Accessibility, Empathy, and Creating a World for Everyone
Written by Kat Mattisse.
To many, namely those outside the “Design Community”, design means product. It means clothes, and chairs, and office spaces. To me, and many designers like me, design means people – it means crafting worthwhile, meaningful, and transformative experiences. It means making the world at large more enjoyable and accessible to all the people in it, regardless of class, race, gender, and ability. Last semester, as a junior in the Collaborative Design program at KCAD, I was granted the opportunity to help design a more accessible world through working with the DisArt Festival in its first year of existence. Under the always intelligent direction of our professor, Paul Amenta, and the patient, dedicated guidance of DisArt director Chris Smit, our class was able to understand to the best of our knowledge what disability meant, and the ways in which design is vital in the constant growth and transformation of our world.
My personal devotion to designing a world accessible to all people, along with my involvement with the DisArt Festival, led me to an internship with the Disability Advocates of Kent County in their Community Relations and Education department. On my first day in the office I was overwhelmed by conversations with coworkers that reaffirmed my belief that empathy is central to all we do. The work I want to do, and the work I believe we designers need to do, is dependent upon the building of services and experiences that are accessible to everyone. At Disability Advocates of Kent County I work on social media, event planning, and strategic development of programs that are all centered not around product, but around people. I believe that designers of all descriptions must fight continuously to make all experiences accessible, because design means empathy, design means accessibility, design means people – all people.