Design and Testing with Diverse Populations

The paper on participatory design for people with anterograde amnesia was very interesting because the researches were able to use low-tech, everyday memory augmentation techniques to help the participants participate more fully in the study. Techniques such as note-taking, review, and summarizing were used to remind participants about what was discussed at the last session, and to prepare them for the current session. Drawings of successive iterations of the design being discussed were also shared. It would be interesting to know if more high-tech techniques would be more effective. For example, digital notes could be reviewed more quickly and more often by participants, and audio and video artifacts could be included as an additional memory aid. This paper directly addresses the question: “How can we make participatory design universally accessible?”

The second paper about representing users in accessibility research says that non-representative users are often selected for studies in HCI research, when selecting people with particular individual differences or disabilities would be more appropriate (eg. sighted users wearing blindfolds standing in for blind users). I can’t think of any papers that I have read that have actually done this. A lot of the findings in this paper seem obvious to me… it’s basically saying that you can’t make assumptions about disabled users or simulate disability. The biggest challenge that I have seen in papers I’ve read is that, often, only a small number of disabled users are tested. This is likely due to the issues outlined in the paper, including: small number of “truly representative users,” challenges around actually getting users to the lab, and the increased likelihood of significant individual differences between disabled users. The authors of this paper conclude by encouraging researchers to use a control group, to use caution when combining data from “standard HCI study participants” and participants with disabilities, and to describe disabilities more comprehensively.

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