Module 1, Lesson 4: The interface vs. the individual

Students looking at a computer screen

Technology today is becoming more and more customizable, with the emphasis being on the technology adapting to the user, rather than the other way around.


This notion is the basis of Universal Design;

Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design

- Ronald Mace (Center for Universal Design, 2008)


Keep this idea in mind when considering how a person with a disability interacts with web content.

Instead of thinking of a disability as a flaw within an individual, universal design principles urge us to start thinking of the flaws existing in the environment or interface. Put another way, a disability can simply be seen as a mismatch between an individual and their environment. Universal design strives to mitigate potential mismatches and create a smooth human-computer interaction. 

In the following video, Norman Coombs, founder of Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI), illustrates the concept of a mismatch between an individual and their environment.

Have you ever been in a situation where you encountered an environmental or interface mismatch? How did it make you feel? What other takeaways did you get from this video?

For more information on Universal Design, check out the Center for Universal Design website.   


Next: Module 1, Lesson 5: The legal obligation

Back to Module 1 menu: Defining online accessibility and why it's important