Guide for body shape and size

A page from the Guide for body shape and size.How much do our body shapes and sizes differ? A lot. But if you only know a few different shapes and sizes, how will you know if your design is inclusive? A guide for body shape and size is a useful reference.

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a set of information sheets on body shape and size. They guide designers in how to apply these factors in their work to achieve more universally designed products and services.

The overview of the guideline project explains the importance of considering body shape and size in designs. For governments and other institutions it helps with the selection and procurement of everyday products such as street furniture. Designing for the extremes of body shape and size affords extra convenience for all users. It also helps avoid user discomfort, embarrassment and even harm. There are five fact sheets

A related academic paper from 2014 takes body size and shape further and applies it to mobility devices. The guide to the circulation requirements for various wheeled mobility devices is from Denmark. It includes research on the spatial needs for parking as well as toilets and building entries as well as accessible paths of travel.

Charts with dimensions of the various mobility types is included and includes tables for children and the bariatric population. The guide also discusses the need to think to the future of mobility devices and not assume that the size and styles will remain the same. 

Person-environment fit using the ICF 

Making the environment fit for all regardless of capacity is an important goal for public health efforts. But valid methods for measuring accessibility are currently lacking. This study aims to address this lack. Using the ICF as a conceptual framework, a typology of person-environment fit was developed along three dimensions: 1) accessibility problem range and severity; 2) aspects of functioning; 3) environmental context.

Front cover of the ICF. Red with white text.

Abstract background

Making the built environment accessible for all regardless of functional capacity is an important goal for public health efforts. Considerable impediments to achieving this goal suggest the need for valid measurements of accessibility and for greater attention to the complexity of person-environment fit issues.

 

To address these needs, this study aimed to provide a methodological platform, useful for further research and instrument development within accessibility research. This was accomplished by the construction of a typology of problematic person-environment fit constellations, utilizing an existing methodology developed to assess and analyze accessibility problems in the built environment.”

Download Typology of person-environment fit constellations: a platform addressing accessibility problems in the built environment for people with functional limitations.

Article by Björn Slaug, Oliver Schilling, Susanne Iwarsson, and Gunilla Carlsson

Inclusive Design Toolkit for designers

five members of the inclusive design group stand behind a table with the toolkit displayed. Each person is holding a card with a word. The words spell out 10 years inclusive design toolkit.
Left to right: Joy Goodman-Deane, Sam Waller, Mike Bradley, Ian Hosking, and John Clarkson.

The Inclusive Design Toolkit has proved to be an invaluable tool for designers since it’s inception in 2007. The updated version includes the exclusion calculator which shows how many potential users might be excluded. This makes it a great toolkit for designers in any field.

The news bulletin from the Engineering Design Centre that produces the Toolkit and other resources has information on:

    • The tenth anniversary of the Inclusive Design Toolkit and what has been achieved in that time.
    • New exclusion calculator for better assessment for vision and dexterity.
    • E-commerce image guidelines for mobile phone viewing.
    • Impairment simulator software for vision and hearing is now very handy for showing how vision impairments look and sound.

Cover of the book Inclusive design toolkitThe Engineering Design Centre has made great progress in inclusive design. It began by working with business to show the benefits of including as many people as possible in the design. The design team continue to break new ground keeping users at the centre of the process

An article in the Inclusive Design Toolkit Bulletin explains how a student redesigned the chip packet for easier opening. A beer and a packet of chips is a simple pleasure for most. But if you can’t open the chip packet then not so pleasurable. This is a problem for more people than you might think. 

Two gadgets to help designers, gloves and glasses, are available. Using a pack of Post-it Notes, Sam Waller demonstrates in the video below how many people will find it impossible to remove the cellophane wrapping. A good example of including people with low vision and/or arthritis is good for everyone and increases market size.

 

Tool for overcoming bias in design

A magnifying glass is held over a grid montage of human faces. Overcoming bias in design.Everyone has a bias. Our biases can lead us to fall into the traps that create unintended barriers or inconveniences for users. Recognising biases in our outlook is the key to countering them in design processes. Airbnb Design has a tool for overcoming bias in design. 

It’s a human trait to hold on to initial evidence more strongly than information we gather later on. Then we fit our interpretation of the world to match that initial evidence, regardless of what else we might learn as time passes. This can prevent the process of designing inclusively.

Airbnb Design partnered with journalists from News Deeply and came up with a toolkit for designers. Another Lens is a research tool for conscientious creatives. “We believe that both designers and journalists have the responsibility to shine a light on their bias by asking the right questions, seeking conflicting viewpoints, and expanding their lens to build inclusive, global solutions”.  

Three principles underpin the thinking process: balance your bias, consider the opposite and embrace a growth mindset. All good principles for universal design thinking. The website tool is simple to use, poses critical questions and provides the thinking behind it. 

It’s the way the brain processes things

A globe atlas of the world sits on a desk and lined up in front are small dolls representing different countriesDr Belina Liddell argues that culture may affect the way your brain processes everything. And that is important. The term “culture” is a very complex web of dynamic systems – beliefs, language and values, and also religion, socio-economic status and gender may play a part too.

Liddel explains how culture makes a difference to the way we not only perceive things intellectually, but visually as well. All this is from the emerging field of cultural neuroscience.  Now we have new acronym to deal with, WEIRD – Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic. The article also discusses refugee populations. See the ABC science website for more on this interesting article. 

 

Accessibility with help from Standards

The ISO Guide 71 eleven goals of accessibility.
Slide showing the 11 accessibility goals.

Who wants to refer to the instruction manual if they can avoid it?  In the same way, standards documents get overlooked unless it’s mandatory to comply. But there is one standards document that is worth looking at. It can help us progress accessibility and universal design. On day two of UD2021 Conference, Emily Steel explained how the international accessibility standard works. 

Emily Steel pointing to the 11 Goals of the Guide on the presentation slide.
Emily Steel with the 11 Goals of the Guide.

The international standard has done all the thinking for us. The document guides standards committees as they write and update standards for their specific industry or profession. It is also useful for any committee developing guides or standards for accessibility and universal design. So, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. 

The Guide’s use of the the term “accessibility” relates closely to universal design. “The extent to which products, systems, services, environments and facilities can be used by people from a population with the widest range of characteristics and capabilities to achieve a specified goal in a specified context of use”. 

The Guide has two main parts. The first describes user needs and 11 accessibility goals. These are similar to the 8 Goals of Universal Design. The second describes human characteristics and abilities, and design considerations. 

Guide 71 was adapted by the European standards authority and is titled, CEN-CENLEC Guide 6. It is basically the same information. You can see a previous post about this document. 

There is also an Accessibility Masterlist by Gregg Vanderheiden. It’s a collaborative resource for understanding access features in digital applications. Also worth a look.

All standards should ensure they meet the goals of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Guide 71 shows how to do this.

 

European universal design standard

Front cover of the Design for All standard.Universal design is a design thinking process so a universal design standard is a contradiction in terms. Standards are fixed where universal design is a continuous improvement process. However, where designers cannot grasp the concept of an inclusive thinking process, a set of design directions is needed. Hence a new European universal design standard for products, goods and services.

The standard sets out requirements and recommendations for extending the customer base for products and services. It’s for organisations that design and manufacture products and/or provide services. The aim is to ensure products and services are available to the widest range of users possible.

Diverse user needs, characteristics, capabilities and preferences area all covered. It is based on processes of user involvement and building on accessibility knowledge. The standard can also be used for complying with legislation and to advance corporate social responsibility. 

The standard was developed by Ireland’s National Disability Authority that houses the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. The document has the title “design for all” which is a recognised European term, but notes that universal design, barrier-free-design and transgenerational design are the same thing. 

Design for All – Accessibility following a Design for All approach in products, goods and services – Extending the range of users can be purchased from the standards authority

There is a media release explaining a little more. 

Personas for digital technology

12 Faces representing the 12 personas.There’s nothing like asking potential users what they think of a new product. Even better if you involve them in the design process. But sometimes it’s not possible and designers resort to personas. This is often the case in digital technology. The Inclusive Design Toolkit has a suite of 12 personas representing a broad view of potential users. Each one has a story to tell about their lifestyle and their connection to technology.

Many factors affect digital exclusion: prior experience, competence, motivation and general attitude about technology. The personas highlight these factors to make it easier for designers to be inclusive. Each persona has a description of their lifestyle, competency with technology, and physical and sensory capabilities. 

The online resource is part of the Inclusive Design Toolkit with the option to download a PDF. You can take a deeper dive into the personas as a family set. This takes personas one step further by introducing family interactions. The Inclusive Design Toolkit also has an exclusion calculator that estimates the number of people unable to use a product or service. 

Cover of the book Inclusive design toolkitThe Inclusive Design Toolkit is based on thorough research over more than ten years. The personas were produced as part of a project to improve the inclusivity of railway journeys. 

The team wrote a conference paper about using personas for product development. 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. 

 

Playmobile helps with design translation

Playmobile figure in a bed with a doctor figure standing by.Doctors and architects speak different languages. That’s understandable – they’ve been to entirely different schools. We can get by in a foreign country with gestures. But when it comes to communicating detail we need a phrasebook. Similarly, architects and health professionals a similar tool – Playmobile. It helps with design translation. 

Using Playmobile figures and 3D printed beds and hospital equipment designers and medical staff can shape the spaces together. Not everyone can grasp the concept of spaces on a two-dimensional drawing. Likewise, designers do not have an intimate understanding of how clinics work. But everyone has played with toys. 

This is a great example of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The short article on FastCompany doesn’t mention this specifically, but it follows the basic tenets: multiple means of engagement, representation and expression. 

This is not a new idea – Lego has been used in other situations.

Online hearing and vision simulators

Picture of a coffee machine in a cafeEver wondered what it is like for someone with hearing loss trying to be part of a conversation in a restaurant? Or wondered what it is like to try and read a transit map if you have glaucoma?  Now you can check this out using online hearing and vision simulators to get the idea of the way things sound and look.

The Inclusive Design Group at the University of Cambridge have come up with a hearing simulator that covers mild, moderate and severe hearing loss in five different settings: restaurant, classical music, rock music, a ringing phone, and a station platform announcement. Similarly, the vision simulator includes the main vision impairments including macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. 

You can also use their Exclusion Calculator for vision, hearing, thinking, dexterity, reach and stretch and locomotion, to see how many people might be excluded if not thought about in the early stages of design. You can set the calculator for multiple capacities, such as sight, hearing, thinking and locomotion – all of which are needed to negotiate public transport, for example. A very useful tool for any designer.

 

Colours for colour blindness

Title of the blog article using light blue and dark blue colours.Colour is often used in charts, maps and infographics, but what if you can’t see some colours? One in twelve men are colour blind, but not for all colours or the same colours. Infographics are becoming more popular as a means of explaining things. So choosing the best colours is to everyone’s advantage. Venngage website has an good guide and lots of tips on making charts more accessible. It shows the three types of colour blindness and compares them with normal vision. Different colour palettes are provided along with templates. The blog page includes links to other resources. Colour combinations to avoid include:

    • Red & green
    • Green & brown
    • Green & blue
    • Blue & gray
    • Blue & purple
    • Green & gray
    • Green & black

Most colour blind people can detect contrast, so as a last resort, if you must use these colours, make the contrast as strong as possible. Patterns and textures also work. The article is titled, How to use color blind friendly palettes to make your charts accessible.  Colour blindness is technically referred known as colour vision deficiency (CVD). 

Another resource for map colour by Tedora Zareva is useful too. You can also find out more about CVD or colour blindness from going to the National Eye Institute website

Four circular charts showing how people with colour deficiency see different colours on the colour wheel

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:

You understand me? Maybe

Front cover of the toolkit with three overlapping circles, bright pink, purple and turquoise.This toolkit about communicating with customers follows its own advice. The information is written in a straightforward way. Lots of graphics illustrate key points, and the information is very specific, such as when to write numbers as digits or as words. While the information might not be new to some, it serves as a good reviser of current practice. Designed for organisations but good for everyone.

The Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach has sections on written, verbal and digital communication. At 134 pages it is comprehensive. Each section has examples, tips, checklists and links to learn more. The intention of the toolkit is for public service planning, training and informing contractors. But of course, it works for anyone who is communicating with the public. 

Another great resource from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland. Interesting to note that they have chosen colours for the cover and their logo that almost everyone can see – that includes people with colour vision deficiency.

Accessibility Toolbar