Inclusion through UX

User Experience & Usability

detail-from-sketchnote-by-Dr-Makayla-LewisSystem Concepts and Alzheimer’s Society co-host event marking World Usability Day 2017

Our offices were packed to the gunnels back in November, when we co-hosted an ‘Inclusion through UX’ event with the Alzheimer’s Society, to celebrate World Usability Day 2017. Inclusion was the core theme of the annual World Usability Day programme, so it was great to see such a high level of interest from the UX community.

The fantastic speaker line-up included Rik Williams and Imogen Levy from the Alzheimer’s Society, Hellen Bowey from Alcove, visually-impaired musician Andre Louis, and Swetha Sethu-Jones and Mickela Perera from System Concepts. And after the fascinating talks, everyone had the opportunity to try out assistive technologies first hand.

Inclusion through UX: event recap and digital sketchnote

Dr Makayla Lewis has kindly created the digital sketchnote below, neatly summarising two of the talks from the evening.

digital sketchnote of the inclusion through ux event

Talk 1: Dementia UX and user research

The first talk of the evening was presented jointly by Alzheimer’s Society and System Concepts. It highlighted the impact of dementia in the UK, and how people affected by it may have multiple impairments due to older age.

alzheimers society logoThe charity has multiple audience groups (carers, family members, those concerned about dementia, and those living with dementia). While some of these might need access to detailed information quickly, others need information to support their emotional journey through the diagnosis. The talk shared some learnings from the recent website usability research that System Concepts undertook for Alzheimer’s Society.

Access the talk slides on Slideshare.


Talk 2: Insights into accessibility: a conversation with musician Andre Louis

In Andre Louis’ interactive talk, he shared his personal experiences as a visually-impaired musician, of using a smartphone with a screen reader. He showed us examples of what it’s like to use apps such as Facebook, including a new feature that recognises objects in images and translates these into text.

Andre also shared examples of how he uses Facetime differently, e.g. he sometimes uses Facetime with a friend to show them his surrounding area, so they can easily find him. He also talked about the EnvisionAI app where he can take a photo of something and the app tells him what the photo contains.

Talk 3: How tech can enable inclusion and independent living

The final talk by Hellen Bowey from Alcove focused on how technology can enable inclusion and independent living. Hellen highlighted how smart technology can be designed to focus on the people in need of care, rather than just the care givers – thus providing more independence.

girl and older woman brandish toy gunsHellen demonstrated how in-residence technology is often dated and not necessarily helpful for the user. She made many interesting points, such as that people receiving care don’t necessary like wearing a big red alarm button around their neck, or may not remember to put on wearable tech (which could run out of battery power whilst they’re out and about!)

Alcove addresses these different problems and needs through a range of products using smart tech – providing an intermediary between citizens, carers, communities and the social care system.

So, why is accessibility important?

Mickela Perera, a Principal UX Consultant at System Concepts, reminded everyone why inclusion and accessibility are such important principles.

  • Disability is common: Almost one in five of the world’s population has some kind of disability. Many people will also have temporary disabilities – for example, a sprain in your dominant hand, from time to time.
  • Accessibility impacts your brand reputation: These days, people expect organisations to do the right thing – and doing the right thing protects your brand reputation, too. No one likes to be excluded. For disabled people in particular, digital services have been great enablers, making it possible for them to become more independent. For example, in the past, someone with physical disabilities may have needed help to do their grocery shop, but now they may be able to make their purchases online (so long as the website is accessible!).
  • Accessibility is a legal obligation: The Equality Act makes it unlawful to provide a service that is not accessible to everybody. The legislation is clearly applicable to information and services supplied via the internet and includes digital tools used by employees. In the UK, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has taken action over non-compliant websites (without naming and shaming the companies yet).
  • Accessibility makes financial sense: In the UK, there are nearly 10 million people with disabilities, with a collective disposable income of nearly £50 billion [Source: Institute of Employment Studies]. By not making your digital products accessible, you are turning away this large portion of potential customers.

Five takeaways for inclusive UX

Once the scene had been set by Mickela and the Alzheimer’s Society, Swetha Sethu Jones, also a Principal UX Consultant at System Concepts, recommended the following key takeaways from the event.

  1. Involve your team in the research – inclusive design needs to be embedded in the company culture.
  2. Inclusion emphasises that accessibility is not a separate aspect of design, or an afterthought.
  3. Accessibility is not just about getting the code right. Observe how your digital service is used by real people.
  4. It’s not just pure user research and design, it’s a cultural process. Consider the business, technology and team needs when planning your digital strategy.
  5. Inclusion of target users with different abilities in research and design, also uncovers usability issues.

Be inspired by our attendees’ pledges

During the inclusion through ux event, we asked attendees to make a pledge for World Usability Day. Here is a selection of the pledges made:

  • Use Funkify app (chrome browser extension) to illustrate aspects of digital inclusion to my team”
  • “Buy a gadget for mum” (presumably inspired by Alcove and technology aiding independent living!)
  • “Be more aware about language” (likely inspired by the talk on the Alzheimer’s Society website and how the language and tone of voice is really important, and should consider the context of use)
  • “Make more effort to learn about assistive technologies” and “Turn on the Android Talkback app on my phone to see how bad our apps are” (TalkBack is the screenreader software for Android devices)
  • “Talk about inclusive design at work, where people are still considering it” and “Find more ways to involve/engage the team in inclusive research”

Thanks for coming – we hope to see you again!

If you came to this ‘Inclusion through UX’ event, we’d like to say a warm “thank you”. The feedback gathered during and after the event was very positive, with attendees appreciating the relaxed atmosphere and refreshments, the knowledgeable speakers and the range of topics covered.

Due to the sheer popularity of the evening, our office space and screen display did present some challenges – we appreciate your constructive feedback, and will address these points for future events!

Some of you had asked us for links to slides and further information. We hope this article fulfils that need and provides some useful takeaways, and we’ve also included some useful links on the right of this page.

Thanks again for coming along, and we hope to see you at our future UX events!

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