Erasing the Edges: Inclusive Design, Disability Dongles, and Inspiration Exploitation

Mood: Our appeals to design for the edges have been translated into disability dongles and inspiration exploitation.

Framing accessibility as an edgy marketing slogan without centering disabled people is problematic.

In disability-centric designs, there’s a very specific way that internal grassroots efforts are sold to the powers that be. Executives are pitched on the mass appeal of accessibility, on the basis that by designing for a disabled person, everyone benefits. This highly simplistic view has become one of the core tenets of so-called inclusive design. And while there is a traceable history of this phenomenon, when pursued as a corporate strategy, it risks causing more harm than the design solves. This harm happens through a four-part process:

Source: Why won’t Nike use the word disabled to promote the Go FlyEase shoe?

Those four parts are:

  • Inspiration Exploitation tropes
  • Disability euphemisms
  • Disability erasure
  • Product inaccessibility (often financial)

Design is tested at the edges. I believe and advocate that. Thus, it is supremely deflating to have it reduced from an acknowledgement and confrontation of structural realities to a four-part gloss that erases and excludes the edges.

For FlyEase to have a future, it needs to honor its history by finding a way to appeal to disabled consumers beyond tokenistic representation or inspiration. It would require a campaign that demonstrates a commitment to learning about what disability is, rather than merely promoting accessibility to reach mass audiences. And if we’ve learned one thing as disabled design critics, it is that stories inform the way we design. Disabled people are the original FlyEase consumer. It’s about time Nike stops erasing us.

Source: Why won’t Nike use the word disabled to promote the Go FlyEase shoe?

My dyspraxic kid has used FlyEase for years. They are a good design and not a disability dongle, but the marketing not only fails to center the right people, it erases them.

There is no path to inclusive design that does not involve direct confrontation with injustice. Who do your product and your marketing center, and do they confront injustice?