The Exclusive Design Principles

In 2019 I published my thesis called Exclusive Design. In it I describe my design research project about designing websites for and with people with disabilities. This whole project was structured around four Exclusive Design Principles: study situation, ignore conventions, prioritise identity, and add nonsense. These principles are based on the idea that people with disabilities have been ignored in the first 30 years of the web, and that we need to actively involve them in the design process if we are serious about inclusive design. Another very important part of Exclusive Design is that it is about tailor made design. It means designing for, and with one single person at a time. Not a target audience, not all blind people, but with full focus on one single person.

Let’s see those principles

An in memoriam

Yesterday, at my father’s request, two so called Stolpersteine were placed in front of the house at the Herengracht 522 in Amsterdam. This was the house where Paul Auerbach and Sophia Charlotte Auerbach-Seligsohn lived before they were killed in 1944. Paul was killed in Dachau and his wife Charlotte was killed in Auschwitz.

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What if Mondriaan used CSS instead of paint?

Many people have tried to recreate a work of art by Mondriaan with CSS. It seems like a nice and simple exercise: rectangles are easy with CSS, and now with grid, it is easy to recreate most of his works. I tried it as well, and it turned out to be a bit more complicated than I thought. And the results are, well, surprising.

Okay, show me

Is there a reason to teach sectioning elements?

Today we discussed sectioning elements with my colleagues here at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam. Some of them really like the idea, they really understand the theory behind them, and they want our students to really understand this as well. And now I wonder: do designers (or web developers) really need to understand these rather complicated semantics? And if so, why exactly?

Your expert opinion would be appreciated

Skipping skip links

Today I read this interesting post which proposes a way to standardise skip links. Instead of adding a link to the content, which is then carefully hidden for people that don’t need it, it should be a meta-tag, or a link with a rel attribute in the head. A very interesting idea, since the browser can then decide how to present it to people.

But I would like to propose to stop using skip links

Making your own Raspberry Pi music streamer

I like to build stuff myself. I made my own speakers, both in the kitchen and in the living room for instance. And to stream music to these speakers I also made my own streaming devices with a DAC using a Raspberry Pi. This gives me the freedom to implement any streaming protocol I need. Right now I need Spotify Connect and Airplay, but if any time in the future I need some other protocol I can implement that as well.

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Turning old rotary phones into music streamers

A while ago our good friend Dave gave us a very nice old record player. One of the things that I noticed when I started playing records again is that I was much more conscious of the music I was playing. Putting up a record involves quite a few — rather random — actions. You need to physically browse through all these large pieces of coloured cardboard. Then you select one of these pieces and from it you take a piece of paper. From within that paper you take a large plastic disc. You flip the disc a few times to take a good look at the coloured labels in the center. Then you lay the disc onto a machine, turn a knob which makes the disc spin, gently swipe the disc with a brush, place a handle over it, turn another knob, and finally close the lid of the machine to start listening music.

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Emotion in closed captions

In a few weeks time I will teach a new three week course called Responsive Typography. In this course my students will give emotion to closed captions. The idea came from a conversation I had with Marie van Driessche. She explained that she needs closed captions to understand movies, like all Deaf people do, but that many fine details in the audio track are lost. The neutral sans serif, and the neutral descriptions of sounds doesn’t cover the complete experience. So I will ask my students to create a typographic experience of a film scene that’s more complete.

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Why we need an Exclusive Inclusive Design Master

Those of you who managed to read my master thesis about designing with real people with real disabilities, and managed to read all of it, may remember that one of my conclusions is that we need an exclusive design master program in The Netherlands. Together with my colleague Irene Kamp we’ve started the bureaucratic journey of setting up such a master. I think it’s important that everybody knows what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. And as always, I would love to hear your ideas.

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Exclusive Design Master

Last Friday I successfully presented the conclusions of the research I have been doing for that past two years. I have researched web accessibility by flipping the ability bias: instead of designing exclusively for people like myself , I have designed tailor made websites exclusively for people with disabilities.

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Son, what is this?

My father sent me a support email: all of a sudden he couldn’t log into his account for the newspaper he reads. The error message he read was not Greek to him, because he speaks Greek fluently. It was in some other language. It resembled Dutch, which he speaks fluently as well, he knew the words, he just didn’t understand what they mean. Here’s a translation:

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Bye bye, dear blackboard car

As a kid I always wanted to draw on cars. But I wasn’t allowed to. So four years ago we painted our silver grey car with a slightly darker blackboard paint.

Want to see photos?

Chartoni: my corrugated cardboard hifi speakers

A while ago Jan Wessel Hovingh gave me a Raspberry Pi Zero as a thank you gift for a talk I gave at the University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden. I decided to create my own streaming audio speakers with this Pi. After quite a bit of DuckDuckGoing, quite some help from many wonderful people and some work it’s done: two hifi speakers made out of layers of corrugated card board, powered by a Raspberry Pi.

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My new research blog

I created a new research blog. That’s where I’ll be documenting my master research. Which means that I will be mostly publishing over there. This blog will probably be even more sleepy that is has been. So if you’re interested in the research I’m doing in accessible web design you can better move over there. You can subscribe to that blog via RSS if you want to.