The Power of Inclusivity: Designing for Disability

Central Adaptive Backpack

I’ll start this post by disclosing that I read this article a couple months ago and the tab has remained open in my browser ever since. I’m hoping that finally publishing this post will allow me to comfortably close the tab and move onto any of the other three dozen currently open…

Sure… it definitely comes off as a sales pitch for JanSport bags. Heck, I’d actually not fault them there because they do make a fine product. The very bag I used in high school and college is still around and recently took a jaunt to the Florida Keys and held up just fine! But JanSport has gone above and beyond in this case, and it reminded me of another post near and dear to us all.

To summarize a bit of the article, it follows Bre Rider who found JanSport’s adaptive bags designed for wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility devices. (Their tagline is “Designed for Every Body” … clever!) As a person living with multiple disabilities, Rider’s hunt for accessible products was often challenging (it makes my hunt for 28×32 pants seem trivial)! Her experience highlights the importance of including disability under the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) umbrella and demonstrates how businesses and technology can benefit from designing products with disability in mind.

With my distaste for spherical doorknobs and this fresh inspiring example of intentional embracing of disabilities, I wanted to share some observations and suggestions for anyone looking to embrace disability inclusion:

  1. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box (or the wheelchair): JanSport’s partnership with Disability:IN led to the creation of adaptive bags tailored for an underserved community. Companies can take a cue from JanSport and explore uncharted territories to develop innovative solutions that cater to the unique needs of people with disabilities. (And just like getting rid of spherical doorknobs is a blessing for some of us, it actually makes most people’s lives easier!)
  2. A spoonful of humor or style helps the inclusivity go down: When designing products for disabled people, remember that they, too, have a sense of humor, fashion, and even style! Inject some fun and personality into the designs, and watch as the products resonate with a broader audience. As Rider said, “We’re just regular people. We want fun stuff, too.”
  3. Turn “can’t” into “can” with a dash of creativity: Many products and services could be made more accessible with a little bit of creative thinking. For example, compression socks don’t have to be limited to beige, white, or black; why not add some flair with vibrant colors and patterns? Businesses can attract a wider audience by breaking away from the mold and embracing unique designs. Anyone who’s seen my sock collection will know this would be a huge deal for me!
  4. Accessibility is contagious: This is the jackpot right here! Once you start making products more accessible, you might find that these innovations benefit a wider range of users. Just like how closed-captioning expanded from serving the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to being a handy tool for people in noisy environments or language learners, the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating universally designed products.
  5. Spread the word (and the laughter): Share your company’s commitment to disability inclusion with pride, humor, and a touch of levity. As more people learn about the products and services available, you’ll find that the demand for inclusive products will continue to grow.

Disability inclusion is once again an essential aspect of the DEI framework in business and technology. By designing products with disability in mind, companies can tap into a significant market segment, drive innovation, and create better products for all of us. As demonstrated by JanSport’s adaptive bags and Bre Rider’s enthusiasm, the benefits of this approach are clear, and the potential for growth, impact, and enjoyment is immense.

One thought

  1. Great article on the importance of disability inclusion in designing products. JanSport’s adaptive bags are a great example of how businesses can benefit from catering to the unique needs of people with disabilities. It’s inspiring to see companies embrace accessibility as an integral part of diversity, equity, and inclusion.


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