I have been working towards the completion of my MFA in Graphic Design for what feels like an eternity. For the past two years I have spent most of my free time researching the senses, blindness, and sensory production techniques. I’ve found it difficult to compose an “elevator speech” that makes sense. What is most difficult to express is a clear connection between graphic design, an inherently visual medium, and people who are blind. Here is how the two connect.
It is my belief that design should enhance meaning, offering instruction or making clear something that otherwise may not be clear. The problem with this is that most of design is visual and as designers we are taught to follow visual principles to aid that understanding.
But what about those that cannot see?
Designing for the Blind: separate or unified?
The prevalent attitude I have found is that there should be separate design for those with sight and those without. A great example is library access. Public libraries have copies of printed books, magazines, and other periodicals. There are limited books on tape available, usually in current, popular materials. For the general population, access is provided to most reading materials desired. Public libraries don’t, however, offer the same type of access to materials for people who are blind. There is a separate library system for people who are blind, the
What if access wasn’t separate, but design was accessible to both those with sight and those without?
For the visual component of my thesis I’m trying to show exactly what this might look like in practical application. I chose the grocery store for application and am create a store map that would be at the entrance and end-cap graphics for each of the aisles. Though this is a work in progress, I hope it might help spur further thinking into accessible design. As always, let me know what you think.
Entrance Map. Gray strokes would be embossed to outline store layout and icon shapes. Braille text identifies each section.
End caps have Braille labeling each section and indicating which side of the aisle items can be located on. Also included is a price scanner which visually displays item descriptions and prices and reads the information.