A Universal World

It’s easy to forget about those who aren’t as fortunate as us. A small burn while cooking evokes more pain than the news of an acid attack in a distant country. Proximity of pain is directly proportional to our acute awareness of it. Governments play a major role by taking action, spreading word and providing incentives. These measures lead to the public sensitizing themselves to the needs of the less fortunate.
 A few facts:

  • We are a 7 billion strong population, out of which 1 billion are disabled;
  • According to the UN, 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries. While people over the age of 70 spend on an average, 8 years of their lifespan living with disabilities;
  • Today, 600 million people are above the age of 65, and this number mounts to 1.1 billion by 2035;
  • This sharp growth in aging population will be in the developed parts of the world. Hence, it can be concluded that in 15 years about 2.2 billion of us will be old and/or disabled. Which means:

 Approximately 30% of our population will be living with disabilities in 15 years.
Nature has created harsh barriers which man has been overcoming. However, until now man has unknowingly and unthinkingly overlooked the needs of the disabled while creating his environment. We often design for the majority. It has not yet been ingrained in our system that everyone has an equal right to experience life at par with an abled individual. This is where the design disciplines of accessibility and inclusivity come in.
These disciplines seek to empower everyone equally – by designing products, devices, services or environments for people with disabilities (accessibility); or make them usable for everyone to the greatest extent possible regardless of age, ability or status in life (inclusivity/universal design). Some governments, thinkers and designers have adopted this emerging discipline and designed environments and products. A few examples of existing and proposed designs:
In light of the facts & figures above; the adoption of Universal Design and it’s methodologies by governments and their people is more crucial now than every before. However, such initiatives are largely absent in developing countries, which house approximately 80% of the disabled. Likely reasons for this could be the lack of knowledge and awareness of these design disciplines and acknowledgement of design as a solution to social problems. It is therefore important not only to practice these in ones home country but also to focus on spreading these methodologies in developing nations – where it counts the most.

Other examples:
Accessible Web design
Tickering crossings
Tactile pavements
Tech devices
Haptic shoes