Women in design are working towards one common goal, to turn design and engineering into universal design. They concentrate on design equality, not just for males and females, but also for people with disabilities and the elderly. These women intend to make everything accessible to all types of people. According to the newest issue of Design for All, this group of women is focused on trying to make a difference and design everything with everyone in mind. Everything from buildings and public transportation, to kitchen tools and door handles, can be universally designed. For example, sidewalk curb ramps were first designed for people with wheelchairs. Now almost anyone can use the ramps for different reasons, such as when getting around with baby strollers or bikes. People with disabilities are not the only ones who benefit from universal design. Injuries can occur throughout everyone’s lifetimes, so creating an environment that is user-friendly for all people is what these women in design are aiming to do.
Even though there are several laws passed to make public spaces and buildings better for the elderly and disabled, there is still much that needs improvement. One woman in design, Patricia Moore, has worked toward the improvement of these standards and says that they are “woefully inadequate and would receive a “D” were she asked to give out a letter grade.” She explained that by focusing on improving design and engineering for the elderly and disabled, products can also become beneficial to the mass public. For instance, she was the main contributor to the OXO product line “Good Grips” kitchen tools, which were originally designed for the elderly and people with disabilities. Yet, this goes to show when the design of a product is better and makes life tasks easier, the outcome is that design turns into universal design. Patricia helped OXO “Good Grips” become extremely popular and the line has received numerous awards including ones from the Arthritis Foundation, Good Housekeeping, and the Industrial Designers Society of America.
Nevertheless there are still some inequalities. Particularly in the medical field, many devices are designed for the male gender since they are devices made for tall males and require strength to be operated. Another contributor is Yvonne Lin, who is the co-founder of 4B. At 4B their motto is “We design for the 4 billion women in the world.” Clearly 4 billion is a pretty significant number. Yvonne works to improve these medical devices, among other things, by designing them to be more universal so everyone can use them- male or female. The world is, little by little, becoming more equal, accessible, and barrier-free. There have been several improvements in the last couple decades, but we still have a long way to go. It is women like Patricia and Yvonne that are pioneering universal design and making it beneficial and user-friendly for everyone.
Article written by Mila Medonaite for Design Engine, February 11th, 2015