People use products, services, and systems to complete activities. People’s abilities affect the quality of each use scenario. A person with small hands may not be able to pick up a shovel with a thick handle. A person with debilitating arthritis will have a hard time using scissors unless the scissors are designed with the condition in mind. A person whose reading level is below fifth grade will not be able to read content on a screen unless the writing matches the person’s ability to read.
No two people have the same set of abilities. Also, abilities aren’t limited to physical and cognitive capacity. A person can lack the emotional ability to deal with the death of a family pet. Another person may not be able to pay for a new washer and dryer—an example of financial ability.
People’s abilities often drive design decisions. Cooper Hewitt, Pratt Institute, and CaringKind, a nonprofit dedicated to Alzheimer’s caregiving, collaborated on projects in 2017 to assist people affected by Alzheimer’s.