Our BdB core team has been joined by a number of new colleagues in the last few months and this is the first of a series of posts introducing some of our new team members.
Emma Street has joined our BdB core team.
Dr Emma Street joined the BdB group in 2017. She is Associate Professor of Planning and Urban Governance in the Department of Real Estate and Planning. An urban geographer by background, Emma’s research cuts across the urban planning, urban design and architecture disciplines.
She is interested in the values, assumptions, decisions and processes that shape the way that urban environments look, function and are governed. Emma has a particular interest in exploring this via what might be seen as the mundane, instrumental or procedural; be that building codes and regulations, urban policies or elements of the planning system. For example, her work as part of the EPSRC-funded cycleBOOM project explored how regulation and policies have shaped the landscape of cycling in the UK, and what measures might engage more older adults in cycling.
Concerns about equality and social justice inform Emma’s research and approach to Teaching and Learning. She sits on Henley Business School’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is working on research linked work-life balance in academia, partly prompted by her experiences as a new parent.
Yesterday, students from four of our distinct MA programmes (Typeface Design, Book Design, Creative Enterprise and Information Design) participated in our inclusive design workshops.This is the first time that MA Typeface Design and MA Book Design students have participated in some of our Breaking down Barriers initiatives. Inclusive design activities, with a particular focus on inclusive wayfinding, was introduced into the MA Information Design and MA Creative Enterprise programmes in 2016–7.
Guest speaker, Fiona Corby talked to students about inclusive design for people who have visual impairments. Fiona highlighted how design decisions for new platforms (particularly touchscreens), professional software, websites and mobile phones can make user experiences very frustrating. She drew on her personal experience of braille, ClearVision books and using screenreading technologies like Jaws to engage students with concrete considerations for inclusive design and reading. She also shared key points to consider for making data visualisation, tables and images more accessible to people with visual impairments.
After asking Fiona lots of questions, the students explored other aspects of inclusive design by evaluating different printed and screen design while using a range of glasses simulating different kinds of visual impairments and simulation gloves. Students noted how these activities helped them realise how many “everyday” actions and experiences are affected by conditions affecting our visual acuity or dexterity.
This week, Part 2 Graphic Communication students completed the inclusive design component of their integrated design modules. Building on the series of workshops we did earlier in the term and relevant readings, on Monday, students presented seminar papers to their peers on particular aspects of inclusive design.
On Monday, our Graphic Communication students presented inclusive design seminars to their peers (from left to right): Jordan Bellinger, Lewis Burfield, Maciej Bykowski, Fenella Astley, Rajvir Bhogal, Stephanie Boateng, Cherise Booker, June Lin and (front) Jordan Cairns.
Students discussed and debated, aspects such as:
- The principles of inclusive design and how designers can make these achievable in real life projects
- How design briefs often tend to create segregation and how designers can develop more inclusive solutions to briefs
- The clear print debate – what the guidelines are, who they are for and how implementing these can differ for professional designers and everyday communicators
- The challenges and key considerations of inclusive design for screen – including the use of colour, images, sound and navigation
- Key debates and typographic research for inclusive design for children’s reading, focusing on readers who may have dyslexia or visual impairments
- Inclusive wayfinding – including challenges and innovative proposals for solutions in contemporary design practice.
Students commented that the inclusive design workshops, readings and seminars they have done have helped them become “more consciously aware” of how important it is to consider inclusive design in their own work and how designers may have to take responsibility for designing inclusively for a range of users. The highlighted how it is important to realise that the people they are designing for are probably “not the same as you (the designer)” and that inclusive design is “not just being aware” but about embedding inclusive practices in our industry. They also noted that these seminars had made them aware that there is “not enough research” about inclusive design within our discipline.
Today’s Breaking down Barriers workshops in Typography provided students with opportunities to explore a range of applications for inclusive design, from printed designs to wearable technologies.
Part 2 student Malaika Johnson exploring the role of assistive technologies in inclusive design.
Prof. Rachel McCrindle from Biomedical Engineering joined Information Design lecturer, Dr Jeanne-Louise Moys and the Part 2 Graphic Communication students. Rachel and Jeanne-Louise are part of a team of cross-disciplinary researchers exploring how the lives of people with aphasia (who may be undergoing rehabilitation following a brain injury) or dementia can be improved through assistive technologies. In a hands-on workshop, students explored an exciting variety of assistive technologies that we are developing and researching to help make a difference to people’s daily lives and their experiences of rehabilitation activities like cueing therapy.
In particular, cueing therapy resources that Graphic Communication student Carmen Martínez-Freile developed last summer as part of an undergraduate research opportunity (led by Jeanne-Louise, Rachel and other colleagues in Speech and Language Therapy) highlighted the role Graphic Communication can play in assistive technologies and inclusive design.
These cueing therapy resources were developed for our cross-disciplinary research project. Using illustrations prepared by student Carmen Martínez-Freile, we explored how different illustration styles influence people’s experience of cueing therapy resources.
Carmen’s resources were not the only Graphic Communication student-created resources incorporated into today’s workshops. We also used a worksheet developed by Typography student Jessie Webb to support visual acuity activities. In today’s activity, students evaluated whether particular typographic, colour and physicality attributes can be considered visually inclusive across a variety of genres, including brochures, business cards, receipts, forms and even the new Guardian newspaper redesign (just launched in the UK today).
Jeanne-Louise said she particularly enjoyed how today’s workshops demonstrated clear synergies between research and practice, while providing students with an opportunity to consider how graphic design can contribute to society beyond the ‘usual suspects’ like awareness campaigns. She hopes these workshops will inspire some students to explore inclusive design further in their final year dissertations and self-directed projects.
Typography student Siu-Yen Lo evaluating whether printed designs are visually inclusive, using learning resources created by other students in Typography.
Breaking down Barriers (BdB) are thrilled to have received a Highly Commended Award for Innovation in Education and Training in the 2016 Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) International Innovation & Research Awards Scheme.
Our BdB team champions a unique cross-disciplinary initiative to embed inclusive design across the University. Our vision is to ensure Reading graduates across all disciplines advocate inclusion in their professional practices and bring real benefits to the everyday lives of all users, particularly people with conditions related to ageing and/or cognitive and physical disabilities.
Students say that our BdB workshops have helped them “gain insight as to how thoughtful design can influence other industries and how we as designers must work together with these other industries in order to make the lives of the people that need a helping hand that little bit easier”.
CIOB Innovation and Research Awards highlight the importance of innovation and research in raising performance levels, enhancing best practice and improving the quality of the built environment. The CIOB judges said: “This innovation in education is a practical, engaging and demonstrable way to bring to life a real social challenge with widespread value and application. The innovation shows a genuine commitment to invest in the UK’s building stock and educate the next generation of professionals to ensure the needs of all users of a facility are firmly met.”
BdB began at the University of Reading as a collaboration between the School of Built Environment, the Henley Business School and the School of Arts and Communication Design in 2015. Since then we have been joined by staff within the School of Biological Sciences and collaborated with the Centre for Staff Development and, most recently, the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, as well as external partners.
Congratulations to all our team!
Yesterday BdB were proud to welcome Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health to the University. As part of her visit, the Minister experimented with a number of projects contributing to a more inclusive world and simulation tools exploring the everyday challenges people face in relation to a range of disabilities and conditions.
“Inclusivity and accessibility should be at the forefront of good design, and I’m delighted to see the University of Reading leading the way with their Breaking down Barriers scheme,” said Mordaunt.
Our BdB team is thrilled today to hear that the University has chosen Breaking down Barriers as its nominated contender for the Higher Education Academy’s (HEA) new Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE). Feedback from the shortlisting process noted that, among the other criteria, BdB has particular strengths in relation to demonstrating direct involvement of students in the project and evidencing creative solutions to a challenge, situation or problem.
Congratulations to all our staff and students who have contributed to this exciting achievement.
This morning, our BdB team led our first staff development workshop for staff across the University. The workshop, ‘Educating for 21st-century lives: a practical and inclusive approach’, explored the importance of embedding inclusive design in our curricula, the value of this for employability, and the role of simulation tools in developing awareness and understanding.
In the first part of the workshop, participants considered ways in which they can embed inclusive design in their curricula and activities. Thereafter, they had fun exploring the impact of different kinds of impairments on everyday activities, using the simulation equipment we have invested in. These include: bariatric and geriatric suits, simulation gloves, and glasses simulating a range of visual impairments. Participants considered different applications of inclusive design from the built environment to design for digital and printed communications and packaging. At the end of the workshop, we discussed ways in which we can collaborate on new initiatives to promote best practice in inclusive design across the University.
Visiting speaker David Flatla and Typography undergraduate Ryzard Akita engaged in an exciting discussion of cross-disciplinary challenges for inclusive design
Last week, BdB looked deeper into issues around colour and accessibility with visiting speaker Dr David Flatla.
David is a Lecturer and founding director of the Digitally-Augmented Perception Research Lab (DAPRlab) at the University of Dundee. DAPRlab seeks to digitally enhance the perceptual abilities of people with both atypical and typical sensory abilities. David’s particular research interests lie in developing personalised models and new assistive technology to help people with impaired colour vision. His previous work has received Best Paper awards from CHI and ASSETS, and he received a Canadian Governor General’s Gold Medal for his PhD research.
David described his involvement with recent bottom-up (assistive tech) and top-down (designers) approaches to addressing challenges for users with different kinds of impaired colour vision (ICV – more commonly known as colourblindness). Colour vision is a vital component of everyday living and its loss can severely limit a person’s livelihood, threaten health and safety, make food preparation difficult, and even challenge someone’s social acceptability. In spite of these complications, visual designs that employ inaccessible colour choices abound, and people who experience impaired colour vision have little assistive technology to help overcome these challenges.
David’s talk was well-received by the undergraduate and postgraduate students from different programmes who attended the talk. Leo Poppa, a final year MEng Cybernetics student said “David’s presentation provided me with invaluable perspective of how people with ICV perceive and interact with objects in the world. What surprised me the most was that both people with impaired sensory capabilities as well as those with ‘typical’ abilities could be assisted by his research, something I had not taken into account. Whilst colour accessibility is easy for engineers to overlook when designing and implementing a product, I feel that this seminar provides a concise set of techniques that can be used to improve accessibility of future engineering projects. Hence, this talk is a must-see for any engineer wishing to improve their design practices.”
Typography undergraduate Ryzard Akita is designing a prototype for a food app for users with visual-impairments as part of his final year self-directed project. Ryzard said: “David’s talk on colour accessibility was very insightful. He highlighted the importance of understanding inclusive design and discussed how individuals live with ICV on a daily basis. Unfortunately, colour accessibility is something that is often overlooked in the design industry. So to counter this David encourages designers not be one minded and has suggested tools available to aid the inclusive design process.
“This was an eye opener for me as there was so much to take into consideration. I was even fortunate enough to speak to David himself after his talk. He gave me further advice on my University project and even explained in detail how these tools can be applied to my design process. I truly believe that I benefited from this talk and I recommend it to any designer who is unaware about the importance of considering colour accessibility.”
David’s visit was hosted by BdB team member Faustina Hwang and the School of Systems Engineering. Our BdB team look forward to hosting more seminars with cross-disciplinary relevance.
This month, our Built Environment students learnt about the importance of prioritising inclusive design through simulation. Using specialised equipment such as bariatric suits, simulation gloves and wheelchairs to simulate different conditions, students gained insight into the kinds of everyday difficulties that people with various disabilities are likely to experience when using a building. The students undertook a number of everyday tasks such as walking up and down stairs, and using a lift and toilet facilities.
Wearing bariatric suits, students first experienced the challenges of using small spaces such as lifts and toilet facilities. Some of the lifts in the building used in the exercise were fairly small, leaving little room for personal space once two people had entered the lift. Similarly, there was little room to manoeuvre inside the gent’s toilet cubicle, making entering and leaving difficult, and sitting down extremely cramped. Students experienced how the width of the cubicle was inadequate for a person with a large build, with almost no room to move their arms when sitting.
Using wheelchairs with large wheels that can be propelled by the user, students experienced difficulties with using lifts and other means of access. In particular, they discovered that one of the ramps up to the URS Building is very steep, which meant that it was a quick ride down, but required some expenditure of energy to get back up the slope again. They noted that the wheelchair seemed unstable going up the ramp, unless the user bent forward in the chair. Leaning back in the chair and pushing the wheels resulted in the front lifting up. The students also attempted to move across a gravel bed, which proved quite difficult. The final task for the wheelchair user was to experience using one of the disabled WCs in the URS building. This proved to be quite a challenge, as there did not appear to be any simple way of moving from the wheelchair onto the loo itself. Although there are rails that can be used to hold onto whilst moving out of the wheelchair, the rail on the left (nearest to the wheelchair user here) seemed to be more of a barrier, rather than an aid. One student almost managed the task, but only by literally lifting him up and over the rail. This was an enlightening experience into the difficulties faced by wheelchair users, and also by the designers of accessible WCs.
The final task for students was to wear simulation gloves while performing everyday tasks, such as using a mobile phone, a laptop, or just using the handle on a door. The plastic strips on the gloves reduces the amount of strength and control that you can apply when undertaking a simple task like this, making gripping the object more difficult.
Geoff Cook and Christina Duckett led the workshop, with assistance from our new team member Nic Hollinworth (who also wrote this blog).