Inclusive Design Practice

Over the past 9 years I have taken my design approach, embodying strong usability and accessibility, to a new level, with an extremely tight focus on inclusive (universal) design. While some designers lament the need to address accessibility, my perspective is one of appreciation for any challenge that pushes a designer to creative and technical innovation.

It is thanks to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) inaugural/creation project that I had the opportunity to establish and champion the internationally recognized inclusive design practice of the museum. My position was one of directing and overseeing inclusive design (universal design) and accessibility across the construction project, the design and development of the exhibitions, all media design and production, software integration, policy creation, operationalization of the institution, and more. While I have been fortunate to create technical innovation, the most satisfying result has been the establishment of a corporate culture that is highly sensitive, aware, and accustomed to addressing any project or problem from an inclusive design perspective. This ensures the sustainability of the practice beyond any single champion, and helps move the entire field forward.

Many design processes see the creative, schematic, and design development processes run their course and then in a final design phase, attempt to address accessibility (if it happens at all). This inevitably leads to compromise – compromise on design intent, aesthetic preference, conceptual integrity, or experiential initiative. Or, it leads to an inaccessible outcome. Beginning with an inclusive design methodology will ensure that these compromises need not happen, while a more usable product can be enjoyed by all in the end.

At the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, I have led not only the development of a corporate practice, but have realized several innovative design successes. A couple of these unique design projects are detailed in the Portfolio section of this web site (accessible design).

For a comprehensive story about the establishment of the CMHR’s inclusive design practice, please see this article published by the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) NAME Exhibition Journal: article.

Recently published are the Canadian Museum for Human Right’s inclusive design and accessibility guidelines. This documentation serves as an ever-evolving set of guidelines that help direct the approach to accessible exhibition design and fabrication, media design and production, digital media development, inclusively welcoming visitor services, graphic and document standards, and much more. My intention through the publication of the guidelines is both to facilitate their use, but also that they will be shared, hacked, iterated upon, improved, and shared back to the field at large. You can access them here.