Designing for Inclusion

We all have limits to our abilities — physical, social, emotional and cognitive. How can we design to embrace these universal things that make us human, but also create solutions that are highly adaptive to an individual person?
We as designers can help to remove obstacles, enabling people to participate in society no matter their individual challenges. Let’s imagine a future that puts human empathy at their design core!

This is a work-in-progress documentation of a design project on the topic of inclusion and technology. We as a group of design students are working on design for the blind as part of a collaboration between Microsoft Research and University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. More background information at the bottom.

Hands-on with prototyping

The class jump-started with a one day workshop. We were asked to explore the topic of disability by building naive, very small-scale prototypes.
We began by brainstorming which roadblocks might occur in the fields of feeling, movement, listening, memory and vision. We then dot voted the most promising approaches and set off to prototype them within one afternoon.

The Sparkcore comes into play

Next, we took part in a tech workshop, enabling us to explore the possibilities of the Sparkcore, a programmable micro controller with a built in WiFi module which can be connected to a device of your choice, e.g. your smartphone. Sparkcore also partners with IFTTT, making it a perfect choice for rapid technology prototyping.

Hands-on with the Sparkcore micro controller.

We had the idea of a mobile device for Alzheimer patients.
Alzheimer patients sometimes leave their safe environment by accident, for instance “escaping” from a nursing home and not finding their way back. Our mobile device in the form of a wristwatch uses geofencing to notify their loved ones or caretaker as soon as the patients leaves their safety zone. The device transmits their position, making it easy to find them and accompany them back. The patients are also pointed at having left the safety zone, so that they can possibly find the way back on their own.
Using the Sparkcore and IFTT, we were able to build a fully working protoype within just four hours!

Dominic is presenting our mobile safety prototype device for Alzheimer patients to the class.

Having basically built an electronic tag, the class got into a super interesting controversial discussion on security vs. personal freedom and patronizing vs. autonomy. We feel feedback by others is helpful to design in a meaningful and responsible way, especially on a topic like inclusion!

Next Chapter

Part 2: Research


What is this about?

Inclusion is a relevant and up-to-date topic widely debated recently. The WHO revised their definition of disability, shifting it from a fixed attribution to a context sensitive consideration. We as designers can help to remove obstacles, enabling people to participate in society no matter their individual challenges. A human centered design approach with deep research and observation, rapid prototyping and cheaper yet more powerful technology can make quite an impact.

Each year, Microsoft Research sponsors a semester-long class at leading design schools. This year’s design challenge is about Inclusive Design & Technologies. Let’s imagine a future of adaptive systems that puts human empathy at their design core.
We as students from the design department of University of Applied Sciences are taking part in this global design event. The leading teams will be presenting their ideas at Microsoft Design Expo 2015 in Redmond, USA.

The designer behind the project

This is a project by Philipp Steinacher, Dominic Rödel, Laurids Düllmann and Henrik Hagedorn. We study interface design at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam.

Read more

The website of Microsoft Research Design Expo 2015 provides in-depth information on the overall project.