Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

The Research Thing - Inclusive User Research - Focus on Accessibility

This week I ‘attended’ the last event of the year with The Research Thing.

The first speaker was Tim Smith from HiMumSaidDad. He is fascinated by how people interact with things, particularly cars.

He started by talking about two different types of accessibility. The first, practicable accessibility I think most people are aware of. It includes, for example, making sure text is big enough and of good contrast to read; making sure screen readers can access websites correctly; and traffic lights that beep when it is safe to cross.

The second type of accessibility, emotional accessibility is much less acknowledged. For instance when there is segregation between able bodied people and people with disabilities.

An example of this is how wheelchair users have to board buses towards the back of the bus rather than at the front with all the other passengers. They have to board by a different door, they might be forgotten or ignored by the driver and there is a certain amount of ‘fuss’ as the bus suspension is lowered and a ramp appears, which might put people off using the service.

He then went on to talk about how driverless cars can be designed for all sorts of human needs, whether that is including wing mirror nubs (they don't need wing mirrors) to help visually impaired people find the door to let themselves in, to making windows interactive to encourage passengers, especially children, to look out of the windows instead of at their gadgets, reducing travel sickness.

The second talk was by Jenni Parker and Ali Fawkes from Humanly. They talked about how to design for and with people with learning disabilities.

Ali started by talking us through a case study for Daybook.

They needed to speak to a really wide range of people which meant visiting a lot of different groups. This also meant that they had to deal with many different needs and abilities.

Although they had plans for each session they made sure to be as flexible as possible, always having a massive toolbox of activities which they could use at any point if what they had planned to do did not get the response they had hoped for.

Jenni then went through some of the things they had learnt for before, during and after a session.

Before a session she suggested making sure you have expert help if you have not worked with this group of people before. Jenni also suggested making sure you understand communication needs and preferences before hand and making the sessions fun and creative.

During the session make sure everyone understands they do not have to join in if they do not want to and make it rewarding for them. If you ask them to create something, take photos and allow them to keep it.

After the session make sure to analyse what you found with assistance - family or staff. They sometimes pointed out discrepancies in what the person said and what really happens. Make sure to let them know how what they did helped you.

It was a really interesting session, giving me lots to think about (I had not heard of emotional accessibility before) and some great hints and tips for working with people with disabilities. Thanks to everyone for making it happen.

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