As I mentioned last time, I’ve been reading Design Meets Disability by Graham Pullin and am loving his insights. In this book, Pullin looks at the changing approach to design across many different disabilities. I’ll share some of my favourite pieces below:
“I wanted the amputees themselves to be proud to have a prosthetic hand and pleased to look at it. And for the people around them, I wanted the prosthetic hand to be an object of healthy curiosity, a work of art.”
This quote is referring to a designer’s shiny, gold prosthetic hand designed for an amputee, but I think the same perspective can be applied to hearing aids. They don’t have to be beige and boring, they should be beautiful and eye-catching. I’ve always believed something similar. People will eventually notice your hearing aids if you spend enough time with them, so you may as well have something that you are proud to show off.
“…although invisible to all but intimate acquaintances. But the wearer knows they are there, and they make the clothes feel different and the wearer feel special. Whether the person decides to display or conceal her disability – and the designs of devices and prostheses should be enabling a choice of such expression – perhaps there should be a separate issue of feeling comfortable in private.”
I love this bit where Pullin compares the hidden aesthetics of a suit-jacket lining to a hearing aid. Even if its hidden most or all of the time, it should still be beautiful. These devices become a part of us in a way, and we should be proud and and find beauty in these parts of us.
The interviewer asked whether design implies “the idea of products that are necessarily useful,” rather than, “solely for pleasure.” Eames’ reply challenged this distinction: “Who would say that pleasure is not useful?”
What uses could aesthetic pleasure serve in hearing aids? If they looked better or more interesting, maybe more people would wear them. The people who wear them might be more proud of them, and willing to share their experiences with others. Maybe young kids would feel less stigmatized and wear them more often, or with less feelings of social inclusion.
This book left me feeling pretty inspired. So inspired in fact, that I took something I really like, and had plenty of, and made a mock-up of what a Lego hearing aid could look like. Its messy, imperfect, and my photography skills leave a lot to be desired. But I actually really like how it turned out. Its bright and loud and something that a younger me would have loved to wear.