Does your access map have the right colours?

A woman holds a tablet with a map on the screen, She is standing in the street.Location is everything – finding it is another.  Being able to find places easily is key to getting out and about at any age or level of capability. Online maps are becoming more sophisticated with interactive content and different layers of information. Graphics and colour are used to emphasise places and attributes. But not everyone can see certain colours. The number of people with colour vision deficiency (CVD) is growing as some people acquire it as they get older. Map Design for the Color Vision Deficient provides a background to this issue and tools for selecting the colours when designing maps. You will need institutional access for a free read.

Abstract: The golden rule of map design states that one should carefully consider both a map’s purpose and its audience. Maps designed for the general public frequently fail to consider the portion of our population with color vision impairment or color vision deficiency (CVD), known more commonly as color blindness. Recent studies indicate that over 5% of our Caucasian male population are susceptible to congenital or inherited color vision deficiency. CVD also can be acquired from chemical exposure, injury, illness, medication, and aging. With the exception of aging, little or no data exists on the number of people impaired by any of these non-congenital causes. The predominant color impairment from congenital CVD is a red-green differentiation problem, whereas blue is considered universally recognizable by the congenital group. However, recent research has revealed that as many as 20% of those studied over the age of 72 suffer from a blue-yellow defect that increases with age to nearly 50% at age 90. This acquired blue-yellow defect also is the predominant CVD for those suffering from chemical exposure. This chapter examines the effects of CVD and attempts to illustrate the impact of color choices on visually impaired audiences. It shows that the acquired CVD population is growing and suggests colors and alternatives in map design to minimize that impact. Finally, it introduces several tools that may be used in selecting appropriate colors or used to evaluate color choices when designing maps.

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Inclusive illustrations: What’s in a face?

Four male and female couples with different skin tones and face shapesIf there is no photo or graphic to go with a story, it’s often left to someone else to choose a picture. Often this is a stock photo that might not convey the intended message. Stock photos of older people are often patronising: young and old hands, or a young person looking lovingly at an older person. Similarly, stock photos of wheelchair users often use non-disabled models and not people with disability. So this is a timely article and guideline from an illustrator about how to add diversity to your brand whether an organisation, service or a product. The title of the article is, Your Face Here: Creating illustration guidelines for a more inclusive visual identity.

“Words can set the tone for a company, but it’s the pictures that give it a face. Illustration has yet to find its place in the tech world, because it’s often unconsidered and thrown in on the fly. Whether being used to distill complex messages or add a touch of whimsy, illustration is one piece that makes up a company’s visual brand identity.”  There are other interesting design articles on this blog site.

Also have a look at these stock photos of older people and see what you think.

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UD in customer communication: A toolkit

Front cover of the toolkit.The “Universal Design for Customer Engagement Toolkit” is a good resource for getting the best results when communicating with customers. The toolkit is in four sections. It provides practical information on how to take a universal design approach to engaging more productively with all customers. The toolkit is on the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (Ireland) website. It includes video examples:

Note these PDF documents are large due to the number of informative graphics they contain.

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What is design?

Diagram showing the four orders of design: symbols, products, interactions, systems.For most people the word “design” conjures up thoughts of creativity, products, architecture, graphics, or the way something looks or functions. When it comes to innovation it is more than this.  What do we mean by design? on the Design for Europe website discusses the concept of innovation. Design has moved from traditional artifacts to designing processes, and orchestrating experiences, and even transforming systems. Design is also about generating fit across different elements so that it solves a The "fit" triangle with problem, citizens, government making policy. problem, fits the user and fits the provider of the solution. Interesting article that lists four principles to help make things fit in the best way possible. Anyone who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations is a designer. Seems we are or have been a designer!  

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Designing good mental health into banking

Looking upwards to the gable of a federation building with the name Bank on itAccording to an article by the Design Council, mental health conditions can have an impact on spending, something which banks and financial institutions often neglect. Zander Brade, Lead Product Designer at Monzo, talked to Design Council about the importance of design and innovation in implementing a broad range of features to help people with mental health conditions. Research has resulted in Monzo designing product features to help people with mental health conditions, including real-time balance updates and an option to block transactions relating to gambling. Zander believes that accessibility applies as much to mental health as physical health, and that embedding accessibility within their services will ultimately benefit all their customers.

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Social factors and accessibility

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsAs our world becomes increasingly digitised, it’s important to ensure that no-one is left behind. However, it seems that influencing designers’ actual practice remains challenging. Design for Social Accessibility is an approach that encourages designers to focus on social as well as functional factors in their design. Researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Washington used workshops and brainstorming with designers to bring about a change in their attitudes, and to see the effectiveness of the Design for Social Accessibility approach. Their article, Incorporating Social Factors in Accessible Design, is lengthy because it includes quotes from workshop participants and is very thorough in its reporting. They conclude, “Accessible design is not an impossible challenge; instead, is within reach for professional designers, if given appropriate tools and resources. We offer Design for Social Accessibility as one such tool that designers can use to include disabled and non-disabled users and complex social and functional consideration toward accessible solutions. Designing technologies for people with disability does not exclude non-disabled people. The focus of this study is on people with vision impairment. Social accessibility relates to the social factors of using a device or product not just functional aspects.

Abstract: Personal technologies are rarely designed to be accessible to disabled people, partly due to the perceived challenge of including disability in design. Through design workshops, we addressed this challenge by infusing user-centered design activities with Design for Social Accessibility—a perspective emphasizing social aspects of accessibility—to investigate how professional designers can leverage social
factors to include accessibility in design. We focused on how professional designers incorporated Design for Social Accessibility’s three tenets: (1) to work with users with and without visual impairments; (2) to consider social and functional factors; (3) to employ tools—a framework and method cards—to raise awareness and prompt reflection on social aspects toward accessible design. We then interviewed designers about their workshop experiences. We found DSA to be an effective set of tools and strategies incorporating social/functional and non/disabled perspectives that helped designers create accessible design.

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Is Design Thinking about inclusive design?

A desk with a large sheet of paper and pink post it notes. A person stands with their hand resting on the table.“Design thinking” will not produce inclusive design, according to an article in FastCo by Katherine Schwab. She claims it just maintains the status quo. She also claims design thinking privileges the designer above the users and limits their participation in the design process. In spite of being encouraged to empathise with users, the designer is the one deciding what elements of the users’ experience are relevant. This article has links to an essay from Harvard Business Review by Natasha Iskander who refers to a six step design process that claims to solve any problem. Iskander says that design thinking doesn’t encourage innovation. Rather, it is a strategy to preserve and defend the status quo, which means the designer remains in control. There is more in the article on Iskander’s challenge to Design Thinkers.  

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Symbol for disability or for access?

four white figures on a blue background showing a man and woman with a square head and a man and a woman with a misshapen head“Does the universal symbol for disability need to be rethought”? is the title of an article in the FastCompany blog. First question this raises is, “Is it a symbol for disability or a symbol for access?” The article proposes a variety of symbols for different disabilities. But do we need more symbols and if so, what purpose would they serve?  Some people might like to have a symbol they can relate to if they are not a wheelchair user. But could another symbol further stigmatise? For example one of the proposed symbols shows a person with half the head missing. Another shows a square head. Currently the universal and international symbol for access is more about buldings meeting legislative compliance than trying to send a message about different disabilities. The aim of universal design is to not need more symbols and labels, but to need them less. Have a look at the article and see what you think about the proposition of a multitude of symbols.

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Occupational therapists as designers

Graphic of a handshake with purple hands. The hands have words on them such as cooperate and connectOccupational therapists and universal design have much in common, says James Lenker and Brittany Perez in their article, The role of occupational therapists in universal design research. They argue the case for including the skills and knowledge of occupational therapists across the spectrum of design disciplines and in research activities. In their role at Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, they have successfully collaborated with five different disciplines: architecture, human factors engineering, urban planning, digital media and occupational therapy. This is a three page paper is easy to read and promotes the importance of collaboration for the best implementation of universal design and inclusive practice.

You can also find out more from Elizabeth Ainsworth and Desleigh de Jonge about the relevance and application of universal design in occupational therapy practice on the ResearchGate website. 

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Which colour to use – a new standard?

part of a London underground transport map.There is a growing body of science on the topic of colour use and choice. On the second page of the International Ergonomics Association newsletter there is an item advising that in developing an international standard (ISO 24505) for colour use, accessibility needs to be considered. In four parts, the first part of the standard has been published for older people taking into account age-related changes in human colour vision. The remaining three are under development. Here is a snippet from the newsletter:

“The “colour category theory” tells us all the colours are perceived in groups of similar colours at the central level of the brain (not in the retinal level), such as red, green, blue, etc. According to the theory there are a limited number of colour categories (groups), 11 to 13 depending on the studies, in each of which colours are perceived as a group of similar ones. For example, an orangish-red and a purplish-red are both perceived in the same colour category labelled “red”. As intuitively understood from the theory, colours within a same category are apt to be confused, but on the contrary colours belonging to different categories can be easily differentiated. This idea could be applied to the choice of colors for color combinations. The problem is which colours belong to which categories.”

The aim of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) Ergonomics in Design for All Technical Committee is to promote Ergonomics in Design-for-All (the European equivalent of universal design).

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