Open Innovation for Inclusion

In the second half of 2017 Mozilla’s Open Innovation team worked on initiatives aimed at exploring new ways to advance Web accessibility. Through a decentralized design sprint we arrived at a number of early concepts which could help enhance accessibility of Web content in Firefox.

Designing with the Crowd

We partnered with Stanford University for a user-centric open design sprint. Technology is permeating most human interactions, but we still have very centralized design processes, that only include few people. We wanted to experiment with an open innovation approach that would allow users with accessibility needs to take an active part in the design process. Our chosen path to tackle this challenge allowed for a collaborative form of crowdsourcing. Instead of relying on individual work, we got our participants to work in teams across countries, time zones and professional expertise.
The design sprint ran for one week and 113 participants that signed up online joined the slack channel we used to coordinate interaction. We had a very diverse group of people in terms of their background, their geography, gender and age.

In fact, 42% of our participants either have disabilities themselves or take care for someone in need. Participants from this group were essential for the sprint outcomes as they brought direct experiences to the design process, which inspired other participants with expertise in design and coding.

We narrowed down the problem space by focusing on three specific user groups: elderly people, people with severely limited gestures and people with cognitive impairments.

Winning Ideas from our Decentralized Design Sprint

The sprint resulted in over 60 early stage ideas for how to make browsing with Firefox more accessible. From those ideas Mozilla’s Test Pilot and our Accessibility team chose the 5 that best fulfilled the overarching criteria of the sprint: ideas that showed an understanding of the user needs, demonstrated empathy, were unique, addressed a real problem, had real-world applicability and applicability beyond accessibility needs.

The winning ideas are:

  • Verbose Mode: A voice that guides users in the browsing experience. From: Casey Rigby, Brian Hochhalter, Chandan Baba, Theresa Anderson, Daniel Alexander
  • Onboarding for all abilities: Including new Firefox users from the first interaction. From: Jason Przewoznik, Rahul Sawn, Sohan Subhash, Drashti Kaushik
  • Numbered commands: Helping navigate voice commands. From: Angela, Mary Brennan, Sherry Feng, smcharg
  • Browser based breadcrumbs: Help users understand where they are in the web. From: Phil Daquila, Sherry Stanley, Anne Zbitnew, Ilene E
  • Color the web for readability: Control the colors of websites to match your readability preferences. From: Bri Norton, Jessica Fung, Kristing Maughan, Parisa Nikzap, Neil McCaffrey, Tiffany Chen

Our Test Pilot and Accessibility teams have drawn a lot of inspiration from the ideas that came from the participants and will include some of the ideas in their product development explorations. Of particular interest were ideas designed around voice as user interface. As our Machine Learning Group at Mozilla invests research and development resources in the still young field of speech recognition we want to encourage further iterations on how to make the technology applicable to address accessibility needs. If you want to join the slack channel and continue iterating on these ideas please contact us at firefoxaccessibility@cs.stanford.edu. We are committed to keep this process open for everyone.

We’d like to thank all participants which have contributed to this initiative and we invite you to continue following us on our next steps.

If you’d like to learn more about a second accessibility design initiative we ran together with the Test Pilot team and students of the Design and Media School Ravensbourne in London, check out the Test Pilot blog.