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Friday, October 7, 2011

'Design for All goes Mobile' at Over The Air 2011

Mark Bridge writes:

One of the speakers providing inspiration for the mobile developers at Over The Air 2011 was Denise Stephens, co-founder of Enabled by Design. Her presentation, called ‘Design for All goes Mobile’, explored how good design could help mobile phone users live more independently than they would otherwise be able to.

I spoke to Denise afterwards and started our conversation by asking what ‘Design for All’ meant to her.

“I would say Design for All is the design of products, services and systems which are relevant and usable by as many people as possible, including people who have disabilities but also older people. For me, Design for All is designing to help mainstream accessibility. I’m quite tired of niche products that are solely aimed and targeted at older people and people with disabilities, so I’d like to see more mainstream products that have been designed to incorporate accessibility and usability.”

“I’ve grown up as a consumer and, after being diagnosed with MS, suddenly it felt like the design of assistive technology... it’s almost like it didn’t really matter about me any more. It was like ‘Oh, you have a disability, therefore you have to have lots of white and grey wipe-clean plastic items in your home’.  Whereas I was more interested in iPads and iPhones and things that were ‘sexy’ design.”

Mobile devices tend to assume a wide range of senses - sight, touch and hearing come to mind as the obvious ones - so I asked Denise how a developer could possibly consider all of these when ‘designing for all’.

“I think the easy answer would be that it’s impossible to cover all the goal posts. One design is never accessible to everybody. But you can be aware of your audience, aware of what people’s needs are. The way of doing that is to speak to people, to interact with people, to test your product or system or service throughout the design process and keep getting feedback - and in that way hopefully you can try to address people’s needs.”

We went on to talk about what mobiles can do to make life easier - and what app developers can do, too - before looking to the future.

“I’d just like to see far more user engagement - involving people from the start of the design process and getting people involved throughout the design process. I know I talk about ‘Design for All’ but I’m very keen to say that one size doesn’t fit all. So ‘Design for All’ can help to address a large majority of people’s needs, but at the same time one design can’t be accessible to everybody.”

You can listen to my full conversation with Denise Stephens on our website, via iTunes or by downloading the MP3 file. The podcast also includes interviews with Andy Williams of the Metropolitan Police and Craig Heath of Franklin Heath.
Author: The Fonecast
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