Inclusive Design Wheel for transport

The University of Cambridge’s Inclusive Design Team, have applied their Inclusive Design Wheel to transport. As with many frameworks, it lists a step-by-step process, but with a twist. It is a co-design process. The key principle of the Inclusive Design Wheel is that the process is highly iterative and involves users.

The Inclusive Design Wheel for Transport consists of four phases of activity: Manage, Explore, Create and Evaluate

The Inclusive Design Wheel for transport showing the four phases of the framework.

The Wheel is flexible and it is not always necessary to carry out all activities in every iteration. Successive cycles of Explore, Create and Evaluate are used to generate a clearer understanding of needs.

Each of the four phases is broken down into guiding tasks. For example, in the Explore phase, engage with users, examine user journeys, and capture wants and needs. In the Create phase, involve users, stimulate ideas, and refine ideas. In the Evaluate phase, agree success criteria, gather expert feedback and gather user feedback.

The Inclusive Design Wheel is a detailed online toolkit. While some of the steps appear obvious, the step-by-step process keeps you on track. This is a useful tool which can be applied in other contexts.

The underpinning research

The Inclusive Design Team 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 is the result and is applicable to all aspects of public 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.

At first glance the Inclusive Design Wheel looks complex. The research team used feedback from the research project to fine tune the framework to its current form.

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

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.

Digital first and last mile

A young woman is sitting in a bus shelter and looking down the road. The shelter is lit and has an information board.

Many car trips in Australia are less than 2km. So there is room for a re-think in personal e-mobility and digital solutions.  The Future of Place organisation recently ran an online workshop on the digital last mile. It drew together technology and data solutions to support first and last mile experience. The key question was what does the last mile of the future look like? It therefore follows: will everyone be included in the digital first and last mile solutions?

Four guests gave their expertise to the workshop. Katherine Mitchell reminded us that regular commuters have high levels of digital literacy. But not everyone has a smart device. She focused on accessibility, safety, confidence and wayfinding.

Damien Hewitt posed the idea of bus stops offering more local information, not just about transport or timetables. Stephen Coulter discussed the opportunities for micro-mobility and e-mobility. With 12 billion car trips of less than 2km made each year it’s time for transformation.

Oliver Lewis advocated for a greater level of digitisation to manage assets for real time experiences for users. He also introduced the idea of “Digital Twins”. An example of a digital twin is a digital 3D model of a real physical object or process. It helps predict how a product will perform.

Workshop participants gave their ideas via a process of “card-storming”. The results were captured in a document on the Future of Place website. 

Access Audit Handbook

The Royal Institute of British Architects has updated their Access Audit Handbook in conjunction with the Centre for Accessible Environments. Access auditing is an evolving concept and means different things to different people. Some take it as being compliant with a standard while others consider aspects beyond compliance.

The Access Audit Handbook is priced at £40.00 from either the Centre for Accessible Environments or the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Fortunately, the Ergonomics in Design for All Newsletter explains the content of the document. In doing so, the newsletter provides an synopsis of some of the key concepts in the handbook.

Front cover of the access audit handbook.

Similarly to Australian Standards, British Standards only apply to people with disability and do not cover any other groups in terms of access and inclusion. This is despite other groups who fall under anti-discrimination law. The handbook addresses some of these gaps. For example:

Faith spaces, prayer facilities, features relating to women’s safety and their well-being, including pregnancy and menopause, baby feeding and changing, and non-gendered sanitary and changing facilities.

A woman cradles a new baby in her arms. They are both white skinned.

There is guidance on neurodiversity and reducing sensory overload, anxiety and stress, such as quiet rooms. Designers are asked to plan logical wayfinding with straight lines, and create curves rather than corners.

Technology is evolving on building accessibility, space and wayfinding, and auditors need to keep up with these developments. Lift destination control systems are a case in point where people no longer press a button for their floor. The central control system can be very confusing where there is a bank of lifts.

Case studies

The handbook recommends engaging with building users for insights into the level of accessibility and to keep them engaged throughout the project. There are six case studies: a theatre, a zoo, a parish church, a university science lab, and an outdoor space. The case study of an inaccessible heritage town hall shows how to create an accessible community building.

The handbook has 32 checklists for the external environment, internal building space, management and communication.

Thanks to Isabella T. Steffan and Ergonomics in Design for All for the content of this post.

Microsoft’s new inclusive design toolkit

Microsoft wants designers to see beyond physical and sensory disabilities. So they have updated their popular Inclusive Design Toolkit to include cognition – the brain. Cognition is about getting, storing and retrieving information. It’s also about focusing, learning, memorising and making decisions. So how to design for people who process thoughts in different ways?

Microsoft launched it’s first inclusive design toolkit in 2015, but it only focused on physical and sensory disabilities. The second edition takes a broader approach to address cognitive exclusion.

A black and white graphic of stick people in various states of being. Microsoft's Inclusive Design Toolkit

The new toolkit has three key principles for cognition, which can be applied in many other design contexts:

  • Understand the user’s motivation, and the goals and tasks they are trying to complete.
  • Discern the cognitive load required to reduce that mismatch.
  • Co-create the final product with a diverse community of people across the spectrum.
A man wearing a black t-shirt holds his hand to his forehead in an act of desperation.

The toolkit is not about specific industries or specific conditions. Rather it encourages designers to collaborate with users and find out first hand how they learn and think. The Inclusive Design 101 Guidebook has the basics. The Inclusive Design Cognitive Exclusion is a separate document.

The toolkit and guides are useful for anyone who wants to learn how to design inclusively – to take a universal design approach to design.

FastCompany has an article about the Inclusive Design Toolkit’s development. Christina Mallon, Microsoft’s head of inclusive design, discloses that she has ADHD. She couldn’t complete certain tasks and felt stupid. When she learned about inclusive design she realised that she was not stupid, just designed out of products. Now she just wants her job to be just a designer, not an inclusive designer. The title of the article is, Microsoft’s new Inclusive Design Toolkit is designed for the brain.

London Street Accessibility Tool

The City of London Street Accessibility Tool is like an educational access audit report. It shows street designers how street features impact on the different needs of pedestrians. The focus is on people with mobility impairments and wheelchair users, which means everyone wins.

The tool recognises that there are sometimes competing needs: what’s good for one group might not be good for another. Co-design is the best way to find the trade-offs to prevent unintended exclusion.  The tool comes in three parts: two Excel spreadsheets and a PDF downloadable from the City of London website.

A photo showing a footpath lined with black bollards with white tops from the Street Accessibility Tool.
Road and footpath image from the City of London Street Accessibility tool.

Two photos from the “Instructions for Use” PDF document.

Doing the analysis

The PDF document begins with a table of different pedestrian types with and without assistive mobility devices. They cover mobility, sensory and neurodiverse conditions. There are three steps for using the tool.

The case study for the tool is London Wall, a street in London. A 500m long section is analysed for accessibility and is split into six sections. Each section has detailed access advice for improvements with photographs overlaid with dimensions and text to illustrate issues.

Down to the detail

The first spreadsheet has detailed dimensions, colours, and placements for elements such as tactiles, street furniture, and kerbs. All the necessary technical detail is here. 

What pedestrians said

The second spreadsheet is a route analyser and has a column of photos with user feedback about the issues they see. The feedback sheet highlights the “why” of planning and design. It provides insights for planners and designers in a way that that is missed in 2D drawings.

The direct quotes from people with disability provide the necessary insights for planners and designers. However, those responsible doing the actual construction should also have this information. All the access planning and designing goes awry if the “why” isn’t understood by all involved. 

Here are two quotes from the spreadsheet on route comments:

I feel quite wary. This is an unmarked crossing as far as I can see, I can’t see any wait signs. Somebody has stopped for me I can see a cyclist, I’m now onto some more tactile paving, this is the sort of crossing I am totally unfamiliar with. Person using a white cane

This is all fine but the paving stones are a little even so I’d be looking down and watching my speed so I don’t knock into one. Person using a wheelchair

A page of photographs of a section of London Wall in the City of London Street Accessibility Tool.
A page from the London Street Accessibility Tool

Ross Atkin Associates and Urban Movement for the City of London Corporation developed The City of London Street Accessibility Tool (CoLSAT).

Making questionnaires more readable

A young woman sits at a desk with her laptop open. She has her face covered by her hands and is indicating distress. Time to make questionnaires more readable.One area of inclusion and accessibility that often gets forgotten is readability of forms and questionnaires. Academics and marketing professionals regularly use surveys to get information from specific groups of people. Within those groups will be people with varying levels of capability in terms of being able to decipher what’s on the screen or form. And it isn’t all about literacy and reading ability. It’s about the different ways people see and interpret the information. Here are some good tips for making questionnaires more readable from Alex Haagaard in Medium

Likert Scales

Likert scales aren’t great for screen readers because they often interpret them as tables. But much depends on the design of the survey platform. Even if they are screen-readable, Likert scales can be difficult for people who are neurodiverse. People who are autistic or dyslexic struggle with visual tracking across and between rows. This creates the need to exert more brain power to focus on getting the corresponding check box. 

Instead of using a Likert scale, use a series multiple choice questions to capture the same information. Creating page breaks to separate distinct sections of the questionnaire also helps with readability for everyone.

Balancing access conflicts

A hand holding a pen poised on a questionnaire form ready to check a box on the form. There is lots of lines of text and check boxes. As is often the case, making something more accessible for one group can create problems for another. So it’s important to identify these early and eliminate or mitigate the barriers. 

One solution is to provide optional comment boxes where the participant can choose whether to reply in their own words. People who want to quickly complete the questionnaire can skip this.  

Haagaard takes things a step further with a suggestion to provide detailed explanations about terms and concepts at the beginning of each section. However, this is tiresome for screen readers and others might find this overwhelming. Participants can be asked at the beginning of the survey if they would like the key information repeated for each section. Those who say no can have the concise experience.

In summary, Haagaard acknowledges that it is unrealistic to assume that anything can be fully accessible to everyone. That means that there will still be occasions where an alternative means of participating is required. This might be an interview or an email. 

The title of the article is Making Your Surveys More Readable. This is the third in a series on cognitively accessible survey design. 

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. 

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,

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

A middle aged white man wearing glasses

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

Colours that are accessible

Colour diagram showing the three different types of colour vision deficiency

Colour is an important part of designers’ creative work. When it comes to colour accessibility the creative path takes a few twists and turns. That’s because people who say they are ‘colour blind’ are not all the same. Most can see some colours, but not all of them. So how can designers choose colours that are accessible, especially in digital communications?

Adobe has a blog page that explains the importance of choosing colours. Four images show the three different versions of colour vision deficiency, which are:

  1. Protanopia: Referred to as “red weakness,” this variation of red/green color blindness results in individuals being unable to perceive red light.
  2. Deuteranopia: Also known as “green weakness,” this type of red/green color blindness renders people unable to perceive any green light.
  3. Tritanopia: People who suffer from blue/yellow color blindness have difficulty distinguishing between blue and yellow colors. This form of color blindness is far less common than its red and green counterparts.

Graphic designers will appreciate the colour wheels and ways to avoid a conflict of colours. Examples of good colour choices show that designs can still be attractive as well as functional. You can try out the online Material Design accessible colour tool that provides information on colour contrasts for visual material. 

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 it’s organisational culture where the change is needed. Everyone has to have the same universal design mindset. The Danish Design Ladder is one way to apply universal design to organisations.

The 6 steps of the Danish Design Ladder
Extended Danish Design Ladder

Design isn’t just for products and websites. Design thinking is also good for designing business strategies and operations. It shapes the brand and business concept. In short, it is good for business, as Matt Davies says. 

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

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

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

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. 

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

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

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

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 to weave universal design thinking into the fabric of organisations. 

The Brisbane Olympic Games are less than 10 years away. There is talk of wanting them to be the most accessible games ever. The top three rungs of the Ladder, universal design as strategy, change and culture, will be essential for this outcome. The Legacy Strategy moves to the 4th step of the ladder, but the strategy is about places and things, not culture change. 

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. The article is open access. 

Advances in Design for Inclusion

Front cover of the publication.

This book covers several topics in design: universal design; design for all; digital inclusion; universal usability; and accessibility of technologies regardless of users’ age, financial situation, education, geographic location, culture and language.

It has a special focus on accessibility for people with auditory, cognitive, neurological, and visual impairments, ageing populations, and mobility for those with special physical needs.

The title of the book is Advances in Design for Inclusion. It is an academic text, published by Springer, from the proceedings of the International Conference on Design for Inclusion held in Washington DC in July 2019. 

The chapters are diverse and specific. For example, yacht design;  automated vending machines; prisons; parking meters; garden objects; housing; city maps, built environment and much more. Chapters can be purchased separately if you don’t have institutional access.  

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