Weaving for inclusion

A woman is in a power wheelchair. She is discussing with three other people.Being with, and watching users is the best way to understand how to design software. This is particularly important when focusing on making designs inclusive. A university in Scotland weaves concepts of inclusion and accessible design throughout students’ undergraduate degree gradually introducing them to more complex inclusive design factors. This model could be used in any design discipline. The difficult part is likely to be having teachers who are confident interacting with people with disability and able to support students as they interact with different user groups. The title of the article is “Weaving Accessibility Through an Undergraduate Degree” available from ResearchGate.  

From the conclusion:  “Across all years of our undergraduate programme, we support students to interact with a wide range of users, with a wide range of abilities. Students’ communication with the end users is important, to build confidence on both sides. Students engage with older adults first, as they can typically relate to them more easily and are encouraged to engage in a relaxed environment, e.g. only one note-taker is required. As students progress, they work with users with increasingly complex communication challenges. For students not familiar with disabilities, this can be a difficult experience, and so the communication is supported by teaching and research staff. Students may have personal perceptions of what they expect from this group, but as they build a relationship with the users these initial perceptions are adjusted. This gives our students motivation for the inclusion of accessibility in software development and we aspire for them to champion accessibility within industry and develop inclusive software as a result.”

Abstract: Globally, increasing numbers of people experience accessibility issues related to technology use. At the University of Dundee, we have developed a degree programme that aims to graduate socially-aware computing scientists who can develop for a range of access needs. To achieve this, we engage our students on a supported pathway of exploration, empathy and understanding. Students collaborate with user groups of older adults, adults with aphasia, and users of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC). This practical experience leads to an understanding of the needs of the end-user and the need to develop for ‘people who are not like me’.  

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