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November 29, 2018

Accessibility and Diversity; the future of different types of technology

Written By Madeleine Kirk
5 mins

We are currently living through the biggest technological revolution, in terms of scope and speed and the ways in which we live our lives has changed at an extraordinary rate through enhanced processing, artificial intelligence and virtual digital communication. Mobile technology has not only changed the way we communicate but has become an essential means for rehabilitation and education. Already existing products are being adapted to be more inclusive for all, especially for those who have limited mobility and invisible disabilities such as sight and hearing problems. Companies are now starting to adapt the ways which they approach UX and UI design in order to be more inclusive.   

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All-inclusive design

The term all-inclusive design may sometimes be synonymous with designs to specifically help disabled people. However, all-inclusive design helps both able-bodied and disabled people alike. Even more so now with the development of voice assistant devices. Without the user experience being taken into consideration when designing and developing an app, the outcome will not likely be optimised for all. Taking into account how a users experiences and interacts with a mobile app if they had limited mobility/use of their hands, for example, is a top priority. For able-bodied people for example, it becomes highly annoying when their hands become ‘busy’. This can be when they are washing up or carrying a child for example. These sorts of situations are everyday problems that disabled people have to deal with on a daily basis. Although these circumstances are somewhat annoying, they are immensely informative at the same time. A main aim for inclusive design is to solve these issues by looking at them from different perspectives, from a range of users. If a product is designed in order to help able-bodied users when they are unable to use it, the product ends up being designed and then created for people who may not be able to use them in the first place or at all. Remembering that not all potential users have the ability to use the product in the same way is important when it comes to inclusive design. Having the ability to understand the pain points of technology products for disabled users provide basic principles towards making designs more inclusive for all types of users.

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Adaptive Xbox controller

Playing on a Xbox is always growing in popularity. However, for disabled gamers, they have been unable to join in with this growing trend. Although the current Xbox is an industry leading product, it has not accessible to gamers with limited mobility – until now. This year, Microsoft released an adaptive controller for the Xbox to make gaming more inclusive. The adapted controller has a range of ports that are compatible with a range of accessories from foot pedals to single handed joysticks. These apated controllers provide disabled gamers with easy access to the games they love. Up until now, custom solutions were produced by non-profit organisations. These devices are highly expensive and require a lot of technical support, so the adaptive controller is a more accessible and affordable solution to a big problems. The traditional Xbox controller was designed with a lot of assumptions in mind, however, these days products are designed to be more inclusive. These assumptions could include, the player has both two hands and two thumbs. Although these are simple things, for disabled players it is these simple things that can cause the most frustrations, and can be a barrier stopping them from playing. In order to develop the controller, Microsoft partnered with charities, such as ‘The Cerebral Palsy Foundation’ to design and develop this new and highly inclusive controller.   

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Hearing aids have been around for a long time, but there is still a stigma attached to disclosing  hearing problems and wearing a hearing aid, especially amongst younger populations. With technical advances within different industries in general, hearing devices are also being developed to be able to do more to benefit the lives of their users. The human ear has become a focal point for the development of new technologies, with different types of hearbles breathing new life into the hearing aid market. These devices present a whole new set of benefits, along with amplifying sound and are transforming the industry at a point of convergence of traditional hearing aids. The wearable technology market is developing as a whole for the everyday consumer, and not just the hearing impaired.  

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Braille watch

For those who have specific functionality and usability needs, they are unable to use non-adaptive products that are already on the market. Along with specific wearables being developed, the wearable market as a whole is also being developed. The ‘Dot’ was one of the first Braille smartwatches to be developed for the visually impaired around the world. The watch works by mechanically raised dots situated on the watch face to communicate text messages and tweets. Notifications can also be provided through the Braille watch face. People who are not visually impaired may take a simple task like reading the time, however the development of these wearables provides more inclusive design for such a simple task of telling the time.

Our latest trends white paper goes into a more in depth discussion surrounding these topics and the accessibility of different types of technology. As a creative agency, we are always looking for new ways to design and develop our app and web platforms to be more inclusive for a wider audience. Although we are guided by our design foundations and process, for us, the ability to incorporate features to make our clients products more inclusive is becoming more of a priority.  

Check out the full white paper
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