Framing Value both Includes and Excludes

Jim Remsik
By Jim Remsik
April 06, 2023

In Everybody is a Drawer I discussed how storytelling relies on framing to help define successes and discover capabilities. If I ask most people to picture someone with a disability, there’s likely an image with someone in a wheelchair. It’s the consensus sign (literally) that someone has lost an ability. It follows then that we install ramps and push-to-open doors to accommodate these people.

Over the years this framing both includes and puts an undesired spotlight on a community it is intended to help and limits our perspective of the value of these accommodations. In software engineering, the return on the value of building such accommodations into software is often left to people who have framed the value as applying only to those folks with obvious measurable disabilities.

If you have the ability to walk into and out of a modern grocery store chances are the doors opened for you as you approached. “Cool assistive technology, I guess. That was built for people that need accommodations”. Perhaps, you’ve even been annoyed that the sensor didn’t trip until you were a little closer to the door and you had to slow down a half-step to get into the store.

As you shop, you get a little more than you intended and have a bag in each hand as you approach the door and it slides open. You’re left none the wiser that the same able-bodied person that wandered into the store now had the invisible advantage of walking out unabated with grocery bags in each hand, thanks to the use of assistive technology.

Our complex human systems of abilities wax and wane throughout the days, weeks, months, and years from (Dis)Ability to Dis(Ability) and sometimes back.

There are likely dozens of decisions that we make in a week where we can choose to invest a minimal amount of minutes to make our software work for a wider audience. The value in these efforts and their return are often framed, and thus valued, in terms of measurable impact. Those measurements all too often ignore the abilities that are temporarily unavailable to users.

We all fall on the spectrum of ability and sometimes where you land depends on when you measure.


“I’m no good before my coffee.”

“I need to eat something.”

“I have the baby home from daycare because they’re not feeling well”


“I’m out of my routine because …”

“I’m worried about …”

“I’m vacationing here …”


“I haven’t been sleeping well.”


“Why do they make these things so small and hard to use?”

If you’re looking for a team to help you discover the right thing to build and help you build it, get in touch.