In our “Intern Spotlight” series, we’re sharing stories of interns across Understood about their background, their work, and why they’re motivated to empower the 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who learn and think differently.
Our design intern Jessica Miller, based in Ohio, is a senior at Kent State University majoring in visual communication design with minors in photography, creative writing, and user experience design.
For this spotlight, we asked Jessica to share her story in her own words:
As a child, I was diagnosed with a learning difference, dyslexia, which made me more attuned as a designer to accessibility. Oftentimes, I’ve stumbled over poorly designed menus and sloppy textbook layouts that made navigating the world more difficult. I was aware of how the basics of accessibility design, color contrast, and font size were hardly considered. I questioned why companies and clients continued to accept work that put the 1 in 5 people who learn and think differently at a disadvantage. Why did they not highlight the accomplishments and uplift neurodiverse designers who design not with empathy, but with experience?
When designers do think about accessibility, there is the misconception to analyze it in a medical or strictly ADA-compliant context. Designers tend to see disability as a problem to correct or an obstacle to overcome. We, as designers, need to reframe our understanding of the relationship between disability and design to see it as a method of prioritizing the user. Numerous inventions were created specifically for accessibility, from spellcheck to touchscreen technology, which improved all of our lives.. Oftentimes, designing with neurodivergent users in mind ends up creating a better product. When we embrace diversity of experience, innovations are created from which we all benefit.
As a design intern at Understood, I found out how accessibility design is one of the organization’s commitments and not a buzzword. From my first day, I saw how setting the standard for accessibility design is part of our pursuit to shape an accessible and inclusive tomorrow. For instance, our branding colors were chosen with the intention to be ADA compliant and are optimized for readability. Understood’s font, known as Understood Sans, is a customized version of Roobert that's also optimized to improve readability by varying letterforms. These variations help those with learning and thinking differences access materials.
Understood represents a direction I hope more businesses and designers will head toward. Accessibility, diversity, and inclusion are the future of design. The more people we design for, the more inclusive and successful our world will be. We need to listen to and celebrate neurodiverse designers to expand our knowledge. We need to let them show us the ways we can improve our designs and our future.