If you are not familiar with the Social Model of Disability in the context of design, it’s quite simple. People are a diverse bunch. There are many differences including gender identity, sexuality, neurodiversity, culture, ethnicity, age and impairment. These are all intersectional and when you add character traits, learning, confidence, skills and experience you have an infinite number of combinations, and you quickly realise there is no such thing as a standard issue person.
Demographics also lead to unhelpful and divisive questions like, “how many deaf people are there?”, where a better question would be, “what percentage of our customers using our service have no access to sound?”
A question like this covers far more people than just a single demographic, and they all have a shared barrier, and therefore the impact of designing around the barrier is more accurately understood.
I am male, early 50s, white, I have various hobbies, I fit in a social group and look like I’ve had a good Christmas… None of this is relevant data to customer experiences.
I have dyslexia, ADHD and I wear glasses, which seem useful, but there are so many differences between different people with similar conditions or intersections that neither tell you a great deal that is conclusive.
On the other hand I prefer dark mode to reduce fatigue and use pinch-zoom a lot to reduce visual noise. I am not a confident reader, forms make me anxious, I am very easily distracted, I misread words a lot, I get fatigued quickly, etc… This is interesting user insight as it starts to unearth potential barriers and behaviours that can be considered in a design approach.
The associated practices with accessibility can create a sense of otherness and separation, especially from UX or CX teams where they in fact should be rooted, because after all what is accessibility if it isn’t about ethical customer experiences that are designed around lived experiences.
It feels necessary to challenge ourselves to re/define “safe” as being an experience where deep care is extended and reciprocated, where that as a social contract (and social construct, even) can be established with mutuality as foundational and unwavering