Hi my name is Leo Ngobeni, apart from being awesome I am also a UI & UX designer turned Lead Product Designer at one of the five big banks in South Africa. I was born and diagnosed with a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type4 A.k.a brittle bone disease.
I am going to briefly talk about my experience from living with the condition and how it has influenced my design thinking and approach. Let's take it back a bit to when I was born, I was born with a broken arm and by the time my family and the doctors realized it my arm was already healing, I don't remember much of it as I was still a baby. I only started walking properly when I was 5 and I first broke my leg when I was 10 because let's face it boys will be boys and I was no different or at least I thought. I only learned about Osteogenesis when I broke my leg, which happened two more times and resulted in me getting my hip replaced and having to spend my teenage years walking on crutches.
There was a complication with my condition in my early twenties which has resulted in me being wheelchair bound with a set of tremors to go along with it... I know what you thinking, deep right???
Haha, it's not that deep, it's life and we are just trying to figure life out as we go.
You probably trying to figure out what this has to do with UX, don't know if you noticed during that deep sessions of myself I identified three different experiences all in one.
What do I mean by that? Well, I once walked, became crippled and now I am in a wheelchair. For many of us we will only experience one or two of these in our lifetime and with every experience, you have to find new ways of achieving the same goal on many occasions. It will challenge you physically but the hardest part of it will be mental. A lot of people talk about the future being all about the survival of the fittest. I think the future will be about survival of those who can adapt regardless of their physical form.
Experience design for me is learning to adapt and understanding that UX is beyond just digital and UI screens, it is in how you do your everyday tasks, how you connect the dots in completing your day.
The word ‘Original’ refers to the earliest form of something of which a copy/ copies is later made of or from. I don’t know many creatives living with a disability that are in the industry as there have been stereotypes, limitations or taboo’s as to ‘what a person with a disability can and cannot do’.
I think I am an original as I am working hard every day to pave the way for those that will come after me, I didn’t have a role model, mentor or someone that I could relate to but, what I do have is the disability I live with and what it has taught me about life and myself.
My disability has taught me openness meaning what you see is what you get, it has taught me self-love, self-value and that my dreams are valid. It has taught me acceptance, empathy and because of it, I have had the honor of meeting some of the most amazing people in the world that have contributed towards the person I have become.
It all started when I was little, I had a fascination with art and technology, and at the time I did not know about multimedia because I had not yet been exposed to design. It is through design that we are able to interpret the information around us to make sense in such a manner that it makes our lives easier. Everything that exists today has elements of design, some designs are tangible objects that can be touched and some designs are made out of systems that cannot be touched only felt and experienced. User Experience (UX) refers to the complete experience a user/ person has with a product. UX is emotional, not technical because it is about how a product makes the user that interacts with it feel. For me designing for purpose and functionality makes me enjoy UX because the entire philosophy and principle is about helping others to live a better life.
I wanted to do UX because it would allow me to create something millions of people would use on a day-to-day basis, even if they wouldn’t know I was part of making the product/ design possible I would know and for me that is enough. Creating something so good that it goes unnoticed by many but used by all.
Know your worth and value yourself, stay informed and start with learning to do one thing really well before moving on to the next thing (up skill yourself). There are no shortcuts in life, sometimes it's just about working smart and finding ways to get better at doing what you do best. Last but, not least leave room for failure, by leaving room for failure you create room for growth and learning.
Written by Leonard Ngobeni