Clever design for assistive devices

A mannequin bust with hands showing the bracelets and necklace for the GPS. 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.  

Designing inclusively with emotional intelligence

Patricia Moore sits on a park bench looking in her handbag. She has a walking cane and is wearing a black hat an blue overcoat. She looks like she is 80 years old but she is 27.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,
6(2), 6-12.

Where would you like to sit?

brightly coloured simple folding chairs in an outdoor cafe setting.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?  

Open Sesame! Packaging made easy

Exploded view of the package and all its partsIn 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 UD

Internal view of a driverless car showing seats facing both back and forward.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.  

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).

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.

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%.

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. 

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.