Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.



I have been thinking of accessibility of late. As we construct the world around us, there is a greater push for making it accessible to those with different needs. We build wheelchair ramps (although, still too few), we cut curbs down at instersections, and take down barriers.

Yet as we make these areas accessible to one segment of the population, we remove the accessibility to another, the visually impaired. My professor in University once gave a lecture on wear patterns and determining use and therefore design by examining wear patterns on objects. One of the slides he presented was an image of a cut down curb with white scratches covering it. They came from the cane of a visually impaired person who lived in the area and was trying to determine where the sidewalk ends. My professor then asked us to imagine that same person attempting to navigate a mall parking lot. There are no tactile cues whatsoever.

Is it inherent that when we create accessibility for some we automatically hinder another? And which segment wins out in the end? Texturizing the portion of the sidewalk which cuts down would help, but that would mean replacing thousands if not millions of curbs in North America, when there is a desperate need for wheelchair ramps in most communities. And what about mall parking lots? Why does accessibility immediately bring to mind a wheelchair and not a cane?