I’m currently reading a chapter out of Doing Disability Research, which begins with a discussion on the definition of Disability and other related terms (handicap and impairment).
The following quote was made by representatives of the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) and is something I think Inclusive Design Practitioners or anyone concerned with creating accessible websites and environments should keep front of mind:
We … are not interested in descriptions of how awful it is to be disabled. What we are interested in is the ways of changing our conditions of life, and thus overcoming the disabilities which are imposed on top of our physical impairments by the way this society is organised to exclude us’ (UPIAS, 1976, pp. 4-5).
Too frequently we think of disability from the perspective of a medical model, a model of infirmity, rather than from a social, cultural perspective that takes a more human-focused approach. When accessible websites are based simply on a list of checklists and guidelines we de-humanise the people we are designing for. When universal design processes fail to include, consult with and listen to the people we are actually designing for we also fail to design effectively.
So let’s try something here, a bit of an experiment that is going to move us slowly from a medical model of infirmity to a focus on the social, human-centered approach of Inclusive Design…. Sometime in the next 2 weeks, sit with someone with a “disability” and listen to them as they tell you what it’s like to use something you’re working on. Let us know how it goes. Write a blog post, come back here and comment, you can even tweet it! But pass it on and let people know what you gained from the experience and how much better your website is as a result.