Compass 2022: the benefits of universal design

Designing products for people with disabilities isn't just a good thing to do – it also makes business sense. Below we'll show where companies fall short, and look into how brands are making improvements for their business and the disabled community.
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Universal design is one of 10 themes Courier wants to focus on in 2022 – our compass for content, if you will. Some stories and topics get us going a bit more than others, and while they might not include the fastest growing industries or the most talked-about trends, they’re the ones we think deserve more attention over the coming 12 months. Click here to see all 10 themes.

An estimated 1 billion people are living with some form of physical disability, according to the World Health Organization. That's around 15% of the global population. And yet, inclusive approaches to design across nearly every industry are often overlooked. 

Designing products with all bodies and physical abilities in mind makes economic sense. In the UK alone, businesses lose approximately £2 billion a month by ignoring the needs of disabled people, according to the charity Purple. In the US, people with disabilities are the third-largest market segment. Research by global services and consulting company Accenture shows that best-in-class companies for disability inclusion make 28% more revenue and twice as much profit as others on average.

One-of-a-kind independent brands like Bump'n, a platform developing products for better sexual wellness among disabled folk, and Slick Chicks, an adaptive clothing label that makes underwear with patented side-fasteners, are setting a new standard for inclusion. 

Bigger brands are getting involved, too: in 2021, Nike dropped a collection of ‘hands-free’, lace-less sneakers, joining mainstream lines like Tommy Hilfiger's Adaptive Collection and LEGO's Braille Bricks in highlighting the value and potential of accessible product design.

This article was first published in Courier issue 44, December 2021/January 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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