What is the meaning of inclusion in inclusive technology?

Line drawing of jon and kat. They re both wearing jackets and scarves around their necks. A very interesting conversation between a WordPress designer and an advisor to Automattic where they discuss inclusion and how people understand the concepts of inclusive design in different ways. They claim that a diverse team does not necessarily mean that diversity will be reflected in designs – it is a company-wide culture change that is needed. “Success is when inclusive design is the default way to design any aspect of society.” The conversation is between John Maeda of WordPress, and Kat Holmes the advisor to Automattic. Nicely written, large text, lots of good points and tips, and easy to read with extra links at the end of the article.  

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Can everyone hear me?

People sit around round tables discussing questions. There are four round tables shown in this pictureFinding a way to include people who are hard of hearing in workshops, brainstorming sessions and similar events is not easy. Time delays with live captioning and signing tend to reduce the spontaneity of contributions when working with people with normal hearing. Researchers have developed a device to help overcome these issues and provide instant talk to text. In the process they found some interesting things about the way hard of hearing and deaf people communicate. It seems electronic instant speech to text does not always work well for this group. Captioning provided by a living person cuts out all the ums and ahs and hesitations, but an electronic device does not. This makes comprehension difficult, especially for people who do not generally communicate this way. The article, Live-Talk: Real-time Information Sharing between Hearing-impaired People and People with Normal Hearing charts the development of prototypes involving users throughout. As always, a reminder that one in six people experience hearing loss. This is not a small group. Older rock stars such as Roger Daltrey, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins have gone public about their hearing loss.

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Less is more on websites

A computer screen advertising the Jaws for Windows screen reading software.A study of blind users of websites has found that getting straight to the point is better for finding relevant information. Isn’t this a good criteria for everyone? With so much of our lives dependent on digital delivery methods, is it time for writers to carefully edit their work, and for web designers to minimise graphics? The article, Web accessibility: Filtering redundant and irrelevant information improves website usability for blind users, reports on a study of blind users and screen readers. As with captioning for people who are deaf, it is likely that considering blind users will also have benefits for many others. You will need institutional access for a free read.

Abstract: Accessibility norms for the Web are based on the principle that everybody should have access to the same information. Applying these norms enables the oralization of all visual information by screen readers used by people with blindness. However, compliance with accessibility norms does not guarantee that users with blindness can reach their goals with a reasonable amount of time and effort. To improve website usability, it is necessary to take into account the specific needs of users. A previous study revealed that a major need for users with blindness is to quickly reach the information relevant to the task, by filtering redundant and irrelevant information. We conducted three experiments in which seventy-six participants with blindness performed tasks on websites which filtered or not irrelevant and redundant information. Cognitive load was assessed using the dual-task paradigm and the NASA-RTLX questionnaire. The results showed a substantial benefit for information filtering regarding participants’ cognitive load, performance, and satisfaction. Thus, this study provides cogent arguments for improving usability of websites by information filtering for users with blindness.

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Tool to assess usability of smartphones

A black smartphone being held landscape with a blank white screenSmartphones could almost be considered “wearables” given that most people carry one at all times and refer to it often. Whether it is to socialise, get information, shop, or watch entertainment, they are a prominent part of many lives. Having easy to access content is now essential. It is therefore a growing area of universal design. Researchers in South Korea have tested and piloted a Checklist for Assessing Blind Users Usability of Educational Smartphone Applications.  Their paper is a chapter in a SpringerLink publication and requires institutional access for a free read, or it can be purchased. The abstract provides a good overview of the method and the results.

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to develop a checklist which specifically evaluates blind users’ usability of educational smartphone applications. To carry out this task, researchers developed checklist items based on the previous usability literature, evaluation tools, and research on e-learning and Web accessibility for users with/without blindness. As a result, a checklist with 29 items covering three levels of interface design (structure, behavior, presentation) was developed. In order to accomplish this, usability principles were first categorized into these three levels and then transformed to become relevant to the blind user. The initial version of the usability checklist items was reviewed and evaluated for their representativeness and comprehensibility by interface design experts and teachers of blind learners. Content validity index (CVI) and Cronbach αα values were calculated to check the validity and reliability of the tool. The revised second version was reviewed in the same way by a group of blind users, and CVI and Cronbach αα values were calculated as well. The final version was implemented by the blind user group for evaluating two learning applications. Reviewers’ comments were reflected in the second and final version as well. Evaluation results indicated low usability for both applications even when accessibility requirements were met.

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Inclusive video gaming

A young woman avatar with yellow hair and a white dress with yellow flowers holds out her arm that is a black prosthesisA recent article in The Guardian explains how video game developers are designing avatar elements to be more representative of population diversity. There is a growing realisation that choice of skin tone, gender, ethnicity or physical ability for a character is important to players for the “looks like me” appeal. Games are a key element of childhood and teenage life, so it is important to have avatars that represent them. Xbox now have avatars that allow players to depict themselves as wheelchair users or having prosthetic limbs, as well as other atributes such as body shape and skin colour. The article includes a section on gender non-conforming players using gaming as a means for helping them with their coming out process. Games are also a way for children to share time with others when they might not be able to communicate verbally. The article nicely counters arguments about diversity being a fad or holding back creativity:

“When people dismiss representation as a political fad, as an imposition on the creative process, as a means of ticking off lists, they are almost always doing this from a position of privilege. The argument that it’s not the gender, ethnicity or physical abilities of a character that are important, but whether they’re written well and fun to play, is easier to make if you’re already being comfortably represented. It is easy to assume your experience is universal. But it isn’t.” 

A young male and young female are depicted as wheelchair usersA very readable article covering the diversity spectrum in gaming. Short explanatory videos are included.

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Inclusive Digital Access: An inclusive training method

A blackboard with the words, I want to learn more about information science and technologyWalking the walk and talking the talk in training sessions is an important factor in adult learning. So when running a course on digital access, the course designer and facilitator needs to think about both their learners as well as the learners of those taking the course. The way to do this was the subject of an interesting Masters study in Canada using ethnographic techniques. The conclusion lists some useful points that every course designer and trainer should think about regardless of the topic.

In her introduction, Keshia Goodwin makes some pertinent points, “The result of a design is dependent on the outlook of the designer, and the design process they use. In very general terms, standard designs follow the standard design iteration process: define the problem, collect information, brainstorm and analyse, develop, test, revise, repeat. The designer continues this process until the design performs as expected. There may, or there may not be feedback from the potential user of the design while the designer tests for solutions.”
“While developing my design I learned that not only did the learners need to be aware of what an end user may need; I, the instructor, needed to be conscious of, and accommodate learning barriers to my end users. I needed to be inclusive in my instructional approach, and, be accommodating to what my audience may need when I delivered training. The design, at that point, had come full circle, being inclusive and accessible to learners, and to the learner’s future audience”

The title of the study is, Inclusive Access: An Inclusive Design Approach to Digital Accessibility Skills Training

 

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Empathetic understanding using virtual reality

Against a dark starry background a young woman in a dark top looks upwards through transparent gogglesRemarkable website has posted an article titled, Building the Ultimate Learning Engine for Empathetic Understanding. It all sounds interesting especially as attitudes to people with disability and older people are ingrained and hard to shift. Perhaps this virtual reality tool will help. The website says, “Equal Reality’s interactive VR app teaches you to recognise unconscious bias by putting you in a scenario where you are on the receiving end unconscious bias. Immersed in the scenario, you’re required to signal when you think you’re receiving this bias. The whole experience is designed to trigger empathy, then reflect on your experience.”

There is a demo app available

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Advances in design for inclusion – book

Front cover of the book: yellow background with dark blue text.This book is practice-orientated and covers many fields of design.The overview of this publication states, “This book focuses on a range of topics in design, such as universal design, design for all, digital inclusion, universal usability, and accessibility of technologies independently of people’s age, economic situation, education, geographic location, culture and language. … Based on the AHFE 2016 International Conference on Design for Inclusion, held on July 27-31, 2016, in Walt Disney World®, Florida, USA, this book discusses new design technologies, highlighting various requirements of individuals within a community. Thanks to its multidisciplinary approach, the book represents a useful resource for readers with different kinds of backgrounds and provides them with a timely, practice-oriented guide to design for inclusion.” You can download the promotional flyer or go to the link allows you to download the Table of Contents.

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Designing for Diversity

Design UK Week's career and salary survey (2016) found that over half of the designers are men and nearly 90% are whiteInherent in their role, UX, or user experience designers are required to design the overall experience of a person using the product. But, how do we design for the full-spectrum of user experience, if the designers themselves do not present a variety of experience and perspectives?

Fabricio Teixeira and Caio Braga have created a series to consider the topic of Diversity and Design through the belief that diversity generates diversity. Touching on topics such as diversity in the design industry, inclusion, equality & equity and gender, this series explores design from within the industry in order to to explore the impact that designers have on people’s lives.

Go to the series, Design is diversity: it’s time to talk about our role as designers.

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Digital Inclusion: Lessons from Australia

shows corner of a laptop and a smartphone on a deskProfessor Gerard Goggin’s latest publication about internet accessibility covers some history of digital inclusion in Australia as well as related social policy. He and his co-authors discuss how the legal action taken against the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games set a new standard in providing information in accessible formats. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) cites this case as how not to do web accessibility in “A Cautionary Tale of Inaccessibility: Sydney Olympics Website” (W3C, 2009).

However, little progress has been made since the Olympic Games in 2000 as any reporting on web accessibility compliance within the Australian government appears absent. In the United States, legislation is pushing the boundaries, but no such legislation exists in Australia. The article, Internet accessibility and disability policy: lessons for digital inclusion and equality from Australia, also discusses the nexus with the National Broadband Network, the NDIS, and other aspects of social policy. The article concludes, “As the Australian case shows, all these broader social aspects are important coordinates, when it comes to internet policy for digital inclusion to people with disabilities”.

Professor Goggin was a Keynote speaker at the 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference in 2016. You can download an edited transcript.

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