A Different Light on Design

  • London
  • Aug 09, 2022
Typeface
By Molly Coffey & Gayatri Rana

Recently, our juniors from 'The Start' spent one of their days dedicated to the programme visiting a multi-sensory exhibition designed to foster a greater understanding of disability. Inspired by their experience, Molly Coffey from Client Leadership and Gayatri Rana from Strategy were eager to discover the latest design innovations that provide for the needs of people with disabilities...

So without further ado, keep on scrolling to read their experience and discoveries!

dialogue experience

Entering the Dialogue Hub, we aren't sure what to expect. All we know is that soon we’d be submerged into complete darkness as part of Dialogue Experience - the sensory exhibition designed to enlighten you and push you out of your comfort zone. Currently exhibiting at the new multipurpose community space by Muse Projects which brings people together through arts and culture, Dialogue Experience finds itself the ideal context to facilitate an exhibition that engages all the senses.

On arrival, we order from the Hub cafe in British sign language following instructions provided by a looping video. The baristas here are deaf or hard of hearing; this is part of the ethos at Dialogue Hub which creates employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Greeted by Asad, the exhibition’s project manager, we are led downstairs to a basement where all sign of light vanishes. We navigate the space in complete darkness, relying on canes and the voice of our guide, Ali.

Ali invites us to engage in our environment by using our hearing, touch and smell. It’s surprising how reliant we are on our other senses as well as each other. Sightisn’t everyone's dominant sense and the power of our other senses should not be underestimated.

As the exhibition draws to an end, Ali encourages us to discuss our experience and what we learned. "Did you know...", he says, "...for the last 45 minutes, you were disabled." He is drawing from the social model of disability which states that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. We all require 'access' to participate in the world around us - it’s just that some of us already have it and others do not.

Muse Projects aims to counter the discrimination faced by people with disabilities with projects such as Dialogue Experience. Rather than confront visitors with facts and statistics, the exhibition elicits an empathetic response from audiences who must literally put themselves in ‘someone else’s shoes'.

Considering people with disabilities during the design process is fundamental in striving for a more inclusive world and yet so often design fails to provide access to all. The branding and packaging world has a long way to go in terms of providing for the needs of people with disabilities, but there have been some recent innovations that are blazing an accessible trail.

Mimica Touch uses smart technology to detect the freshness of a perishable product. It can be felt by touch and can help people with visual impairments to make sure the product they are eating is still edible. This can also help reduce food waste which is another great mission to them!

mimica touch

Kellogg’s has launched Coco Pops for people with visual impairment in partnership with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB). Incorporating innovative technology NaviLens, the new box features a unique on-pack code that when scanned with a smartphone, plays back labelling and allergens information out loud.

Hello Monday has created an app that helps people to learn sign language in partnership with the American Society for Deaf Children. Fingerspelling.xyz teaches hand positions in real-time to make it easier for people to learn American Sign Language. Think Duolingo - but for ASL!

fingerspelling.xyz

Applied Design Works has collaborated with the nonprofit Braille Institute to develop a 'hyperlegible typeface' intended to be better accessible for people with visual impairment. Atkinson Hyperlegible is composed of distinct and exaggerated letter forms to increase character recognition and text legibility. You can download the font here.

braille

Designing for disability isn’t just about doing the right thing or box-ticking regardless of the outcome. Dialogue Experience and the innovations we've discovered demonstrate how much we have to learn from those who are innovators and problem-solvers, not in spite of but because of their difference. Design for Difference makes a difference.