Spending time with Sarah Fossheim

Now more than ever we are being faced with a fork in the road of digital design. Accessible, representative, and inclusive digital spaces are in high demand, an expansive world of diverse needs that calls for immediate action. With their finger on the pulse of the ever-changing digital industries, we took some time to chat with Sarah about their perspective and practice, learning from their insight and expertise in accessible digital spaces.

 

Sarah Fossheim is an accessibility specialist, ethical designer and developer, located in Oslo, Norway, currently working as an independent consultant. They educate about design and tech on their own blog, and run an ethical design resource library and newsletter.

Driftime®: What is ethical design, and why is it important to talk about today? How does it benefit others/businesses?

 

Sarah: Technology is everywhere in our lives. There’s an app, service or algorithm for almost anything. We consume our news through social media, make online doctor appointments and hold meetings over zoom. Predictive policing software gets used to predict crime, the ads you see are tailored to your interests based on your online activity, and through facial recognition, Facebook can automatically tag you in pictures. 

But a lot of things can, and do, go wrong. Social media enables the spread of misinformation and hate speech, predictive policing algorithms are biased against Black people, facial recognition still struggles to identify people of colour, 97.4% of the web is inaccessible to disabled people (who make up for 15-25% of the population), and the list goes on.

To me, ethical design is about mitigating those risks and minimising the harm we inflict on others or the planet. So I think of it as the principle of bringing ethics and inclusion into everything we do, rather than it being just one step in the design process.

I don’t like talking about the business value of ethics. In the end these are real human lives affected by the lack of inclusion, profit shouldn’t come into it.

"Prioritise the most vulnerable, and have a strategy"

Sarah Fossheim