Inclusive Fashion & Design Collective +
Ryan Hartley Smith +
In 1997, a group of architects and designers developed the Seven Principles of Universal Design. The first principle spells out the rules of Equitable Use: the design must be useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
Surprisingly, none of the 7 Principles of Universal Design prioritizes aesthetic or emotional connection, an apparent oversight that may have contributed to a lack of visually pleasing assistive devices, and all but stigmatized the appearance of the products disabled people need most. Does disability need a re-design?
Products made for disabled people are rarely designed for esthetic consideration, and for many disabled consumers disability is all but equivalent to a lack of choice. Assistive devices always end up stigmatizing their user.
According to the National Institute of Health, for example, only one-fifth of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually use them. Failure to use hearing aids can lead to early-onset dementia and even early death, and yet many people reject their use because of the social stigma associated with them. Could this stigma actually be deadly? And can design restore dignity to those who are branded “disabled”?
The Inclusive Fashion & Design Collective is a not-for-profit organization focused on ensuring that disabled people are drivers of our own narratives and designs. Our mission is to increase the impact of beautiful, functional products in our everyday lives and in the global economy. We partner the disability and design communities to create innovative products and we advocate for pathways into design for disabled people.
Ryan Hartley Smith is an illustrator based in New York City. He has received recognition from the Society of Illustrators and American Illustration. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Design at CUNY Queens College.
Jerron is a dancer, writer and administrator for Heidi Latsky Dance. He was featured in Open Studio with Jared Bowen for PBS, and recently in Dancing with Cerebral Palsy by Great Big Story.