While these are features to support those with VI, adoption rate is still relatively low, which is understandable.
Visual Impairment (VI)
- A participant with VI was excited about the capabilities of beacons — which emit Bluetooth and navigational information though audio. While the technology is already available, infrastructural support is needed to install such beacons at public spaces.
- When asked about something he wishes he could have for the future of transportation, the participant spoke of a personal robot that could double up as a personal assistant (a la Siri) as well as a navigational guide (a la Beacon).
Hearing Impairment (HI)
- In place of phone calls, those with HI use video conferencing apps like Skype and FaceTime to converse with each other. They use a variety of such apps and are aware of their difference in popularity in different countries (e.g. Line and WeChat are more popular in Taiwan and Korea).
- Video apps like Youtube provide subtitling (closed captions) options.
- For daily communication and expression with those who don’t know sign language, they use an app called Yeller, which is simply an app that lets the user input huge white text on a black background. An example would be to place their order in F&B outlets.
With high reliance on audio (for VI) and video (for HI) mediums, current phone plans with extended data packages are not sufficient, even as they have been specially extended for PwDs.
Ride hailing has come a long way with the introduction of apps that allow for cab booking, reducing the barrier for PwDs. They would be able to communicate their destinations beforehand, as well as avoid the trouble of flagging cabs on the road.
An important takeaway was when designing for an experience, it’s necessary to zoom in on the journey, taking into account different case scenarios that may arise. This would include offline interactions like cab pickup and drop-off, as well as how various stakeholders (driver and rider) interact with each other and exchange information. Ultimately, the app interface only forms a part of the entire ride hailing service.
Throughout the sharing, multiple pain points and design gaps were identified. I’m excited to see what the participants will come up with in the following sessions!
PwDs and the Society
Someone shared that he has been taking the same bus with the participant with VI (E) for over a decade, and finally spoke to him thanks to this session. According to him, the entire neighbourhood knows of E and his visual handicap. This struck me and led me to wonder how we could go beyond just awareness as a society, but to reach out and reduce stigma towards disability.
I was also heartened by the strong community for PwDs. One of the participants with HI organises movie gatherings. There is also an ongoing movement by The Singapore Association for the Deaf for recognition of the Singapore sign language (including slangs like kiasu and kaypoh- which I learnt how to sign!)
This article from Fast Company recognises that design, as a discipline, has so often tended to focus on a mythical idea of the average consumer. It advocates for inclusive design, where disability is an engine of innovation.
Inclusive design, by bringing a diverse set of users into a design process that typically strips away differences and abstracts them into what seems user-friendly to the maximum number of people, can actually help with the fact that our capabilities change throughout the day.
— Kat Holmes, Microsoft’s Principle Design Director
Good design necessitates empathising with others, in order to innovate on things that we might never have created ourselves. Perhaps it’s a step towards being a more inclusive society, one thoughtful design at a time.
I’ll love to hear it if you’ve had any experiences with PwDs! If you’ve enjoyed this article, please like and share it around :)
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