7 Days of Genius Tel Aviv: Inclusive Design

For #7DaysofGenius, the Good Group in Tel Aviv organized an event around the theme of inclusive design. 

What was the topic of your event? 

Our event was framed through the following statement, ‘design plays an important role in everything around us, every product we use, the furniture we sit on, and the space we live in. For people with disabilities, design is even more important, and accessible inclusive design can open up new worlds.  

We then focused on the difference between accessibility and inclusiveness. Is something inclusive just by means of being accessible? The answer is usually, no. We had three main speakers who each spoke about accessibility and inclusiveness in their work. 

Vital Zinger, a world champion Paralympic dancer spoke of her daily experience as an active person in a wheelchair and how sometimes, its the small things that make a huge difference in her day. 

Shachaf Galili, the head of the accessibility department of Midburn (Israel’s Burning Man) spoke about making experiences and events more inclusive, and how they work to make the 11,000 person annual Midburn event more accessible and inclusive to all and how they use education to help spread the message and change the burner culture in Israel. 

Dana Yiche-Schwekmann, an industrial designer with an expertise on products for people with disabilities spoke about what makes a product inclusive (when it appeals to all users, not just people with disabilities) and the market value of making inclusive products. 

Where was it? How many people attended? 

Our event took place at Rega Caffe, a recently reopened historical Tel Aviv Cafe and Salon. The original cafe was one of the pioneers of Tel Aviv’s legendary cafe culture and the renewed location aims to continue in that storied tradition.  After much debate on what kind of event we wanted we decided to limit numbers in order to enable conversation and discussion. We had ~50 people (max capacity) in a diverse audience.

What new or innovative ideas were discussed or presented? 

The biggest new idea that was discussed that while something may be accessible, that does not make it automatically inclusive. We discussed how often times, businesses or public spaces are able to meet accessibility standards and laws but that does not mean that people with disabilities have a positive user experience. Inclusiveness needs to be the goal and not just accessibility. We discussed how this can often be easily achieved by just asking/consulting with a user (person with a disability). We also discussed how most people often don’t realize the accessibility v. inclusiveness issue until they have personal experience with it (an injury that leaves them temporarily disabled, having a child and needing to navigate spaces with a stroller, an elderly family member etc.)

How does your event contribute to a larger conversation or thinking about a global challenge in a new way? 

The WHO estimates that ~a billion people around the world live with a disability, this makes them the world’s largest minority and yet they do not have a proportional voice. We need to start thinking about accessibility and inclusiveness differently. We need to start listening to the users and hearing what they need and what (seemingly) small changes can be made to help them live more full and active lives.

Did your Genius event lead to new action or opportunities for your community?

The Genius event helped us to grow and expand our community and launched a lively discussion (that continued for 2 hours after the event officially finished!)  People expressed interest in growing the community and getting involved. As an initiative that works to promote and create inclusive products for people with disabilities, we see great potential in growing this community and increasing our activity and local engagement. There are first conversations to work with local corporations on inclusiveness initiatives and events. More to come!!

Blog post prepared by Michal Kabatznik, Co-Founder of The Good Group.