Chapter 22: Human Factors and Ergonomics Practice in Inclusive Design: Making Accessibility Mainstream

by Edward Chandler and Phil Day 

Practitioner summary

The needs of disabled people in the information society have, in many respects, not been fully catered for as technology advances. This means that disabled people can become disenfranchised and risk social isolation. Whilst legislation exists to enable inclusion, this often leads to a minimum viable product scenario where the letter of the law is met but not the spirit. This can result in accessible products and services that are not really usable by disabled people. This chapter demonstrates that the needs of disabled people can be included in mainstream digital and technological solutions, avoiding a ‘race to the bottom’ or building niche solutions for separate user groups. One example and one case study are discussed to provide insight for human factors and ergonomics (HF/E) practitioners to help demonstrate that disabled people can and should be considered within a user-centred design process and not as a group outside the norm and or excluded.

Chapter quotes

“The World Health Organisation estimates that 15% of the world’s population live with some form of disability, and state that rates of disability are increasing…Europe, North America and some parts of South East Asia have populations that are ageing.

“Clarkson and Coleman (2010) proposed that we should think in terms of “design for our future selves”. This way of thinking helps when promoting the cause of accessibility by making it more personal.”

“By building in accessibility into its products and software, Apple demonstrated that accessibility does not have to be an expensive add-on or require specialist devices to be built for different user groups.”

“Buxton (2007) advocated a design space that enables design concepts to ‘bake in’ by being edited, commented on and reviewed by the wider team. By doing this, any issues can be identified early and rectified before the solution is put in front of users. The NCR team uses a design space to allow experts to work on designs, then conducts user testing to confirm that designs meet users needs. The end result, uNav, shows how a user-centred design approach within a multi-disciplinary team can produce a meaningful and engaging solution that is both accessible and usable.”

“Accessibility and in particular designing to meet the needs of disabled people goes to the core of the HF/E discipline. When the question “who are our users/customers?” is asked, the user group will invariably include people with varying levels of physical and cognitive capabilities. People with disabilities should therefore be included in your user groups during any discovery and user needs gathering phases.”

Practitioner reflections (scroll down to add your own reflection)


About stevenshorrock

This blog is written by Dr Steven Shorrock. I am interdisciplinary humanistic, systems and design practitioner interested in human work from multiple perspectives. My main interest is human and system behaviour, mostly in the context of safety-related organisations. I am a Chartered Ergonomist and Human Factors Specialist with the CIEHF and a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. I currently work as a human factors and safety specialist in air traffic control in Europe. I am also Adjunct Associate Professor at University of the Sunshine Coast, Centre for Human Factors & Sociotechnical Systems. I blog in a personal capacity. Views expressed here are mine and not those of any affiliated organisation, unless stated otherwise. You can find me on twitter at @stevenshorrock or email contact[at]humanisticsystems[dot]com.
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