AVERAGE PERSON described by National Geographic nearly 10 years ago talked about being a male, Han Chinese, speaking Mandarin, and right-handed. As a 5-foot 2 inch Welsh, English speaking, right-handed woman I am not average, and will never be, or want to be. As a consequence of this I have spent my life standing on tip toes to get to reach the top of cupboards. Needing to use a cushion to raise myself to the height of an average table, leaving my feet dangling like a 3-year old. My family is certainly not average either we have left handers, right handers and ambidextrous people, short, tall and everywhere in between.
Bailey’s experiment from 1982 took 4063 males selected at random. It measured to see how well they conformed to the known averages for the population. The first measurement was of standing height. Out of the original sample, only 26% were found to be close to the average. All those who were not average were sent home and the experiment continued through 10 measures. Next was the chest circumference. It was found that only 302 or 7% of this group were of both average height and chest measurement. By the time the experimenters got to the tenth set of measurements only 2 subjects were left. After the tenth measurement there were none left! In other words, the average person was a myth.
The ‘Average’ child and development
I have just become a grandma again (I hear you saying to yourself she is too young!). It made me think of how we consider developmental milestones. We accept that two children one walking at 9 months and one at 15 months are both developing within a range considered typical, despite a 6 months differential.
But we understand there is variation in child development. We accept that some children will crawl and some will move commando style and some not at all. We respect deviation. However, once we move to school, we suddenly forget this variation and deviation in our cognitive, motor, language, and processing skills. Therefore, we expect children of varying ages to all learn the same content, at the same pace despite their potentially being an 11 months age difference. A number of RESEARCH PAPERS over the years have concluded that children all starting at school at the same time despite has AN IMPACT ON EDUCATIONAL PERFORMANCE. Teaching to the average child doesn’t seem to be a great idea.
What does the mean really mean?
It depends on sampling and often we have created biases in our conclusions. We know from CAROLINE CRIADO PEREZ’S excellent book that the design and delivery of products and services have often been skewed for gender. Why do we keep considering one bell curve to be representative of us all when often we clearly have missing information constructing it? THE BELL CURVE: INTELLIGENCE AND CLASS STRUCTURE IN AMERICAN LIFE published in 1995 was heavily criticized at the time for some of its sweeping conclusions relating to using IQ as a predictive measure. ‘Intelligence’ cannot and should not be reduced to a single number.
In the workplace, we have typical ways of recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding. These suit a particular shape of a person. This person usually benefits most if they are:
- a good oral communicator
- with good short-term working memory (to remember the questions being asked as often taking notes is frowned upon)
- good at literacy and digital skills (to write your CV). Alternatively, you need to be able to have someone else doing this for you)
This approach may exclude those at the margins of society wanting to apply for jobs. Those with low literacy levels such as the 1 IN 2 PEOPLE LEAVING PRISON thought to be functionally illiterate.
It can exclude the 9% OF HOUSEHOLDS in the UK that do not have home access to a laptop, desktop PC, or tablet. Making it harder to write a CV on their smartphone.
It also may exclude 7.5% of people who may have a DEVELOPMENTAL LANGUAGE DISORDER. Where understanding and speaking may be more challenging. This is despite some of these people may ironically be a perfect fit for the job!
Neurodiversity and Accessibility
When we use terms like neurotypical and neurodivergent, we need to ask what are we diverging from? ‘Typical’ is a social construct and dependent on the place and people you are with. We expect people to conform to a mythical ‘mean’ because we think this is the most efficient. But how accessible is this in reality?
I believe Neurodiversity language should be about inclusion. But it often ends up talking about deviation and divergence from others’ expectations. We even use terms such as marginalized and mainstream!
Because we don’t embrace universal and inclusive design in society. The result is that many of us are forced to shrink, squeeze or pretend to change our shape as much as we can to fit in:
- Camouflaging how we feel and pretending to be like the others around us who sit in the hallowed middle ground.
- Not asking for clarification or repetition when we don’t understand what someone has said.
- Laughing at jokes we don’t quite get (a little late and for a little too long).
- Accepting that it will take us a little longer to do a task and take the work home with us to compensate for this.
- Concealing that we are different, that we feel and think differently, because the average person may not want to hear as they may need to adapt or adjust what they do.
Celebrating differences on Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2021
Globally we are wonderfully different and what is neurotypical (for height) in UKRAINE WILL BE NEURODIVERGENT IN THE PHILIPPINES .
On this day let us stand up, sit down, lie down, shout out, sing or write how we need to ensure accessibility is for all. Let us stop the need for retrofitting and having to put adjustments in place as an afterthought. Let’s consider universal design principles as the starting point.
As Maya Angelou said: “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
Together we can all build an inclusive world. This starts by creating awareness on an individual or organisational level. By helping others to understand the opportunities presented by inclusion, we can all make a positive difference together.