Last Thursday I attended a masterclass on accessibility and inclusive design at the University of Washington. The class featured Kat Holmes, the Director of User Experience Design at Google as well as speakers from Facebook, Microsoft and the University of Washington. The class was about how we can do a better job at designing everything from products to websites to be more inclusive. We discussed how designing for the average (be that physically, mentally or culturally) was the wrong way to approach design and that design should attempt to be inclusive from the start rather than offering exceptions for people who fall further from the average. For example: Rather than building a wheelchair ramp next to a set of stairs at the entrance to a building, it is preferable to build one access point that everyone can use.
One exercise we all can do to be more empathic and inclusive in our daily life and to become more aware of how non-inclusive our world can be is to imagine an object or space you use daily and think about who it excludes and how it could be designed better to work for more people.
When Mirrix's President Claudia Chase first designed the Mirrix Loom, she kept physical inclusivity in mind. She made the shedding device so you could use the handle on either side; she wanted the loom to have continuous warping (or at least the option of that) so users could weave at different levels on the loom; she made a flat wrench for tightening the wing-nuts for people who might not have the strength to tighten the wing-nuts without it; she invented a treadle from the start for people who are unable to use the shedding device.
More recently we have come out with an electric treadle and hope our new Shasta Combs can help people who may not be able to warp a Mirrix Loom using the continuous warping method.
That all noted, we have a limited scope of experience and we know we can do better when it comes to inclusivity. This begins with taking a look at our processes, our website, our customer-facing resources, our products and even our language as it relates too our company.
Here are some things that we will be working on in the coming months:
-Making our website more accessible with more descriptive ALT tags and better internal scaffolding.
-Making sure videos have captions and, eventually, audio descriptions.
-Moving from .PDFs to formats more easily read by screen readers
-Organization: Making sure our instructions are organized in such a way that they are accessible to different learning abilities.
The first thing we will be focusing on is redoing our instructional videos and the .PDF instructions available on our website.
If you are willing, please give us your feedback. Is there something we can do better to make the Mirrix experience more inclusive? Tell us!