Can accessible design be interesting?

Accessible design has gotten an unfair reputation of being ‘dull’ or ‘uninspiring’ over the years, but times are changing and it’s being embraced as a creative challenge rather than a challenge to creativity

Accessible design is talked about more than ever now, mostly around how necessary it is and how much it’s been missing from mainstream design. What seems to have suppressed progress within this space has been the assumptions that surround it, one being that the regulations and added considerations can stifle creativity so much that the end result is dull, unexciting, or lacks creative imagination.

“Historically, accessibility has existed in the world of the ‘hyper-medicalised’, and it’s very stigmatised. We have generations of people who were told ‘not to stare’ when they were younger that now just don’t want to look at disability or accessibility,” says Marianne Waite, director of inclusive design at Interbrand. “And when we think about accessible design we think about things that were created for compliance-based reasons such as walking sticks or accessibility ramps. Therefore a world of accessible design has been created without any kind of beautiful aesthetic.”

Waite does see this as changing, though progress is slow, and part of her role at Interbrand is about flipping the creative challenge. “We’ve seen in the last few years people and brands are trying to break down this tension and pull the principles from mainstream design into the world of accessibility, and we’re seeing beautiful things as a result,” she says.

Black text appears on a pink background. Screenshot of the website Understading Accessibility designed by Alaïs de Saint Louvent
Top: There’s Nothing Comic About Dyslexia, created by Innocean Berlin with Dyslexia Scotland. Above: Understanding Accessibility platform designed by Alaïs de Saint Louvent