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Becoming the UX Designer of My Autism Operating System

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While UI is all about user interface — the look and feel of a website or app — UX is about the logical flow, about user experience.

If we use the analogy of autism as a different operating system with its own unique pros and cons, like iOS vs. Linux, for example, then I feel there’s no reason we can’t consider neurotypicality and neurodiversity from a UX perspective.

When you’re creating a website or app, you can’t change the operating system a user device is running on, but you can change the experience for that user.

If you think of activities as individual units or “programs” — from “shower” to “eat” to “go to work,” you can start to think of ways each of these activities can be better catered to the individual needs and operating system of the user.

Although some user experience changes need to be made by a third party, i.e. in the workplace or at the shops, many daily activities or “programs” can be better adapted for an individual’s unique operating system. Either tweaked slightly to particular needs, or (the ideal) completely redesigned from scratch.

When the “design” of an activity doesn’t match up to your needs, it’s not, as you initially might feel, your fault — it’s simply an incompatibility between you and the system. And if you want the user experience to be better? You can choose to be the web designer of your own destiny and make accessibility changes yourself. Or you can start from the beginning with your needs and become the UX architect for your own life experience, going back to the drawing board and crafting a wire frame that fits you. You can be your own UX researcher, interviewing yourself to find out your own experience and needs for each activity and adjusting things accordingly.

Find being in an office overwhelming? A short term fix could be to ask to work from home one day a week — a workaround. But is it possible to consider the more basic requirement: that offices really aren’t for you? And to set about finding a job where you don’t have to go into an office at all, bypassing this issue completely?

My aim for the year ahead is to become the UX designer of my own life, to consider my own individual needs and quirks and how they can be better met. Rather than trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, my aim is make my own bespoke design.

Getty image by Monsit J.

Originally published: February 20, 2018
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