For the temporarily fit

Do you know that people with disabilities call those of us without ‘tabs’? It stands for ‘temporarily able-bodied’, reminding us of our dependent childhoods and that most of us will soon enough rely on glasses, walking sticks and hearing aids, and battle with products and services that we currently think work okay.

Inclusive Design 24 Hr Challenge winning team
Inclusive Design 24 Hr Challenge winning team

At last week’s European Business Conference on Inclusive Design ­– Innovation for All in Oslo, Norway, conference speakers highlighted the fact that the developed world’s elderly population will soon outnumber youngsters, and that loudmouthed baby-boomers are demanding better products and services than previous generations of old people.

Speakers Michael Wolff and Dan Formosa (of Smart Design) both want to see inclusive design enter the mainstream. Formosa adds that by designing for the extremes of humanity, you create products and services that suit everybody.

A historic example of this is the remote control, allegedly invented for a paralysed man. A contemporary example is BT’s popular and funky-looking Big Button telephone, which BT’s head of consumer affairs Liz Williams spoke about as a product of the company’s unusually dynamic inclusive design programme.

The conference also featured a 24-hour design challenge, in which four teams of young designers worked with disabled partners to create a new product or service. The winner was Team Heavy Metal, which included blind heavy metal and opera fan David. Despite his blindness, David takes hundreds of photos and has uploaded 24 albums to Facebook, which he ‘looks at’ by listening to the photos’ time codes. To enhance his experience, the team suggested modifying cameras to record a few seconds of sound before snapping the scene – an idea that could appeal equally to blind people and tabs.

To read more about the conference, which was organised by the Norwegian Design Council with help from the Helen Hamlyn Centre, visit

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  • Birgit Jevnaker November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Agree, the Team Heavy Metal solution was very appealing, for ‘tabs’ as well! Note that we learned during the seminar (from Michael Wolff and Ola Refsnes) that we may rather say differently abled instead of disabled! This fits well when I think about the surprising sensitivities of for example blind people I have met. Thanks Ola for reminding us of this better language when the conference ended!

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