There is much to think about when designing and fitting stairs in a home, whether a new home or a renovation. Denver architect Doug Walters has 12 tips for safer stairways in his web article, “Beautiful Hazard”. Home stairway design should be both good looking and safe. The article uses photos to illustrate points.There is a link to some elegant solutions. I note that nothing is said about extending the handrail to the final tread in some examples.
Designing Around People is the publication of sessions held across three days held at University of Cambridge (UK). Known as CWUAAT (Cambridge Workshops on Universal Access and Assistive Technology), it is an international gathering of people interested in inclusive design across different fields. Designers, engineers, computer engineers, ergonomists, ethnographers, policymakers and user communities, meet, discuss and collaborate. People come from diverse communities to this biennial workshop; France, India, China, Norway, Slovakia, USA, Denmark and many more. A good reference for anyone researching inclusive practice.
As the range of topics is diverse, individual chapters are available for purchase if you don’t have institutional access from SpringerLink. You can download the PDF of the Preface and the chapter list from the link.
Design is supposed be democratising, but according to the Design Council in UK, it seems designers have to look, or act, in a certain way. We should ask why in 2018 this is still the case. Design disciplines still lack diversity in teaching and learning – the majority are male and come from higher socio-economic groups. These points are made in the Design Council article about a father who has designed a virtual reality headset that is suitable for children and adults who get distressed with too much stimulation. Because he doesn’t fit the ideal designer stereotype he has been unable to get financial backing for his invention that makes a better life for his daughter and others. The video in the link explains it clearly.
At last some creative design thinking in assistive technologies. No, assistive devices do not need to look ugly and purely functional, but too often they are. The FastCompany website has an interesting article about technology designed to be discrete and not stigmatising. Probably the most interesting design is a robot disguised as a coffee table that is also a walking aid. Then there is the GPS navigator for people who are blind that is designed as bracelets. Not keeping up with the App world and the move from CDs to Spotify? There’s a device to help which is especially useful for people not born in the digital age. The link to the coffee table is well work a look.
Patricia Moore is well-known to those who have followed the fortunes of universal design for some time. She was the researcher who dressed and behaved as an 80 year old woman and found first hand the discriminatory treatment older people face every day in the built environment and socially. Her latest article with Jörn Bühring asks designers and business leaders to use social and emotional intelligence in their designs. They claim the philosophic challenge is to ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?”
“Designers don’t speak of limitations, instead they tend to focus on possibilities. The emergence of ’inclusivity’ in design supports the conviction that where there is a ’deficit’, we will present a solution. “Where there is ignorance, we will strive for enlightenment. Where there is a roadblock, we will create a pathway”.
Cite paper as: Bühring, J., Moore, P., (2018). Emotional and Social Intelligence as ’Magic Key’ in Innovation: A Designer’s call toward inclusivity for all – Letter From Academia, Journal of Innovation Management, www.openjim.org,
Tanisha Cowell gives her perspective on seat design as an occupational therapist and interior designer. She says her five features for great seats is not rocket science and seems common sense, but as always, it’s the little details that make a difference. Of course backrests and armrests get a mention, but also where to place seating, say in a park or a cafe. Did you think about colour contrast and height of the seat, or even the thickness of a seat? Tanisha has something to say about these too. And what about a cushion for the leisurely Sunday breakfast at your favourite cafe?
In marketing terms, the packaging is part of the product. The package shape, colour and brand are important in enticing consumers to buy. But all too often we have to get a sharp knife, a pair of scissors and wrestle with the packaging in order to get to the product inside. Microsoft has come up with a nice solution to packaging their Xbox Adaptive Controller – a gamepad for people who might not have use of their limbs. Good thinking – no good having a nicely designed accessible product that you can’t get out of the box! The video below shows the simple but effective design. There is another video on the FastCompany website or see the engadget website. Package designers take note.
The title of the article is How Microsoft fixed the worst thing about product packaging.
Artificial Intelligence and Universal Design are looking like natural partners in the development of new technology. In a recent article, “Tackling Autonomous Driving Challenges – How the Design of Autonomous Vehicles Is Mirroring Universal Design” the authors argue that the applying the seven principles of universal design to the design autonomous vehicles is becoming more evident as the designs advance. You will need institutional access for a free read of this SpringerLink book chapter. Or you can try Google Books for some of the content.
Abstract: In the future, the world will be characterized by highly densely populations, with growing share of mobility-impaired/disabled persons, a critical problem regarding the sustainability of the metropolises, whose resolution may reside in autonomous vehicles. A broader range of users will be allowed a, so far, denied mobility in level 4 and level 5 SAE autonomous vehicles, a goal to be accomplished through Universal Design, a design which intends to be the closest possible to the ideal design. For such purpose, Human Factors and Ergonomics are key. Literature review and research have shown that there is evidence of application of the seven Universal Design principles in these new autonomous vehicles and that, given the nature and purpose of the Universal Design, with the increase of autonomy, there is natural increased evidence of Universal Design. A novel model for interaction of the Universal Design influencers is proposed.
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).
There 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.
Abstract: Exclusion 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.