A Diversified and Unbiased Document-Design

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Jones and Wheeler in their article “Document Design and Social Justice: A Universal Design for Documents”, postulated an alternate way of document design that overcomes drawbacks of usability framework and accessibility framework and provides room for inclusivity, diversity, and equality. The universal design for document (UDD) uses perspective of social justice, so writer-designers can think of end users in a way to prevent a document being disempower and marginalize. UDD requires that writer-designers should not bound to a set of rules to increase its accessibility, instead should try to use different strategies to reach as many audiences as possible.

This article reminds me about design of a question paper in a typical exam. Diversity is important in designing a set of questions for a screening or eligibility test. The questions should be for all candidates; it should target candidates of all background to avoid skewness. For example, a question paper of a general math exam should include question from different topics such as arithmetic, analysis, algebra, geometry etc. Since some students are comfortable in multiple choice questions, some are in short answer questions or others are in essay type questions, an ideal question paper should include all types of question to give an equal opportunity of ease and difficulty to everyone. Similarly, in terms of accessibility, a typical academic exam should be divided in different formats such as homework assignment, class discussion, in-class exam or take home exam etc. However, these arguments are not always viable.

Authors in their article, cited seven principles that help in forming a UDD. I find the principles of universal design limited in terms of audience. A single document cannot meet all principles listed by authors. If audience are not equal, how a universal document will work well for all. The example, ‘guidelines of Baltimore city rent court’, authors used for their argument is not universal and the figures they used are intended for landlord. The figure are not representing a handbook of laws of renting house. These are the steps should be taken by a landlord when tenant fails to pay timely rent. So, their claim that it contains less about tenant’s rights, seems false, because, I assume, tenants get different guidelines when they occupy the house and those guidelines includes more about tenants right and less about landlord.

Another flaw authors made about ‘guidelines of Baltimore city rent court’ is lack of accessibility of this document. This is in contrast to what I leaned in previous reading “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery”. In previous reading authors proposed that while designing a document it should keep in mind that how a documents can be recomposed by third party in the digital space. And, it is logical in ‘guidelines of Baltimore city rent court’ situation to keep the document less accessible, since it is government and not applicable to everyone. If this document made fully accessible then it can be recomposed or distorted important message by third party, and that is enough to misguide tenants in digital space.

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One thought on “A Diversified and Unbiased Document-Design

  1. I like your example of a math test. I think by incorporating multiple avenues like you said, it allows different audience members to sort of play to their strengths. Interesting, thought-provoking analysis! I think if they included several examples of documents they believe follows the UDD model I’d be better able to see the advantages of it. It was hard for me to fully grasp how it would be measured etc.

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