Design for Inclusivity - Digital Technologies to Empower Everyday Living Event Reflection
The second design event I attended was “Designing for Inclusivity – Digital Technologies to Empower Everyday Living”.
The first segment was “Inclusive Design for Education and Work Readiness” shared by Mr Francis Tan, Chief Executive Officer of Trampolene. The second segment was “Inclusive Design using Conversational AI” shared by Mr Ianton Tan, Chief Executive Officer of MoWin Digital.
Mr Francis Tan began by sharing how websites and application are usually built for neurotypicals. However, there are many products that are not catered to the needs of the physically disabled, youths with special needs and elderly. Therefore, he emphasises the need to understand your clients and users well. He goes on to list some examples such as:
- How many wheelchair accessible swimming pools are there in Singapore?
- How does a child with muscular dystrophy use a toothbrush?
- How does a person with visual impairment travel to work everyday?
This reminded me of the usefulness of rigorous interviews and testing to ensure a product is useful. As designers, we might not be aware of certain issues even if we put a lot of effort into the design considerations. Therefore, user feedback is very important. In designing an application to aid wheelchair users, do we then have to consider if the user is speaking from the view of a manual wheelchair user or a battery-operated wheelchair user or others? Is there then a significant difference and should additional options be given for the users to toggle? This is where rigorous interviews, testing and follow-ups is necessary as it allows us to ask why and understand the reasoning behind their actions – in turn building a more effective product.
In the sharing by Mr Francis Tan, he gave a case study on the application called iGAIN. iGAIN is a software which uses gamification to help children and young adults with learning difficulties and special needs to learn different skills such as language and numeracy. He mentioned that many special education schools are typically half-day. This means the application can continue to engage them when they return home. In developing this application, he mentioned that it is important to understand the target audience and figure “who are you trying to serve” and also what are their challenges. In the development, Trampolene invited caregivers, allied professionals and teachers to design the content.
Linking back to a past experience interning at a Special Education school, I find this application extremely useful. During the internship, I had to hand cut and laminate certain cue cards and attach Velcro to the cards. For students who needed more assistance, most of their activities included matching different pieces with the Velcro stuck on them. This also meant that as educators, we were unable to switch up the difficulty level or content of the learning resources easily. With this application, the content can be modified easily and customised according to a student’s learning style and ability. This will also save a lot of time and resources. Furthermore, it is important to engage with the educators because they know the triggers of their students well. This could be helpful in designing with certain modes such as volume or vibrancy restrictions as certain students are very sensitive to sound and colours.
I think something we (or I) might tend to overlook is other potential users (of e.g. an application) aside from the main target users. For instance, linking it back to the individual project – I think it is important to not only consider the target users of the application but also the brands that will be interested in the application. As my individual project work towards building a tool for users to shop and dress easier, one main stakeholder will also be the apparel brands that will want to feature their products on the application. Therefore, it is valuable to seek feedback from participating brands to offer target users an even seamless shopping experience. For instance, as I incorporated a “Scan to Add” feature on the application, it can only be useful if the majority of online and physical retailers incorporate a QR Code on their product tags. As a hybrid application, it is not only a shopping tool but also an application with social networking features. For brands which wish to create a public account, how can they host a live try-on easier on the application? Are there some features that these retailers might need to facilitate live purchases?
In another case study shared by Mr Tan, smartBFA is an application that provides real-time barrier-free access navigation for wheelchair users. Mr Tan mentioned that wheelchair users have to consider more things while planning for a trip outdoors. For instance, they have to leave with their battery full because if a route is obstructed, they might have to take a much longer, wheelchair accessible route to their destination. Since wheelchair accessible toilets are not ready available, wheelchair users also tend to drink less water and minimise consumption of food before they begin their journey. These are many things that we might fail to consider as a designer. In general application design, it might be more useful to consider the concerns of the designer, client and the user. However, in inclusive design, it seem that a heavier focus should be on the actual user themselves.
In the sharing by Mr Ianton, he spoke on ALEF which is one of their martech products which involves the use of conversational AI. More importantly, ALEF also involve one additional element – vernacular. This refers to the consideration of the dialect spoken by people in the country or region. Using conversational AI, Ianton also shared some examples of application such as unmanned customer service kiosk for hotels and contactless intelligent elevator control. That said, I feel that designers have to be careful with it. Aside from undergoing rigorous testing to make the product better, I believe it is also a necessity to provide alternative options for the user. For instance, a customer might want to get a drink from the concierge which could count as a simple task and could have been done faster when spoken to the staff. However, unmanned customer service might bring some complications and miscommunication if the kiosk is unable to identify the request of the user. Building on to the previous blog post on the importance of customer touchpoints, a miscommunication with such solutions might end up destroying a smooth user experience. Therefore, a set of criteria has to be fulfilled by the design. For instance, ease of use and whether the design is intuitive enough for a first-time user to navigate through. After all, many hotel guests are usually not regulars. Personally, I am easily excited when I get to use new technologies and if I can complete a task I set out to do rather easily in a contactless manner. However, I can imagine someone in a rush to be very frustrated if they are unable to convey their message to an unmanned customer service kiosk and if there is no one around to help. Also, I think it is useful to be mindful of whether the target audience are largely tech savvy or not.
Mr Francis Tan also raised the possibility of using conversational AI to help individuals with speech deficit. Real life scenarios can be simulated for the individual to practice their speaking skills in a public setting. This was a rather innovative idea. Together with the above hotel example, I find context one of the most crucial considerations. The speech deficit example made me realise that the opportunity to improve on a skill you are lacking privately might be more useful and less intimidating. Likewise, in the hotel kiosk example, it might be more useful if users can complete their task or request for a service privately. If there really is a miscommunication, the user need not be frustrated due to more people queuing behind him. In designing a product, it is therefore important to not only test but also follow through how a user will use the product potentially, and consider as many types of scenarios and setting as possible – peak hours, non-peak hours, seasonal, weekday or the weekends etc.
Towards the end, Mr Francis Tan also shared that Trampolene conducts a lot of ethnographic research as they have to observe their users in real life scenarios. As mentioned above, one key takeaway was the differing points of emphasis for different types of design. For inclusive design, I feel that it is almost always necessary to conduct ethnographic research as you are building a product that caters to a specific group of users. This is why more than just an interview, it might be much more useful to follow and observe a user closely using actual, real-life scenarios.
Another interpretation: But where can wisdom be found? (Job 28:12)—this shows that Solomon was searching for it, asking, "Where is wisdom to be found?" R. Eliezer and R. Joshua [disagreed]; R. Eliezer said, "[Wisdom is found] in the head," while R. Joshua said, "[Wisdom is found] in the heart." Solomon came to [agree with] the opinion of R. Joshua, [citing the verse,] You put gladness into my heart (Ps. 4:8). And what is gladness if not wisdom, as it is said, Get wisdom, my son, and gladden my heart, That I may have what to answer those who taunt me (Prov. 27:11).
David also explicated this in the verse, Fashion a pure heart for me, O God; create in me a steadfast spirit (Ps. 51:12). Why was wisdom put in the heart? Because all the other members of the body depend on the heart.
Solomon said, "I will not do as David, my father, had done, Father commenced his wisdom at the beginning of the alphabet and concluded it in the middle of the alphabet."
Where [is the scriptural proof] that David commenced at the beginning of the alphabet? In the verse, Happy is the man (Ps. 1:1). And where [is the scriptural proof] that he concluded in the middle of the alphabet? In the verse, Let all that breathes erase the Lord (Ps. 150:6).
I, however, will not do so. Rather, at the outset I will commence in the middle of the alphabet and then conclude at the end of the alphabet." Solomon said [further], "I will commence at the spot where wisdom is places. And where is wisdom placed? In the heart. And where is the heart placed? In the middle."
You may also thus say that David followed the words of R. Eliezer while Solomon followed the words of R. Joshua. R. Eliezer said, "in the head," whereas R. Joshua said, "in the heart." Furthermore, the heart is placed in the hand of God, as it is said, The king's heart is in the had of the Lord as channeled water; He directs it to whatever He wishes (Prov. 21:1). Since the heart is in God's hand, wherever He wishes He inclines it. When Solomon observed that wisdom is placed in the heart, he said, "At the place where wisdom is places, there shall I begin!" Where [is the scriptural proof of this]? In his Wisdom he explicitly states, The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel (Prov. 1:1). Does not everyone know he is David's son since he states his own name, Solomon? Hence you learn that everything he did was meant for David's honour. King of Israel—doesn't everyone know that he was king of Israel? Hence you learn that everything he did was for honour of Israel.
from Chapter One in The Midrash on Proverbs Translated from the Hebrew with an introduction and annotations by Burton L. Visotzky (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).
note: Ps. 1:1 begins with alef, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Ps. 150:6 begins with the eleventh letter of the twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabet, kaf.
note: Prov. 1:1 begins with the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, mem. Prov. 31:31 begins with the last letter, taw. Heart (leb) begins with the letter lamed, the twelfth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The idea of picking up where one’s predecessor left off is also found MT 1:5 and GenR (pp. 1228, 1296).
So, @mistressalef and I were just doing the dishes. You know, normal Saturday behavior and out of the blue, I remarked, “When the fuck did we become so domestic?” And even though the question had me laughing, it also had me wondering. When /had/ we?
We hadn’t meant to become domestic. We hadn’t mean to fall into well, any of this. On the night we met, I hadn’t wandered into the common room of our then dorm thinking, ‘Tonight, I’m going to meet the love of my life. Tonight, I’m going to meet my best friend, my other half.’ All I wanted was a quiet place away from my troublesome roommates.
I found that. But I also found Bara. Did I know then I would fall in love with her? Of course not. All I knew was that she was watching a show I also loved, and that she seemed friendly. That was enough for me. By the next day, we were going to the movies (The Princess Bride is a wonderful way to spend a single Valentine’s Day) and I moved into her dorm, away from my roomates and instead found myself in a situation with our third roommate that seemed like something out of a horror movie.
But, life goes on. (And on, and on, and on.) I never made the decision that she was my best friend. It just happened. I never made the decision that I was in love with her—that also just happened. I barely even made the decision to admit I was in love with her; a lovely therapist, two and a half years of pining and being at the end of my rope did that. I was terrified beyond all belief. But the smile on my Alef’s face was worth the terror I felt.
Bara likes to joke I’m the inspiration for “Peace of Mind” by Boston. She might be right there; I’m a highly indesicive bitch, and my fear of rejection almost cost me this. This domesticity that I’m still not sure how it happened, but that I never want to lose.
I guess this is my long winded way of saying that I never expected any of this, and that I don’t know what to expect even now. So that’s what this blog will be, for me at least. A diary of sorts, and a way to document this adventure.
So long for now,
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