Giving Compass' Take:

• Durell Coleman and Marie Trudelle share a framework for disability-inclusive design for organizations to understand how they can better serve everyone. 

• What tier do organizations you are involved with reach? How can you help implement disability-inclusive design? 

• Learn more about the needs of students with disabilities

Jazmine was a thoughtful and curious student who worked hard to earn good grades at her San Francisco Bay Area public high school in hopes of attending college. “Being blind meant that it took me longer to complete homework assignments, especially in science and math classes,” she says. “There were times I didn’t have my [braille display or screen reading software installed] for months because the principal said it wasn’t worth spending money on. He said I probably wouldn’t graduate from high school anyway.”

He was wrong. Jazmine transferred to the California School for the Blind, which states as one of its core values that “students with visual impairments…need to be given the skills necessary to reach their highest potential academically and socially whether through high school graduation or through the acquisition of functional life skills.” Jazmine received her high school diploma in June 2018.

So how could two schools view the same student so differently? It comes down to their perspectives on people with disabilities.

One school, reflecting an exclusive design approach, saw Jazmine as a liability—as someone who didn’t have much to offer to the school environment or to society. The other school, like a good practitioner of inclusive design, saw Jazmine as an asset to its community and someone who, if given the right support, could make the world a better place.

To solve this problem, we created Design the Future: a program to address the gaps in the everyday quality of life of those with disabilities and ensure they can fully participate in our society.

We want everyone, regardless of physical ability, to be able to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services. We hope designers, educators, entrepreneurs, and community members can use this framework to improve their design processes and programs.

Tier 1: Meet Compliance Standards

Tier 1 diversity and inclusion efforts meet legal requirements or recommendations. They don’t affect the quality or efficacy of what is designed but make it possible for people with a broad range of abilities to use that design after it is developed. One example comes from the broader disability rights movement: handicapped stalls in public restrooms. They allowed millions of additional individuals to use a physical space.

Tier 2: Go Beyond Compliance Standards

Tier 2 is about going beyond baseline compliance and making intentional choices about how your design process will function after you get people in the door. The majority of changes made to increase the accessibility of the design thinking process will occur in this tier, and should not demand a significant amount of additional time or money. Including those with disabilities to help you think through your process will help ensure your changes accurately address the barrier you’re seeking to design around.

Tier 3: Additional Resources Required

At Tier 3, including those with disabilities may require additional resources or the development of new technologies to alleviate access barriers to information, the environment, processes, and existing technology. These are the most challenging design changes to accommodate and implementing them may affect how much money something costs or how long it takes to complete. Examples include purchasing a product or device to alter a physical space like a ramp or elevator, buying assistive technology devices like a braille display, investing in the development of new technologies, or hiring more staff.

Read the full article about disability inclusive design by Durell Coleman and Marie Trudelle at Stanford Social Innovation Review.