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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How to assess inclusivity?

A woman is carrying a tray of foodThere is some debate on whether personas rather than real people should be used to assess whether a design is accessible, inclusive and useable. So what might be different about “quantitative persona”? The Inclusive Design Team at the University of Cambridge have developed persona that represent different groups of people with similar capabilities, which is enhanced with other personal information. The aim is to see how many people in the population might be excluded from using a particular product or performing a particular task. Their research is reported in a paper where they assessed the task of carrying a tray of food across a cafe, taking into account how using mobility aids restricts hand use. The title of the paper is, Evaluating inclusivity using quantitative personas. The full paper is available by request from ResearchGate. 

AbstractExclusion assessment is a powerful method for assessing inclusivity in a quantitative way. However, its focus on capability data makes it difficult to consider the effect of other factors such as different ways of using a product. We propose addressing this by combining exclusion assessment with quantitative personas. Each persona represents a group of people with similar capabilities, and is enhanced with other personal information. The capabilities of each persona are compared against the product demands to assess whether they (and thus the group they represent) could do a task. The additional persona information helps to determine how they approach and conduct the task. By examining personas that cover the whole of the target population, it is possible to estimate the proportion of that population who could complete the task. We present a proof-of-concept study using personas created from Disability Follow-up Survey data. These were used to assess the task of carrying a tray of food across a cafe, taking into account how using mobility aids restricts hand use.

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How can you sell more ice cream?

packshots of ice cream and detergent and the increase in salesThe answer is simple: improve the design of your packages and images to make them more inclusive. But it seems corporates are slow to change their approaches to design, instead preferring to stay with “tried and true” methods. The Inclusive Design Team at the University of Cambridge has been working on this issue for 15 years. They have come up with a three key components that help persuade businesses to think about their product and label designs from a different perspective. The title of the paper is, “Using Inclusive Design to Drive Usability Improvements Through to Implementation”. The article can be found on ResearchGate.  or a book chapter in Breaking Down Barriers, a SpringerLink publication. The image shows the rise in sales after changing the pack-shot with Mini-Magnums increasing by 24%.

Abstract: There are compelling reasons to improve usability and make designs more inclusive, but it can be a challenge to implement these changes in a corporate environment. This paper presents some ways to address this in practice based on over 15 years experience of inclusive design work with businesses. It suggests that a successful persuasive case can be built with three key components: a proof-of-concept prototype, an experience that enables the stakeholders to engage personally with the issues and quantitative evidence demonstrating the impact of a potential change. These components are illustrated in this paper using a case study that was conducted with Unilever to improve the images used in e-commerce. The ice cream brand, Magnum is one of Unilever’s billion-dollar brands that implemented these changes. During an 8-week live trial, comparing the old and new images, the new images experienced a sales increase of 24%.

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Designing a UD manual with UD

A young man stands between library book shelves. He has a large book open in his hands.Is it possible to create a Universal Design manual for architecture students that actually works? Short answer is yes, but it needs more work. A workshop was conducted during UDweek in Hasselt in Belgium to test and evaluate a manual. It seems the graphics and visual presentation worked well, but short guidelines were perceived to be too prescriptive. The different ways students prefer to access information wasn’t well catered for either. The article, Evaluating a Proposed Design-for-All (DfA) Manual for Architecture, is available from SpringerLink, or you can find most of it as a book chapter in Google Books. The full book is Advances in Design for Inclusion.  Note that they are using the European translation of universal design – design-for-all, even though the week was named UDWeek.

Abstract: This paper outlines the evaluation of a print-based Design for All (DfA) manual. The purpose was to understand if and how a DfA manual can be used as a tool to inspire students (future architects) in designing an inclusive project to transform theory into practice. The DfA manual has been used and tested during a workshop that took place at the UDweek 2016 in Hasselt, Belgium. Our results show that the manual was favorably received, particularly in the areas of the manual’s visual presentation. Conversely, short guidelines, as mean to transfer knowledge, was perceived as too prescriptive. Furthermore, more information to generate insights on users’ needs are required and the static format of the manual can’t satisfy the different ways students prefer to access information. The research provides interesting criteria on how to create a more relevant and useable DfA manual; however, further studies are required to elaborate upon these. 

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Maps in shades of grey

A wheel of all the colours of the rainbowWhat does a map look like if you have a colour-blindness condition? Colour Vison Deficiency (CVD) is more common than most people think, and it’s not just red and green. Where colour is used to provide information, some people can be left confused. Directional maps, such as street maps for example, use colour to indicate train stations and heritage sites. Geographical maps use colour to show height of land, temperature, and to separate land from water. Many of these are age-old conventions that designers follow. So how do you know what colours are best to use? The Colblinder website give examples of what geographic maps look like to people with CVD. It also has links to other references and a colour blindness simulation tool. Although this is about maps, it can also apply to websites and printed documents, such as guidelines, and manuals where pictures and graphics are used to inform and instruct.

For the latest research on this topic Anne Kristin Kvitle’s article is worth a read. The article is titled, “Accessible maps for the color vision deficient observers: past and present knowledge and future possibilities”. Here is the abstract:

“Color is one of the most difficult cartographic elements to use, as it easily draws attention away from the data and goals for the map when it is used poorly (Krygier and Wood 2011). It is also the one cartographic element that is most frequent misused. Some conventions are choosing colors that have a similarity to real life objects, like green and blue to represent land and water. Other conventions are to use strong colors to emphasize important objects, like the use of red to represent highways or cities. One major contribution to the art of cartography is the development of the visual variables proposed by Jacques Bertin (Bertin 1983). These graphic elements (i.e. position, size, color, orientation, shape, value, texture) were designed to utilize graphic information representation, and have been adapted as a language of cartography. 

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Web guidelines don’t cover everything

one hand is holding a smart phone and the other is pointing at the screenA nicely written and easy to read article on the Axess Lab website explains that the WCAG – the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were only updated to include vision impairments and assistive technologies. But what about hand control? Motor impairments were not included, but this doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. Uusing a smart phone can be very frustrating when bumping to a page that’s not wanted and having to get back again – frustrating for anyone, but more so when it happens all the time. Axess Lab have provided some simple design solutions. See the article for more and for more about WCAG. Axess Lab lives the message and has a really clean site with easy language – a good example for others. Lots of resources here.  

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Do it yourself housing design

A webpage showing the navigation toolMy Home Space is an interactive online tool that takes you through the design details of all parts of the home including spatial requirements. The website has a video explaining how to use the guide. The tool is enhanced by references to assistive technology. The information in the tool takes the form of “things to consider” and is provided in the context of the NDIS. However, some of the design tips are useful for most homes. There is a companion paper, Government perspectives on housing, technology and support design within Australia’s National Disability Strategy that explains the background and the methodology for developing this tool. This is the work of Libby Callaway and Kate Tregloan from Monash University who will be speaking at the upcoming Australian Universal Design Conference 4-5 September 2018. 

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How many people have you left out?

Front cover of the book showing shampoo and conditioner bottles, one black and one white.The Inclusive Design Toolkit’s new online Exclusion Calculator enables better assessment for vision and dexterity. Also included in the Calculator are separate assessments for dominant hands and non-dominant hands in addition to vision, hearing, thinking and mobility. These enhancements build on the original Inclusive Design Toolkit, which was developed ten years ago and can be downloaded as a PDF. The upgrade takes designers through assessing the demands that a task, product or service places on a range of users. If you want to access the advanced version you will need to a licence. Years of research have gone into this tool. You can find out more about the research team and the calculator on their Home Page which has links to several other sections.  

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