Design for Inclusivity: assessing the accessibility of everyday products
Author: Cardoso, Carlos
Supervisor: Clarkson, P. John
Institution: Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
This research addresses the improvement of accessibility assessment methods during the design process when real end-users are not readily available. Time, cost and logistical constraints imposed upon typical design projects prevent many designers from working directly with end-users. Consequently, a large number of designers resort to intuitive and informal (Self-observation) approaches when evaluating the ease of use of the designs they create. This results in design solutions that often cause ‘avoidable’ levels of discomfort, or even exclusion, to the growing older adult population and people with physical and psychological impairments. This incompatibility, between the products attributes and these users’ characteristics, culminates in an increasing market of dissatisfied consumers, bringing commercial and legislative disadvantages for a wide range of industries. The generally inadequate design response to the requirements and aspirations of these large potential markets, suggests that designers are either not aware of their needs, or else they lack the tools to tackle the problem in real-life project circumstances. This research set out to investigate ways of influencing designers’ Self-observation approaches to accessibility evaluations. Two new supplementary assessment methods have been developed during the implementation of three studies. Each of these comprised the participation of real users and designers interacting with several everyday products. The methods introduced to the group of designers aimed at prompting them to perform more objective and informed accessibility assessments of everyday products. The research showed that in general the new methods enabled designers to find a significant number of accessibility problems, which had been previously overlooked during informal self-observation evaluations. Most of these problems had also been identified by the real end-users taking part in the studies.
This thesis will present the outcomes of the complete research project, concluding with the presentation of further work, which could facilitate the broadening of the proposed tools to better suit the specific assessment requirements of practising designers.