In design for users, user testing is often crucial, especially when the designer isn’t already very experienced in the area, or when comprehensive guidelines or heuristics aren’t available.
A couple of years ago, I followed some wheelchair-bound people around critique the accessibility of some new buildings that were designed with accessibility in mind.
The next picture is of the bathroom at a condominium clubhouse. The picture doesn’t show the handle bar on the right wall beside the toilet, but it’s there. Is this friendly for a wheelchair user?
The designer probably tried their best, and I thought their design was pretty decent. Then I saw the next one:
This bathroom is at a rehabilitative hospital, where many of the users are actually wheelchair users.
The obvious difference between this bathroom and the first one is that gray plastic seat folded up against the right wall, for a wheelchair user to sit on while having a shower. In the first bathroom, the wheelchair user would have to shower the wheelchair as well – not a good idea.
The first bathroom was designed with the help of (inadequate) guidelines, while the second one was user-tested. The difference would be glaring to a wheelchair user who wants to shower.
And once in a while, you encounter really bad designs.
Maybe the users have very long arms.
(Last picture via Chris Hielmann)
Here’s an interesting comment from Kim & Sophie that’s worth surfacing:
I’m a wheelchair user and that last photo reminds me of a bathroom in the airport in Halifax, Canada. It was great accessibility wise. That is until I tried to wash my hands. The soap dispenser was stuck to the mirror halfway between the counter top and ceiling! There was also another “accessible” (and I use that term VERY loosly) bathroom at the airport in Toronto, Canada where the toilet papoer roll was so low you had to practically lean ahead and hold your body up with yoru hand against the floor to rech it with your other hand!