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.
Winston Churchill famously said, “‘we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Many would agree. But what about space – does that shape us too? In his article about office workspaces, Scott Simpson says the design of the spaces in which we live, work and play has a profound effect on how people interact. “Sometimes the effect is quite subtle, and sometimes it is more obvious, but in all cases, space shapes the context for what we do and how we do it, even though its effect is frequently taken for granted.” He goes on to say that the way space is configured creates the context, sets the tone and gives off subtle yet powerful messages for how people are expected to behave. The article is on the Design Intelligence website.
A simple pleasure for most, but if you can’t open the chip pack then not so pleasurable. This is a problem for more people than you might think. An article in the Inclusive Design Toolkit Bulletin explains how a student redesigned the chip packet for easier opening. Around 10 million people have arthritis in the UK, and over 10 million chip packets are consumed each week, so student Thomas Woodburn decided to redesign the packaging considering the needs of this user group. He found that many people with arthritis use scissors to open the typical seal used in packaging. While wearing the Cambridge Simulation Gloves, Thomas experienced great difficulty trying to ‘pinch and pull’ to open chip packaging. He designed a corrugated fibreboard pack that opens with a small amount of force applied to the lid, using a mechanism for the lid that folds out three-dimensionally and enables the fingers to remain in a natural position. You can see similar articles in Issue 4 of the Bulletin. There is more good material on the Inclusive Design Toolkit site.
Orcam MyEye is a wearable for people with low vision. It tracks your finger, reads what the finger points at and announces it. The device is worn on the arm of a standard pair of glasses. This is also a great device for people who have difficulty reading. Another design idea for one group that also suits another. The captioned video clearly shows how it works.
From the CoDesign website: “There is a clever, intuitive interface based on a gesture everyone understands: pointing. All users have to do is point at whatever they want the device to read; the camera identifies their hand, then takes a picture of the text and reads it. It’s so precise that you can point to a specific line on a page and it will start reading from that point. “We believe that pointing at something is the most natural thing a human does,” says Aviram, who serves as the company’s CEO.
Most people with dementia live at home and can often benefit from a range of technologies – but what are the best and when should they be used? In a PhD study, Tizneem Jiancaro of the University of Toronto has sought some answers. The thesis looks at three perspectives, developers, people with dementia, and the caregivers and significant others. Design factors were considered alongside emotional factors as well as usability. Not unexpectedly, “…empathy emerged as an important design approach, both as a way to address diversity and to access users’ emotional lives”. The title of the thesis is Exploring Technology, Design and Dementia. It can be downloaded from the University of Toronto.
Designer Liz Jackson from New York, tells her story in a video talk of how she became known as the woman with the purple cane. She has a theory that when parents tell their children not to stare at someone who looks different they take this behaviour into adulthood. In a straightforward manner she laments how designs for people with disability are so often ugly. She critiques the seven principles of universal design for not including beauty in the list; focusing only on functionality. And that every design designs for exception because there will always be someone left out. This 15 minute talk is well worth the time. If you can’t access the video there is a full transcript on the site.
Editor’s note: Aesthetics are mentioned in the fuller length of the seven principles of universal design. This quote from Bill Stumpt and Don Chadwick, points this out: “The essence of universal design lies in its ability to create beauty and mediate extremes without destroying differences in places, experiences, and things”. However, it seems that if designers only ever look at the short list of principles, an eighth principle should be added – Thou shalt make it beautiful!
The design of lighting does more than just overcome darkness. According to David McNair, after food, lighting is the most important factor for supporting physical wellbeing. This is particularly so for older people and people with dementia. McNair, a lighting engineer, has written a book on the topic, Enlighten: Lighting for older people and people with dementia. It is written with care professionals, engineers, architects and designers in mind. Dementia and acquired brain injury can affect visual perception and well designed lighting can help overcome some of these issues. Aged Care Insight has an article about the book and also has a podcast interview with one of the book’s authors.
Editor’s note: The picture shows how the line shadows of the arches fall across the pathway. These can look like steps, or the distant arches can look too small to walk through. Not knowing if there are steps or if the arches are big enough can affect confidence in getting out and about. However, from personal experience, this is a very pleasant area to walk in the evening (Brisbane South Bank).
The Fastcodesign website has another interesting article about design. Every designer has the principles they work by. So they asked eight prominent designers who were either judges of or honored in the 2017 Innovation By Design Awards: “What is the one principle you never compromise on?” The answers are consistent with universal design principles: Good design is both invisible and obvious; Ignore trends; Ban mediocrity, Design to elicit emotion; Articulate your purpose, honestly and explicitly; Users are people not statistics; Design thinking isn’t for designers and; Design for the big idea. See the article for the designers’ explanations.
Tactile models of buildings and spaces are made with blind people in mind to help them orientate in unfamiliar surroundings. Many are found in tourist destinations where they can also provide information about the building or space itself. It turns out that sighted people like to use them and touch them too. While this can cause some problems with inappropriate use, there is another, unexpected up side. The author argues that tactile models may become a “completely valuable, universal tool for learning and a great way of studying architecture in an alternative way”. The article reports on a study of this perspective of tactile models. This is another example that highlights the idea that so-called “designing for the disabled” is in fact, designing for everyone. The title of the article is Tactile Architectural Models as Universal ‘Urban Furniture’. (“Furniture” is a bit misleading in this title).
Smartphones are now the device of choice. Survey question: would you rather give up your smartphone or sex for a year? The answer could surprise you. The video below shows how to present products for sale in a format suitable for smartphones and fast scrolling viewers. Taking a simple photo, or packshot, of the product rarely gives enough information for purchasers on a small screen. The first part of the video gives the answer to the question above. At about ten minutes into the video, Sam Waller explains all the reasoning behind the design of product pictures to give information clearly and quickly. Good for selling and good for buying – inclusive thinking. The thinking behind the designs could be applied to any type of product or service. It makes the information easy to access on a small screen – the device of choice for so many of us. Research is showing we are gravitating to the smartphone in greater numbers and leaving the computer screen behind.
Sam Waller is with the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge and has done extensive research with Unilever on this project. The EDC is also the home of the Inclusive Design Group and the Inclusive Design Toolkit.