Archive for October, 2018

User-Centered Design for Sailors with Low-Vision (NQ4 Make Up)

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

Although many of the topics that were discussed in the reading on user-centered design are also currently being covered in 2.009, there were some key concepts that were worthy of further inspection in the context of my PPAT team.  The reading addresses that there is a lot of value in having designers who have varied levels of experience, as often generalists and specialists working together creates a very effective design process.  My PPAT team consists of two Course 6s, one Course 9, and one Course 2, and thus my diverse PPAT team is very well equipped to tackle our semester project.

The reading lists many different types of research that can be done to facilitate design, and our team has implemented some of these methods and found them extremely useful.  Because the activity related to our project, sailing, is a niche activity, observation to understand the activity and how our client interact with the activity has been crucial.  Today, we specifically completed direct observation.  Our entire team went to Community Boating, Inc. together to watch Pauline compete in a blind sailing regatta.  Although we weren’t directly in a boat with Pauline, we could observe the races from a motorboat and observe the actions Pauline went through to complete the race.  Additionally, we also observed those around Pauline—we could hear how the sighted guides were giving information and watch how other blind sailors sailed as Pauline’s competitors.  Participant observation can also accompany direct observation.  The reading points out that designers who already participate in the activity of the user may inflate the relevance of his/her particular experiences and preferences.  As a sailor myself, I must remember to remain objective and subject my own experience to scrutiny, as Pauline’s experience sailing is quite different.

A successful simulation of a person with a disability ( NanoQuiz 2 makeup )

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

One particular PPAT class involved a disability simulation of a person in a wheelchair. The simulation was very insightful in a number of ways and I had a couple of interesting incidents:

  1. People are sometimes overly helpful towards people in wheelchairs, and this can be both a good thing and a bad thing. A man continued to push me in my wheelchair despite me telling him that I could manage on my own.
  2. Another unfortunate incident involved a person without a disability occupying the disabled stall in the washroom.
  3. I found slopes, in general, to be very scary. Upward slopes were painful to climb and downward slopes felt like I was losing control.

Three things that made this experience a ‘successful’ simulation were the week’s reading on ‘Disability-related Simulations: If, When, and How to Use Them in Professional Development’, the handout given before the simulation and the debriefing after the simulation.

Not only did the reading help me understand the difference between a good and bad simulation, but also did it stop me from learning a hidden curriculum. So every time I started thinking about how uncomfortable or painful using this wheelchair must be on a regular basis, I was able to force myself to think about the environment and the activities instead. Similarly, the hand-out given out at the beginning of the class helped me to clearly understand what the objectives of the simulation were and the greatest part about the debriefing after the simulation was that it felt just like a conversation- where everyone was sharing their experiences and there was no bias/contradiction.

Website Design for Various Audiences (NQ4 Make Up)

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

This reading reminded me of a class I took in the past, 6.813, User Interface Design and Implementation (no longer offered). This class focused on how to design good user interfaces for the general audience, not just for people with disabilities. As a computer science major, this reading made me think about how to make websites more accessible for people with disabilities: how can we make websites safer (error-prone) and more efficient for everyone?

In the first couple classes, we used the Voice Over feature on iPhones to see the feature for people with visual impairments. Similarly, some desktop websites also have features similar to Voice Over. On some websites, clicking on an area tells the user what is at that point, and if the user wishes to continue, the user would click the same spot again. There are some apps that read the website content to the user. In order for the app to read the content, there has to be text; icons and pictures cannot be read, unless there are descriptions of the image, which is not guaranteed. If we were to reduce icons and pictures on a website, however, it might put illiterate or international users at disadvantage. In 6.813, we learned that icons actually facilitate website navigation for many users, especially illiterate and international users. This demonstrates how one design might benefit one group of users and put another at disadvantage.

Not all websites today are equipped for blind users. In order for a website to be friendly to blind users, while designing a website, it is important for the designer to include captions for images, since it would allow the Voice Over feature to read the content to users with visual impairments.

Disability Simulation (NQ2 Make Up)

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

In class we were able to simulate the experience of a person who uses a wheelchair. The reading for this class helped us acknowledge appropriate behaviors before, during, and after the activity. I think that the reading was especially important for people about to let children simulate some disabilities; while allowing children to participate in disability simulations is important to let them understand their peers with disabilities, it is also important for them to know what to expect and to share their feelings after.

One thing I noticed during the activity was the use of elevator. Wheelchair users most likely have to use the elevator to travel between floors, except for the occasional use of ramps. I am a staircase enthusiast in general, and I don’t take elevators to ascend flights less than 6 flights (I am an extreme case though). I thought it was inconsiderate when I saw people taking the elevator up one or two floors and made it unable for another wheelchair to fit. There are people with hidden disabilities who are physically unable to take stairs, but for individuals with no mobility impairments—though we should not treat people with disabilities specially—I think it is important to use the stairs more, even for one’s health!

Day after experiencing the wheelchair, my thumbs hurt for being extended for too long. Because of the reading, I knew that one day of experience does not provide the muscle and strength needed to use a wheelchair daily, and I was able to conclude with a positive impression with new knowledge from experiencing it myself.

AT to Help Those with “Invisible Differences”

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

For class we all were given the opportunity to read material addressing etiquette when communicating with an individual with a disability, and were given the caveat that while these practices are widely accepted, it is crucial to recognize that each individual has personal preferences when it comes to how the interact with those around them. One topic that I think we have not addressed in depth is how to act in scenarios where an individual’s special circumstances are not immediately evident. For example, my younger teenage brother is one of the most genuinely thoughtful people that I have the privilege to call my sibling. He is also Autistic. When walking down the street with him, our fellow pedestrians typically do not note anything remarkable about either of us; insensitive people would probably say “he doesn’t LOOK any different than the rest of us”. As such, when in a restaurant a waiter may come to take our order, and speak to my brother just as they had spoken to me. My brother may or may not respond with an order that the waiter is satisfied with, after which point a member of my family (or often, multiple members) will order on his behalf.

My brother is fully capable of communication, depending on the situation that he is in, and how comfortable he is in that scenario. As a protective older sister, I wish that I could always be around to offer some familiarity in alien situations, but I feel as though there should be some form of assistive technology that can help him as he grows older, to advocate for himself and his needs independently. This begs the question: how can assistive technology protect and support those with “invisible differences” in a world that supports only uniformity? Naturally, I do not have an answer to this question, but I do have a few thoughts on how to approach it. One, we cannot simply identify these individuals as “different” as that label would attract vicious people to take advantage of them. Two, universal design principles may be able to help garner familiarity even in the upmost alien environments. For example, individuals with Autism benefit from highly regular approaches and speech patterns, thus finding a standardized manner to unfamiliar situations (opening line, interaction mechanism, etc.) may not only help these individuals, but also make public interactions far smoother and less awkward for all strangers.