Designing technology for neurodiverse users

a drawing of matchstick figures in all different colours standing in a line.Neurodiverse people already know they need to be involved the design of emerging technologies from the very beginning and throughout the process. But this isn’t always recognised by designers. A new paper supports their claims and concludes that neurodiverse users should be engaged as active participants “front and center in the research and design process”.

The ten researchers involved in the project say that Human Centred Design works better than the principles of user-centred design. You will need institutional access for a free read from SpringerLink. However, it is also available on ResearchGate.

The title of the paper is, Designing Technologies for Neurodiverse Users: Considerations from Research Practice

Abstract: This paper presents and discusses the perspectives of ten investigators experienced with design of technologies for and with neurodiverse users. Although the advances on emerging technologies improved their potential to assist users with neurodiverse needs, existing methods for participatory design, usability tests and evaluation have been created for, and validated with, able-bodied users.

User-centered design methods are not always well-suited to meet the unique needs of neurodiverse individuals. Therefore, to involve neurodiverse users iteratively in the design process, investigators need to adapt traditional methods from HCI to successfully conduct user studies.

Through an online questionnaire, we identified the experimental designs commonly adopted and the major problems investigators face during recruitment, data collection, analysis and design.

Based on the analysis of the investigators’ experiences, we provide nine recommendations to conduct studies with neurodiverse users, aiming at engaging them as active participants front and center in the research and design process.


Web designers are diverse too

Part of a computer screen showing code.The diversity of users is often discussed in relation to universal design and accessibility. But what about the diversity of web designers and their preferences? A research team in Norway checked this out with software designers and found there are “significant differences in team members’ preferences, particularly for those with different roles”. So, software teams should not choose a single method for all team members when it comes to creating accessible web designs. 

The research report covers an evaluation of methods preferred by developers and those testing for different impairments. Developers preferred more technical methods and personas. Testers who use the WCAG* walk-through regularly did not rate this method highly, perhaps because they find it tiresome. This indicates a need for a different method to be developed.

The title of the paper is What Methods Software Teams Prefer When Testing Web Accessibility, by Bai, Stray & Mork.

*WCAG is the World Content Accessibility Guidelines which are international standards published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Editor’s Note: It is likely that this line of questioning applies to other design fields too.


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