Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Design for Everyone : Interaction Design for Differently-Abled

Usefulness is not impaired by imperfection
Imagine a world with improved interaction, design of everyday things for differently able, bringing them to be a part of a country’s economic growth. This area has immense scope for designers from all disciples especially Interaction Design to benefit a social group that has not yet been able to access the full benefits of technology.

Wikipedia defines Interaction design: the structure and content of communication between two or more interactive "beings" to understand each other. Designing interaction for the applications, websites usable for differently able people aims in bringing millions of people in developing the country. Taking only the Indian context: According to WHO figure, 10 % of the Indian population is physically challenged; the Spastic Society quotes 70 million people with disabilities. The idea is to create a common platform embracing the technology and Interaction, gesture study of the differently able .Create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances and beyond.
Broadly this can be categorized in broad groups i.e physical disability, sensory disability etc( Accessibility is a challenge for people with disabilities. Differences in cognitive ability, sensory impairments, motor dexterity, and behavioral and social skills must be taken into account when designing interfaces using technology, assistive technology. The subject is complex in its own special way. The thought is to:
  • Create an interaction pattern before designing a product.
    • For the products that are ergonomically well designed for a commoner would prove useless for the disabled unless some redesign done.
    • Almost all the web based applications that exist currently needs to be redesigned for the differently able.
    • The interaction of these people with everyday products is important for designers to better understand their needs
  • Study gestures minutely to know the touchpoints and movements.
  • Iterate on already used and approved products and interfaces.
  • Usability testing becomes quintessential for such products, since most of our assumptions fail in these scenarios.
  • Each person is different in its own unique way, with extensive study, a pattern can be found that leads to the design of everyday things.
( in pic: mapping different position of fingers, touchpoints, approach of thumbs and fingers )

There are many communication and interaction devices for general people, but, the current communication interfaces and services are challenges for spastic individuals. The most sought after interactions by such people include simple services like changing a TV channel, playing a game, reading a book or keeping oneself busy. These are just a few of the scenarios that needs design > redesign .

Differently abled have the capability to adapt to changes better than able population. The people around these have a exceptional ideas to redesign everyday products to suit the needs in-a-way like jugaad . It is possible to design or reiterate the design to suite the need of people with disability.

Take an example of spastic people. They have restrictive movements of muscles, hence they can’t make abrupt movements or gestures. Detailed study of only one action ,has lead to evolving Assistive Technology products like jelly bean, switches etc, Text to speech, touch typing software brings some relief for using desktop applications. These are simple ideas but very useful. Ideas as simple as these can change somebody’s life and can make them one of us.

Thanks Ankush for reviewing the draft.


Richa Verma said...

This was an Important piece of information which generally all designers be it related to product, graphics or interaction, all of us ignore.Now I would also like to study about differently able people and design for everyone.

Diba Kazi said...

Hi Richa, thankyou for the comment.the idea is to create awareness and see how can we make a difference with taking one step at a time.

Madheswaran said...

Diba & Richa

I wouldn't say that all designers ignore about designing for everyone.
Designers dont do because of following reasons

1)Look at any product. Think for a moment who is the target audience for that product. The answer would be a normal person.

2)A designer can just influence the management in this issue to an extent.The thoughts has to be conceived from top level management or the strategy team.

3) Another reason for this issue is look at the percentage of differently abled persons. It is a meniscus. So a business man wont consider this meniscus as a target audience unless or otherwise the company is dedicated for manufacture products for differently abled.

We all celebrating Apple for their design. But which Apple product is meant for differently abled people. Because they didnt consider them as their target audience.

But its really a sad truth