Design details and everyday experiences

Title of the article in white text over an image of the top of an escalatorWhat is it about designs that either include or exclude users? Many designs are everyday – the things we hardly notice. That is, until we have difficulty using them. Design students need to see how exclusion happens.

Deborah Beardslee takes the perspective of physical ability to analyse how inclusion and exclusion happen in the design process. She notes that most designs work reasonably well for most people even if they aren’t designed that well. But we are all familiar with some degree of compromised experience. For example, hard to read instructions, doors that are difficult to open, places difficult to navigate and generally unappealing places.

Beardlee’s article will be of interest to design educators as well as practitioners. It focuses on examining everyday interactions with commonplace items with analysis of several examples. The aim of the paper is to encourage strategies for educating designers to be more inclusive. 

The title of the article is, Inclusive, High Quality Decisions? Macro/Micro Design Impacts within our Everyday Experiences, and was accessed from Universal Design webpage.

Abstract:  Age and physical ability are natural filters for assessing the successes of designed objects, messages, and experiences. Design problem solving contributes (or not) to the resolution of challenges faced by aging and/or physically challenged individuals as they interact with products and contexts in the built environment. This paper examines some design details, solutions, and situations that impact everyday inclusivity and quality of experience, and suggests approaches toward understanding and increasing interaction success for all of us.

The comparisons presented in this work are intended to initiate an evolving platform for the discussion and development of design education strategies and content that prioritize aging and physical ability issues. Some familiar macro and micro examples have been chosen to illuminate everyday user interactions, challenges, and considerations. Ideally, increased exposure to these aspects, through audience-, age-, and ability-related projects, courses, and curriculum, will strengthen awareness and empathy in young design students, and encourage thoughtful, and more inclusive, design in the future.

Home Coming? Housing policy e-learning

A graphic in shades of green showing various types of dwellingsI am pleased to announce CUDA’s new e-learning course is now live!

Home Coming? Framing Housing Policy for the Future is open access. That means it’s free for anyone to do. In just one hour you can get your head around the issues and see how universal design in housing provides solutions to many of the policy problems. 

Housing is a complex area. So we’ve cut to the chase to cover the critical issues, the key statistics, and shown how it’s about households, and the role of universal design and the Livable Housing Design Guidelines.

The course is primarily designed to assist policy makers, urban planners, housing professionals and home builders. Home designers and home owners will find it useful too. But anyone with an interest in housing will find it interesting.

If you are still unsure about universal design, you might want to look at our baseline course, also online and free, Introduction to Universal Design

Jane Bringolf, Editor.

Online learning: does it work for everyone?

Online learning is not new for many higher education students and teachers. Accessibility of online content is improving but there is still a way to go. Students with hearing loss are at a greater disadvantage than many others. Hearing loss is not something you only get as you age. Many young people aren’t even aware they have a hearing loss. An article in The Conversation discusses the issues and provides links to some resources.

Students with hearing loss rarely speak up about it, so lecturers will never know who is missing out or how many are missing out. Regardless, all students learn better with captioningThere are some myths about the cost of captioning. Yes, before Google and YouTube developed Do-It-Yourself captioning, it was expensive to get videos captioned. But times have moved on. However, live captioning with a stenographer is another matter.

The title of the article is, How to help students with a hearing impairment as courses move online. It has good, easy to do advice.

If you want more tips on making sure everyone is included in videoconferences, have a look at the previous post, Videoconferencing: Zoom in to hear

Easy English and COVID-19

A page from the guide on retirement money.The coronavirus pandemic has produced a lot of information about the many changes to the way we do things. Many sources of information are available, but are they designed with everyone in mind? This is where Easy English and Easy Read have a very important role to play. Easy English and Easy Read are based on the fact that 44% of the population has low literacy skills. It is not specifically for people with intellectual disability. This requires content designed specifically for this group. So we are talking mainstream.
Cathy Basterfield has developed several free Easy English versions of important information. As well as the obvious stay home messages, Cathy has blog content on schools, money, and jobkeeper rules. Here are some links to the money information that can be downloaded from her site:

      1. A page from the guide on $750.Retirement money
      2. Help for retired people
      3. Help for apprentices and trainees
      4. You get a pension now
      5. You lost your job
      6. Who gets $750? 

This is only a fraction of her offerings. There’s rules for nursing homes, time to clean, lockdown, washing hands and much more. She has a blog page that explains Easy English and Easy Read if you want to know more. 

Editor’s note: Even as a person with good literacy skills, I find Easy English a quick and easy way to understand the key points. I think much of the confusion in the community is due to politicians and others using lots of words when fewer would do, and speaking quickly. When journalists ask questions of politicians they add to the confusion because the politician says the same thing again only using different words. 


Why make your podcast accessible?

A graphic with a headset and the word podcast.There are at least two reasons to make podcasts accessible. First, they reach more people, and second search engines like it. It’s the same reason why descriptions of images are important. Both reasons help grow your audience. A third reason is that transcripts help you to find the content at a later date. If you have transcripts for every show, you can search and reference what was discussed on your show at any point. In essence:

It’s the right thing to do
People with disabilities benefit
Other people benefit
You benefit – Your content is indexed
Your reach increases
There may be legal requirements

The Podcast Accessibility website has more detail on the list above about making podcasts accessible and why it is important for everyone. It also has other useful information apart from transcripts. It’s an easy read.

Videoconferencing: Zoom in to hear

Nine people are shown on a computer monitor.Online communication is great for staying connected, but it is not kind to people with hearing loss. A great blog post gives some excellent tips that everyone should consider when using Zoom. You just don’t know who in your group is finding it difficult to hear. There are two main issues: One is clarity of speech due to inadequate microphone, sitting too far away from the screen, background noise and/or the echo from the room (like the bathroom sound). The other is the delay between sound and vision so lip reading is impossible. And of course, talking across each other because of the transmission delay.

The blog post, Making the Most of Zoom, explains how the features can be used to best advantage for everyone to hear what’s going on. For example – how to change the video layout so that the active speaker is the largest view to make lip reading easier. Using the chat facility, lighting, muting when not speaking, and using the wave-hand function to get heard in turn. While this is focused on Zoom, many of the tips can be applied to other online apps and programs. There are links in the article to other resources and Zoom information.

You might also be interested in The Conversation article, How to help students with hearing impairment as courses move online

Teaching and learning accessibility

A man in a black shirt sits at a desk with two computer screens in front of him.The technology industry needs more people who understand both technical and accessibility aspects of design. But they are hard to find. That’s because teaching accessibility and inclusion in university courses is still in its infancy. Helping technology students to get their head around accessibility for people with disability has its challenges. In his article based on a case study, Julian Brinkley discusses the challenges for teachers and students, but says it can be done.

“By the conclusion of the semester students were able to both describe the characteristics of various disabilities and how they relate to computer and technology use while demonstrating a baseline ability to design technologies for use by disabled persons.

“These findings collectively suggest that stand alone courses focused on accessibility may prove effective at supporting the goal of introducing topics of accessibility to computer science students and students from related disciplines.”

The title of the article is, Participation at What Cost? Teaching Accessibility Using Participatory Design: An Experience Report

Abstract: As institutions respond to market demand in their training of the next generation of technology designers, there is an increasing awareness of the need to add accessibility to computer science and informatics curricula. Advocates have suggested three strategies for including accessibility and discussions of disability in courses: changing a lecture, adding a lecture or adding a new course. In this paper we report on our experiences with the latter; incorporating accessibility within two new graduate and undergraduate inclusive design courses taught concurrently. We found that while the use of participatory design was decidedly effective in supporting student learning and ameliorating ableist attitudes, creating and managing teams comprised of students and visually impaired co-designers proved challenging. Despite these challenges, overall, students demonstrated steady growth in their grasp of inclusive design concepts as they tackled accessibility challenges through a series of mobility-related group projects. Efficiencies were also realized through the concurrent teaching of both courses though the pace of course deliverables proved challenging at times for undergraduates. We argue that a review of our experience may help others interested in teaching accessibility related courses, specifically in course design and execution.

This paper is from the 51st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE ’20), March 11–14, 2020, Portland, OR, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 7 pages. 

You might also be interested in another paper from the same symposium: A Systematic Analysis of Accessibility in Computing Education Research.

From the conclusion, “Our study highlights two main needs in computing accessibility education. The first need is to create a research roadmap for covering and reinforcing accessibility knowledge with clear learning objectives and evaluation methods across several core and elective courses. Second, to implement this roadmap, we need to create and investigate the efficacy of usable accessibility teaching materials to support instructors.”

Autism and cultural diversity

A brightly coloured logo in the style of a jig saw puzzle for Autism Awareness.People with autism are speaking out, and we are learning more about neurodiversity through practice and research. Consequently, it’s time to look at who is doing the practice and research. Is the family’s cultural background taken into account? If so, do researchers and practitioners know how to adapt? A journal article from the UK sheds a little light on the subject. It’s open access, but you have to request a copy of the paper. The title of the paper is, Autism in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities: A Report on The First Autism Voice UK Symposium

Abstract:  Little is known about the way autism is interpreted and accepted among the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) populations in the United Kingdom (UK). This report summarises a symposium on autism in the UK BAME community in 2018 or-ganised by Autism Voice UK, Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC) and the Critical Autism/Disabilities Studies Research Group (CADS) at London South Bank University (LSBU).
The stance a family or community take about a condition like autism is influenced by their cultural background. The aims of the symposium were to highlight different perspectives about autism in BAME communities and to preserve the cultural digni-ty of the community in supporting autistic members. Beliefs about autism, diagnosis, acceptance and support for autistic people from a specific cultural perspective of BAME communities must be cautiously interpreted by autism professionals because beliefs vary among different cultural groups.
Thematic analysis of feedback from participants yielded the following foci. Firstly, cultural, ethnic and religious sensitivities were important to participants who felt that these were often ignored by non-BAME professionals. Secondly, the need for col-laboration to improve autism awareness within the community and understanding by professionals of the intersectionality between autism and identity in BAME fami-lies was prioritised. Thirdly, issues around feelings of stigma were common, but del-egates felt that these were not well understood beyond people identifying as BAME. An action plan was created which highlighted raising public awareness through community engagement, improving access to information for parents, and culturally aware autism education for professionals and BAME communities.

Designing inclusive surveys

Picture of a hand holding a pen and filling in boxes on a survey formWe all know that no matter how objective we try to be, biases exist. Researchers try to avoid them when they design surveys. But it isn’t easy as bias is by nature invisible to the owner. So a bit of help is handy. Using a screening survey to hire people can disadvantage people from diverse backgrounds for several reasons. Most researchers know the usual pitfalls, but perhaps not those relating to ethnic diversity and cognitive differences. Or for people with disability. A really helpful part of this short article is the reference list. Here are just two items:

A Catalog of Biases in Questionnaires includes sources of bias, issues with questionnaire design, and problems with wording, language use, and formatting, plus more. There’s lots of examples too. By Choi, B. C., & Pak, A. W. (2005)

Another good one is about integrating universal design into questionnaires. The focus is on people with learning disabilities. Of course, this also suits people who find reading English as a second language difficult as well. So the authors recommend that instead of making accommodations for people with learning disabilities, the questionnaire should be designed to suit all participants. Lots of good information here. By Goegan, et al, (2018). 

The title of the article is,  Removing Bias from a Hiring Survey for a Diverse Applicant Pool.  


Going outside for inclusion: An education perspective

Four people paddle their brightly coloured canoes .The current theory and practice of outdoor environmental education is failing to include the voices of marginalised people and communities. So writes Karen Warren and Mary Breunig. In a thoughtful paper they argue that the historical background of white privileged males in this field still underpins current thinking. The arguments and thinking in this paper could be applied in other educational settings and the broader community. At the end of the paper they advise that instructors should use the language that students use to self-identify:

“Critically conscious use of language in educational environments can prevent the othering of students who self-identify outside normative boundaries. Asking all participants to share their preferred gender pronouns can prevent the misgendering of students. Mirroring the language that students use to name their identity allows the educator to advocate for inclusion. In a canoe trip for queer students one author recently led, participants were given an opportunity to self identify if they chose to. Even within the queer community, there was a diversity of identity – gender non-binary, lesbian, questioning ally, and trans- and cisgender gay were some of the responses. Educators aware of the power of language to oppress by renaming, disnaming, and misnaming participants will consider adopting the words students use to refer to themselves.”

The title of the easy to read paper is, Inclusion and Social Justice in Outdoor Education. It covers gender, race and ability from a social justice perspective.