City Access Map

CITY ACCESS MAP is a web application that shows how cities across the world are doing in terms of accessibility. It’s open source and covers any urban area with more than 100,000 residents. It computes walking accessibility down to the block level. It’s a tool for almost anyone who has an interest in cities that have access to services within a 15 minute walk.

A city view of the city access map. Short walking distances are shown in yellow and orange and long distances in purple.
A close up view of a city on the CITY ACCESS MAP

The CITYACCESSMAP is interactive and shows the differences in cities across the globe. For example, it shows that Bogota, Colombia is one of the most accessible cities. Orlando USA on the other hand is one of the least accessible. France is generally accessible with many cities reaching high levels of accessibility.

Australia is represented by Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Searching by city brings a close up view of the suburbs. In Sydney, it shows good accessibility in and around the CBD. However, as expected as you move to outer suburbs accessibility reduces considerably.

It should be noted that the term “accessibility” mainly refers to access to services rather than an accessible built environment. The tool is worth investigating as a planner and administrator in any field. If nothing else, it is interesting to see how countries compare.

For IT people wanting to know the detail of the map design there is more information in a separate section. You can download processed data for any city in the application.

The scientific research is also available and you can contribute to the project by contacting Leonardo Nicoletti.

Co-design is not new

Scandinavians have a reputation for good looking and functional design. But there is a gap in the story of an evolving design culture across society. Designers began involving users in their design processes in the 1970s. So co-design is not new and is not a fad, but it is absent from design history.

Maria Görandsdotter says there are two probable reasons why user-centred design has not been included. One is that history has favoured aesthetics, meanings and impact of design rather than the design process. The other is that little has been written about the way design methods have evolved. It’s all been about Scandinavian design and not designing.

A desk has highlighter pens in different colours, working papers and a smart phone.

… the design methods movement sought to understand and describe ‘the new design methods that have appeared in response to a worldwide dissatisfaction with traditional procedures’.

Görandsdotter traces different histories in her book chapter including collaboration with experts in other fields. The idea that only professional designers should design was challenged at an international conference on design participation in 1971. This is where the lines began to blur between designer and user.

There could be two reasons…

Görandsdotter presents two design histories to open up thinking about what design has been and what it might be in the future. Ergonomic user-centred design methods expanded the role of designers in relation to users. This was linked to Swedish disability legislation and research funding. Participatory design came about as a result of designers’ and users’ co-development of computer-based work tools. It expanded ideas of what design was, how how it happens, and with what kinds of materials. 

For anyone interested in design, and particularly collaborative design, this is an interesting read. It puts co-design into an historical context. In doing so, it shows it is not the latest fashion or fad in designing.

The title of the chapter is, Designing Together: On Histories of Scandinavian User-Centred Design. It is published in the open access book, Nordic Design Cultures in Transformation,1960-1980.

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the emergence of user-centred and participatory Scandinavian design ideas and practices in 1970s Sweden. Many of the concepts and methods still highly present – supported as well as contested – in contemporary design stem from the turn towards collaborative designing through the late 1960s and early 1990s.

However, in Nordic design history, these radical changes in design practice have been more or less invisible. This chapter argues that a shift in perspective is needed in design history in order to address this design historical gap, while also highlighting the historicity embedded in contemporary practices of design.

The two examples of transitional design histories given here aim to open up conceptual spaces necessary for re-thinking what design’s histories could be, also in relation to what designing may be becoming.

The first example highlights how ergonomic user-centred design methods expanded the role of designers and designing in relation to ideas of use and users, linked to Swedish disability legislation and research funding.

The second example discusses how participatory design was called into being as challenges of designers’ and users’ co-development of computer-based work tools expanded ideas of what design was, how and with whom designing took place, and with what kinds of materials.

These transitional design histories aim to expand the views of what is discerned as relevant histories of design, while simultaneously calling attention to the historicity embedded in contemporary and emerging design methods and ideas. Following the traces and trajectories of changing design practices, histories of designing contribute to unpacking concepts central to expanding understandings of what design has been, as well as of what it could become.

Google spells out accessible, inclusive, usable

A woman stands on a stage with a woman sitting behind her. She is making a presentation to an audience. Google spells out accessible, inclusive and usable.It would be good if all designers took their lead from the likes of Apple and Google: inclusion, accessibility and usability are about the design process. Apart from clearly explaining how these terms are linked and can be used together, Google spells out accessible, inclusive and usable in a half hour video 

Infographic showing three groups of disability: permanent, temporary and situational. From Microsoft.
Microsoft infographic: Permanent, temporary, situational disability

The video also has some tips and tools for designers and shows how three different users have the same need: a man with a mobility disability (permanent), a boy with a broken arm (temporary) and a woman with an armful of shopping (situational). Microsoft designed an infographic to illustrate the point. 

Individual situations might be different but they all have the same need for accessibility. And people have the same goals they want to achieve regardless of their situation.

This instructional presentation is aimed at an audience interested in designing apps, particularly the second half of the video. However, the messages in the first half can be applied to other design disciplines. 

Co-designing for the digital world

If you want to create something really useful for intended users, asking them to participate in the design process is a good way to go. And that means the design of anything – guides and toolkits included. From Ireland comes a toolkit for co-designing for the digital world where participants are people with intellectual disability.

A collage of faces from around the world and pictures of smartphones. co-design for the digital world.

A series of iterative workshops involving people with intellectual disability formed the foundation of an accessible design toolkit.

Co-design is important in the area of digital design and computer interaction. However, projects that claim to be user-centred often become technology led rather than user driven. A university in Ireland teamed up with a community service that supports people with intellectual disability. With the guidance of researchers, computer science students and community service users engaged in a co-creation process from which a toolkit was developed.

The collaboration highlighted the need for accessible design resources and training materials for both students and users. While there are many resources on co-design processes, and design thinking, few address people with intellectual disability. Those that do exist are not accessible or suitable for people with intellectual disability.

The toolkit is about co-designing with people with intellectual disability. Two overarching principles emerged. Use simple English with short sentences and simpler grammatical structures. Provide visual aids – icons and images – to overcome literacy limitations.

The paper explains the co-creation process in detail. The authors call the users co-designers, which is confusing because co-design usually means all participants including designers.

Understanding the complex process of consent to participate had to be resolved for the users. Another difficulty was encouraging participants speak up about design flaws or issues.

The title of the paper is, An Inclusive Co-Design Toolkit for the Creation of Accessible
Digital Tools
.

From the abstract

Existing toolkits and resources to support co-design are not always accessible to designers and co-designers with disabilities. We present a study of a co-design process, where computer science students worked with service users with intellectual disabilities. The aim was to create digital applications together.

A series of co-design focus group sessions were conducted with service users previously involved in a co-design collaboration. The information from these sessions was used to devise an accessible design toolkit. This toolkit is intended to generate a sustainable resource to be reused in the student programme at TU Dublin but also in the wider community of inclusive design.

Editor’s comment: Most guides and toolkits are based on well-researched evidence, but the value of the evidence is sometimes lost in technicalities or too many words. A co-design process will seek out the key information that guideline users want and need.

Designing for Diversity and Inclusion

A mosaic of many different faces and nationalities. Designing for diversity.Inclusive design is often misunderstood as designing specifically for people with disability. Similarly, the term “diversity and inclusion” is associated with people from diverse backgrounds. Designing for diversity means both – designing for as many people as possible across age, ability and background

Dan Jenkins makes an important point in his article – the number of excluded people is often underestimated and capability is frequently thought of in terms of “can do” and “can’t do”. However, this black and white approach doesn’t cater for those who “can do a bit” or “could do more” if the design was tweaked. But then there is the role of designers themselves.

The Role of Designers

A page from a report showing that more than 50% of designers are male, and 80% are white.How do we design for the full-spectrum of user experience, if the designers themselves do not present a variety of experience and perspectives? Inherent in their role, user experience designers, or UX designers, are required to design the overall experience of a person using the product.

Fabricio Teixeira and Caio Braga believe that diversity generates diversity. Touching on topics such as diversity in the design industry, inclusion, equality and equity and gender, this series of five articles explores design from within the industry to explore the impact that designers have on people’s lives.

There are five articles in the series, Design is diversity: it’s time to talk about our role as designers:

The benefits of a diverse team

Is diversity a problem in the design industry?

Celebrating our differences and showing you (truly) care about inclusion

The difference between Equality and Equity in design

Ladies That UX on women in design and diversity.

How “the user” frames what designers see

Front cover of book Anthropology in BusinessUniversality in design gets a mention in the Handbook of Anthropology in Business. Megan Neese’s chapter raises a good point about terminology in the business world. She says, “Marketing teams talk about consumers. Research teams talk about respondents. Engineering teams talk about targets. Designers talk about users. These terms tend to be used simultaneously and somewhat interchangeably in corporations…”. So finding common ground is not always easy when developing a product.

Neese’s chapter discusses the many layers needed in any design, such as, culture, function, regulations, industry initiatives, and social trends. It is thoughtfully written and easy to read.

How “the User” Frames What Designers See: What Cultural Analysis Does to Change the Frame” is in the Handbook of Anthropology in Business, 2016.

Diversity, Design and Usability

An infographic wheel with Designing for Diversity at the hub, and the different factors mentioned in the text around the hub.The term ‘Diversity’ is often thought of as a cultural thing just as ‘Accessibility’ is thought of as disability thing. The concept of universal design doesn’t separate these and doesn’t separate them from what’s considered mainstream. That’s the meaning of inclusion and inclusiveness. But let’s not get hung up on the words. 

Diversity covers gender, ethnicity, age, size and shape, income, education, language, culture and customs. There is no Mr or Ms Average – it’s a mythical concept. Dan Jenkins writes about diversity as inclusion for the Design Council and makes this observation;

“Often, it’s a perceived efficiency-thoroughness trade off – a variant of the 80:20 rule, that crudely suggests that you can get it right for 80% of the people for 20% of the effort, while it takes a further 80% of the effort to get it right for the remaining 20%. However, much of the time it is simply that the designers haven’t thought enough about the diversity of the people who wish to interact with the product that they are designing, often because it’s not in the culture of the company.”

Similarly to Kat Holmes, Jenkins says to think of capability on three levels:

1.    Permanent (e.g. having one arm)
2.    Temporary (e.g. an arm injury)
3.    Situational (e.g. holding a small child)

“The market for people with one arm is relatively small, however, a product that can be used by people carrying a small child (or using one of their arms Infographic wheel with Usability in the centre. The next ring has three factors: Sensory, Physical and Cognitive. The outer rim expands on these three aspect.for another task) is much larger. As such, designing for the smaller market of permanent exclusions is often a very effective way of developing products that make the lives of a much wider group of customers more flexible, efficient and enjoyable.”

Jenkins reminds us that all our capabilities will be challenged eventually, either permanently or temporarily. That’s why designers need to think of the one arm analogy in their design thinking. Excellent easy read article from the Design Council. Infographics are taken from the article.

Much of Jenkins’ content is similar to Kat Holmes material and the Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit. There are three articles on this website that feature Kat Holmes:

Typewriters: A device for vision loss.

What does inclusion actually mean?  

What is the meaning of inclusion in inclusive technology?  

Also Kat Holmes book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design,

Inclusive Design Canvas

Many designers know about universal design but don’t yet know what makes a design inclusive and accessible. Two researchers from the Inclusive Design Team in Cambridge embarked on a study to find out how to address this issue. They came up with the Inclusive Design Canvas.

A button link to the Inclusive Design Canvas. Its says, Embrace empathy and get new ideas with the inclusive design canvas.

Guaranteeing inclusive environments for all is a fundamental step towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. The Inclusive Design Canvas is designed to help architects to engage in co-design processes and assess their designs for inclusivity.

The image is from Zallio’s IDEA Toolbox

The key question is, “How is it possible to educate architecture design professionals to reduce points of exclusion for building occupants?” With this in mind, the researchers set out to address the mismatch between design, construction and delivery of a building to meet the principles of inclusion. In short, what resources do architects need to embed inclusive design in the design process?

The researchers ran two workshops with architectural design professionals, many of whom are overloaded with guides and regulations. Consequently, the idea of another design tool was met with ambivalence. But continuing professional development is required and this encouraged participation. This is another case where co-design can educate users while finding out what their issues are.

The title of the article is, The Inclusive Design Canvas. A Strategic Design Template for Architectural Design Professionals. The authors explain the process and the outcomes that lead to the design tool. The key point is that inclusion needs to be embedded within the design process, not left until the end. It also needs to be incorporated into design software. The researchers hope to populate the tool with good examples in the future.

From the abstract

Designing accessible and inclusive buildings is essential if they are to provide enjoyable and inspiring experiences for all their occupants. Many architectural design professionals have a lack of awareness of the aspects to consider when designing. This is limiting the uptake of inclusive design.

This study involved expert stakeholders and provides evidence for the demand to create an Inclusive Design Canvas. This is a design template for building industry professionals to help them embed inclusive design in the design process.

See also Inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility in the built environment: A study of architectural design practice (Zallio and Clarkson, 2021)

There is a technical report that supports the development of the Inclusive Design Canvas. It’s titled, A validation study on the challenges that architectural practitioners face when designing inclusively.

Inclusive Design Wheel: does it work?

The Inclusive Design Team at the University of Cambridge have completed their Dignity project on digital access to transport. They worked in four European cities to see how best to help travellers and providers. The aim of the project was to see how all stakeholders can help bridge the digital gap. They did this by co-creating more inclusive solutions using co-design methods. Their Inclusive Design Wheel was devised as a means to drive and guide a co-design method to improve digital access to transport.

The evolution of paper-based train and bus timetables to digital formats has benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, digital formats offer more detailed information to help plan journeys. On the other, the amount of information can be overwhelming – that is, if you can find what you are looking for. And if you don’t have access to digital services then this format is of no use at all.

A pile of mobile phones

The idea is to create mainstream digital products and services that are usable by as many people as possible.

Policy-makers can use the information to formulate long-term innovative strategies.

The Inclusive Design Team devised a Inclusive Design Wheel which conceptualises the research co-design process. It is another way of presenting participatory action research. The key elements of the Wheel are Explore, Create, Manage and Evaluate.

A graphic showing a complex circular chart with many elements. It looks very academic and take time to read and perhaps understand.

The Inclusive Design Wheel looks very complex. However, it has all the elements described in the Dignity project report.

The Dignity report is long, comprehensive, and uses academic language. It details the methods in all four cities: Ancona Italy, Barcelona Spain, Flanders, Belgium, and Tilbug Netherlands. The Inclusive Design Wheel process was used to develop concepts, prototypes and recommendations for more inclusive mobility services in their regions.

Insights and lessons learnt

The project report is about applying the concepts in the Inclusive Design Wheel itself. Consequently, the feedback was generally about the ease of use and understanding. The key take-away message is that the process itself needs to be simplified.

  • Users of the Inclusive Design Wheel needed better links to the document to find their way around it.
  • There was difficulty in expressing iterative processes without making them look linear in a chart.
  • Personal support was considered valuable by the practitioners and it is likely this will always be needed.
  • Some teams were unclear about which activities were essential and optional.
  • The Cambridge team needed to emphasise the importance of the purpose of the activity. They also needed to encourage teams to carry out the activities.

Editor’s comment: The takeaway message for me is that abstract concepts need to simplified with plain language. While academics might find it easy to express their concepts in charts and words, practitioners want to know what to do. Hence the personal support element appears critical for success. This is particularly important in explaining the purpose and importance of the project activities.

While the Inclusive Design Wheel has merits, it could be simpler to run educative workshops with simplified processes. Fully understanding the concepts of inclusion is a good place to start. Once the concept of designing for all is understood, the rest will more easily fall into place.

Universal design and co-design methods do not easily lend themselves to lock-step methods. Iteration often means the next step isn’t always clear until the current one is completed.

Colour blindness not just genetic

Colour blindness is an eye condition that changes the way people see colours. It doesn’t seem like a big thing to people who have normal colour vision. But when it comes to reading things like maps, it matters a lot. Graphs, maps, diagrams and other graphic information types often rely on colour to differentiate between elements and features.

A pile of brightly coloured squares sit untidily on top of each other. The colours are very bright.

With genetic colour blindness, men are about 16 times more likely to be affected than women. Injury or disease can also affect the ability to see certain colours.

Apart from genetic reasons, some health conditions increase the risk of developing colour blindness later in life. Macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease can all affect colour vision. Because it happens later in life it often gets unnoticed and undiagnosed. Some medications might affect colour vision too. For more, see My Vision guides.

A middle aged white man wearing glasses

You are at greater risk of colour blindness if you are a white male and have family members with colour blindness.

Red-green colour vision deficiency occurs in 1 in 12 males with Northern European ancestry. For women it’s 1 in 200.

The Axess Lab website has some great tips for making graphics more inclusive. For example, putting text into pie charts, and labelling goods with colours not just showing them. Colour contrast matters too as you can see in the picture below.

Pie chart with different colours and their respective labels.
A pie chart with labels
A group of people standing holding a pink banner with the words You are Not Alone, but you can't see the word NOT because it is in pale red and blends into the background colour
A serious colour contrast fail in real life

Readability and colour choice

Colour choice is also a factor in readability. The video below shows how easily we can be deceived by our eyes. It shows how two different shades of grey are actually the same. That’s why you can’t rely on judging contrast by eye.

Danish Design Ladder and universal design

Discussing universal design and inclusive practice helps individuals to understand the concept of inclusion. But the real change is needed in organisational culture. Everyone has to have the same universal design mindset. 

For an organisation to take inclusion seriously, it needs to be embedded into the culture. 

Design isn’t just for products and websites. Design thinking can also be used to design business strategies and operations. It shapes the brand and business concept. 

The Danish Design Ladder is useful for understanding the power of design within organisations. Universal design thinking comes onto the ladder at Rung 3 – Design as a Process. 

Rungs of the Danish Design Ladder

Rung 1 Non-Design:  Design is invisible, product development is done by untrained designers. The user or customer has no part in decisions.

Rung 2 Design as Styling:  After the product is developed it is given to a designer to make it look nice. 

Rung 3 Design as Process:  This is where design is not the result but a way of thinking. Customers are now the focus of the design process. 

Rung 4 Design as Strategy:  Design is embedded in the leadership team to shape the overall business.

Rung 5 Design as Systemic Change:  Design is a way of changing systems to solve complex social problems.

Rung 6 Design as Culture:  Design is a common mindset, as a way to innovate, a way to listen and and a way to lead. 

The Brisbane Olympic Games are less than 10 years away. There is talk of wanting them to be the most accessible games ever. The last three rungs of the Ladder, universal design as strategy, change and culture, will be essential for this outcome. 

An article by Bryan Hoedemaeckers, Are you getting the most out of Design explains more on this. The Ladder is a good way of conceptualising how universal design thinking can be woven into the fabric of organisations. 

Australian researchers used the Danish Design Ladder in an action research project. The title of their paper is, Climbing the Design Ladder; Step by step.  The researchers discuss other intermediate “steps” for bringing about culture change. 

 

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