Category Archives: Design for All

Discussions and Projects on Universal Design, Design for All, Inclusive Design in web accessibility and human computer interaction.

Design For All – Accessibility for Locomotion Disabilities – Final Assignment

Thea Schrenk (Bachelors Student of Media & Information System) and Jinesh Parekh (Masters Student of Human Computer Interaction)

1. Introduction

In a study conducted in Herefordshire that about 8% of the households have a member with a locomotor disability[1]. Millions of people around the world who suffer due to lack of accessibility for locomotion disabilities. They feel ostracized and like they have not been included because of their inability to conduct simple everyday tasks. Most of these tasks could be performed easily if there would be a stronger sense of universal design in their daily lives. Their inability to get past basic daily activities arises from poor design principles used in their environments.

We started working on this project by finding a person (or subject) with a locomotion disability and understand the difficulties that arise in the subject’s day-to-day activities due to the disability. We wanted to know if we could come up with an idea to change something positively for the subject by carefully observing his daily life. We did this by conducting several interviews (on Skype) and studying videos of the subject’s daily activities and the environment in which he conducts these activities. This helped us understand the situation of the subject and empathize with cases whereby people have locomotive disabilities.

After comprehending the subject’s complications and problems, we moved towards creating a solution. We compiled a list of possible design changes and implementations that could help improve the subject’s lifestyle. The solution was broken down into two parts –
1) Changing the environment that adapts to the subject’s needs and to those who face similar conditions.
2) Creating a support device or a splint that would smoothen the subject’s (and those with similar conditions) daily operations and task performance.

This has been an interesting study and a learning experience for us but we have merely scratched the surface in understanding the difficulties faced by people with locomotive disabilities everyday. We acknowledge that a lot more research needs to be done in this area and that studying it in depth could lead us to design better solutions.

Understanding The Persona

Mr. Nagin Parekh is 54 years of age. He is a professional public (tax) accountant. He calls himself a work-o-holic and finds joy in his 60 hour weeks. Since he was 22 he has been working Monday to Saturday about 10-11 hours a day. He lives with his wife in an apartment in Mumbai.

Image 1: Bone Structure. Source: Wikipedia

In January 2011, he met with an accident that altered his way of life. He was out on a holiday with his wife and he decided to try out Hot Air Ballooning. The wind was stronger than usual and the hot air balloon had a steep fall from about 150-175 feet in the air. This resulted in severe (and permanent) ankle damage.[2]On his right leg, his Talus bone was cracked and on his left leg Calcaneus was shifted from its original position. In the figure 1.1 one can understand the position and the relationship of these bones. After multiple surgeries and over a period of 6 months on complete bed rest, the doctors used titanium strings to hold the bones together.

Image 2: Legs after Accident 1 - Xray
Image 2: Legs after Accident 1 – Xray
Image 3: Legs after Accident 2 - With Plaster
Image 3: Legs after Accident 2 – With Plaster

He can now walk but with extreme difficulties because of the perpetual pain. The doctors mentioned that the pain will lifelong but in years to come he will get used to the pain. Both the bones are weight bearing bones. i.e. when a person is standing this is where the weight of the body is concentrated on.

According to Mr. Parekh:

“If I stand for more than 20 minutes, my feet swell up and I experience a lot of pain. More than usual. I immediately need to find a place to sit and raise my legs. When I sit the weight on my ankles is released thereby reducing the pain and when I raise my legs the blood flow is lesser thereby subsiding the swellings. But if it’s not possible for some reason to sit for more than 45 minutes the pain is completely unbearable!”

He avoids using painkillers to cope with the pain. However, when the pain becomes unbearable his doctor has prescribed a drug called Combiflam – a mixture of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol. He wants to reduce the intake of these pills over a period of time as they have immediate and long term side effects. Immediate side effects include upset stomach, nausea, occasional vomiting and headache. Long term side effects include organ (liver) failure[2][3]. His doctor has recommended that he alters his lifestyle in a way that does not add stress to his ankle in his day to day activities and hence reduce the need for this painkiller.

Understanding User Activities and Finding Solutions

In order to better understand difficulties faced by Mr. Parekh, we started tracking his daily activities. This gave an insight on how we could create a solution that fits his needs through a special device and through alteration in his work and home environment.

Activity Breakdown – 1
Time: 6:00AM – 6:20AM
Activity: Wake up from bed and walk for a few minutes.
Pain Level: High
Comment: After an entire night of sleep Mr. Parekh wakes up with high levels of pain and swollen feet. He then needs to walk for a few minutes to release the pain. The apartment that Mr. Parekh stays in has a small terrace that he uses to walk. To access this apartment he needs to climb a step. The climb is difficult in the morning as pains levels are already high.
Image 4  - Wake up with swollen feet
Image 4 – Wake up with swollen feet
Image 4: Step to Terrace
Image 5: Step to Terrace

Potential Solution:
The step needed to enter the terrace in Mr Parekh’s apartment needs to be converted to a slope. This would enable smoother access for Mr. Parekh when he going for his morning 15 minutes walk.

Activity Breakdown – 2
Time: 6:30AM – 9:30AM
Activity: Getting ready for work
Pain Level:  Bearable
Comment: After his short walk and the morning newspaper Mr. Parekh gets ready for work. The toilet he uses has a step which makes it difficult for him to access. He then finishes his breakfast and leaves for work. Driving to his office takes about 30 minutes and is relatively easy as there isn’t much weight being borne by his ankles.
Image 6: Toilet Step
Image 6: Toilet Step
Image 7: Mr Parekh on Breakfast Table
Image 7: Mr Parekh on Breakfast Table
Image 8: Mr Parekh’s legs in the car
Image 7: Mr Parekh’s legs in the car

Potential Solution:
The step needed to access the bathroom in Mr Parekh’s apartment needs to be converted to a slope. This would enable easy access.

Activity Breakdown – 3
Time: 9:30AM – 9:45AM
Activity: Walking from Parking lot to Office
Pain Level: High
Comment: This is the difficult part of the day. Getting from the parking lot to the office is very strenuous. The road that he walks on is uneven and he needs to call one of his colleagues to help him carry his office briefcase as the additional weight of the briefcase cannot be borne by his ankle. In front of the office entrance does has an open parking spot but it’s hard to get parking here. The entrance has a few steps which makes it difficult to navigate.

Video – From Parking Space to Office – Design for All Experiment

Potential Solution
1. The parking spot should be closer towards the entrance. We noticed that there was a car right outside the office building. Mr. Parekh should write to the building’s managing committee and request this spot to be allocated as a handicap spot.
2. The roads from the parking lot to the office building are uneven, bumpy and have steps. They are very inconvenient to walk on even for people without locomotive disabilities. They need to be evened out and they should have slopes instead of steps for easier access.
3. We noticed that the office building entrance is not handicap friendly. There needs to be a better way for people with locomotive disabilities to enter the building. A special lift or structural changes that enable slopes would be recommended.

Activity Breakdown – 4
Time: 9:30AM – 9:45AM
Activity: Working in Office
Pain Level: Bearable
Comment: This is the easiest part of the day. When Mr Parekh gets tired he uses his briefcase to rest his legs and reduce the blood flow and swellings to his ankles.
Image 8: Mr Parekh’s resting his legs on the brief case
Image 8: Mr Parekh’s resting his legs on the brief case
Image 9: Mr Parekh’s brief case
Image 9: Mr Parekh’s brief case

Potential Solution:
It isn’t easy and comfortable for Mr. Parekh to raise his legs and keep on the briefcase to reduce the flow of blood and swellings on his ankles. He needs a special form of splint to rest his lefts or small leg resting cushion couch to keep this legs comfortably.

Activity Breakdown – 5
Time: 7:30PM – 7:45PM
Activity: Return Home
Pain Level: High
Comment: The same journey is made from office to home. At this time Mr Parekh feel tired and is in pain. He wants to just get some rest and sleep.

Potential Solution:
Reduce working hours.


It took us a long time to think of a device that could best suit Mr. Parekh and subjects with similar disabilities.
When Mr. Parekh stands for more than a few minutes his ankles start paining and they swell up. In order to avoid these swellings and reduce the blood flow, Mr. Parekh needs to raise his legs while sitting by about 75 degrees. It is however not possible for him to do so in many public places as chairs aren’t designed to best suit his needs. This gave us an idea of using a splint or a special support device for Mr Parekh’s legs that could take the weight away from the ankle. The idea was to find a splint that would be usable, comfortable, functional and hidden.

At first, we thought about a splint that could be wearable like a pant. The splint would be extremely functional as it would lock up the knee section with a single push button but this would be highly uncomfortable to wear. Later, we thought about a detachable (by velcro) splint across the leg with a similar push button functionality. This would be more comfortable however the subject did not seem to appreciate the idea. The visible factor of the splint made the subject very uncomfortable and feel ostracized from society. This made us disregard this idea and start rethinking the process.

Here is the prototype version of the actual splint:

Paper Prototype – View 1

The splint will be an external wearable belt as seen in the image above. They are tied on the leg by two grips. These grips have velcro that can adjust to different leg sizes. The stand jutting out is completely collapsible and can be pulled easily from the main frame. There is a stop lock clip that adjusts the angle – sort of like henges. This is the final version of our paper prototype is this is most usable version we have as yet. The user could be sitting on any chair, the splint would be able to help him/her by taking the weight off the ankles. The stand can be pulled out easily by any user without much cognition or dexterity.

Click on the image to view larger size
Click on the image to view larger size
Paper Prototype – View 2

It was important for us to choose the right materials for the splint. The overall frame is made with a lightweight and sturdy fibre or metal. The material could be something that is used in hiking sticks. It was also important for us to keep this spint comfortable. The inner part of the belt would have a soft cushioned padding that easily absorbs sweat. This reduces the stress for user from wearing it for extended periods.

Click on the image to view larger size
Click on the image to view larger size
Paper Prototype – View 3

One of the key focus on the design idea was lack of visibility. Many users with disabilities can get conscious or shy. They do not want to be looked down upon and this is the reason they do not use special tools that serve their disability. Mr Parekh was very clear that could be hidden under his pants and that he did not have to wear it externally on his clothing. The slidable socket makes the splint more portable and compact and also serves users of different height.

Click on the image to view larger size
Click on the image to view larger size
Paper Prototype – View 4

Lastly, it is important to make sure that this splint is long lasting and durable. We want to create sustainable design that has a very high usage life. The device should be capable of serving as many different people of different height with ankle problems similar to that of Mr. Parekh’s.

Click on the image to view larger size
Click on the image to view larger size

This splint can be used by anyone with a similar disability. The image below represents the usability scale. The grey circular blocks are the requirements for users to use it. The green circular blocks represent Mr. Parekh’s ability.

Usability Scale for Splint Prototype
Usability Scale for Splint Prototype


With a combination of the splint and a few changes in the environment we believe Mr Parekh can better cope with his disabilities. It was a challenging task to conceptualize a splint that could be adopted by Mr Parekh in his daily life and people with similar ankle problems.
Locomotive disorder is a serious issue that needs to addressed by designers of products and services. Whilst a lot more study is required in this subject area, it has been very interesting to work on this project.


1. Herefordshire council research Team using ONS estimates.
3. Web MD
4. Image Source – Wikipedia – Creative Commons
5. WHO

Examples of Universal Design in Web Accessibility

I have been in Tallinn for about 4 months. Most of my time here has been spent on studying computing and on internet technologies because of the awesome connectivity here. Although this assignment was about finding examples of universal design in our surroundings with respect to the physical environment, the examples I have listed below are illustrations of how technologies can be universal with respect to information/data access for all.

1.  – This is a website that automates many services and is superb example of e-governance in Estonia. The website serves a large part of the population in Estonia. License search, applying for child allowance, application for enrolling in nursery school, application for parental or social benefit, application to join police force and 150+ such services can be accessed from this website.

Example 1- Design for All -
Example 1- Design for All –

As seen in the image above, the website gives its users an option to change the viewing styles as per font size, word spacing and contrast. This helps many users with different visual disabilities to navigate the website.
Usability Scale -  1 -

2. – TED is a non-profit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading. They showcase innovative and life changing ideas from renowned innovators, artists, scientists, speakers, thinkers and doers around the world. Personally, I love this website and I have spent hours watching the videos and taking part in the discussions.

Example 2 - Design for All - TED
Example 2 – Design for All – TED

As seen above, the website provides subtitles for all its videos in 33 different languages. The subtitles are contributed by the viewing community through their Open Translation Project. This is an excellent example of how people with hearing impairments can access and understand these videos.
Usability Scale -  2 - TED

3. – This website is about Estonia’s government and government offices and works. The website is accessed by the citizens of Estonia to stay updated with government activities and measures.

Example 3 - Design for All -
Example 3 – Design for All –

Another example universal design in web accessibility in which users are given an option to change contrast, font style and font size. It also helps one to highlight all selections, remove all styles and change or remove backgrounds. This helps many of its citizens with visual disabilities to access information that otherwise they would not be able to.
Usability Scale -  3 -

4. – This is an estonian website used by its residents for checking tram and bus schedules and to plan their journeys.

Example 4 - Design for All - Soiduplaan
Example 4 – Design for All – Soiduplaan

Although, this website is not as accessible and friendly as the and, it has great use of icons which makes it very simple and effective many users with visual disabilities and cognitive disabilities like dyslexia. It also provides maps for easy visual understanding of routes. All in all the website is very well designed for usage.

Usability Scale -  4 - Soiduplaan

5. Samsung Galaxy S4 – This one really isn’t about internet technologies as it is about mobile technologies and devices for accessing the web.

Example 5 - Design for All - Air Gesture
Example 5 – Design for All – Air Gesture

This phone uses air gestures for input that eliminate the need for touch. This could be useful for many old people who may not want to remove their gloves in the cold while browsing a piece of content or people with disabilities like arthritis who find it difficult to touch or people with certain visual impairments who find it difficult to pin point an exact location for touch.
Usability Scale -  5 - Galaxy S4

Essay: Universal Design and Web Accessibility

– Jinesh Parekh, Design For All – Masters (Student) Human Computer Interaction

web accessibility
Image Source:
Overview: Current State of the Web and Problems for People with Disabilities

Over the past couple of decades our way of lives have been changed because of the internet and the World Wide Web. There has been a dramatic shift in our lifestyles at home, work and outside due to the powerful influence of this medium. The way we travel, conduct business, get answers and access to information, apply for jobs, consume entertainment, go shopping, utilize government services, read newspapers, pay our bills, stay in touch with our family and friends, spend our leisure time, collaborate in organizations etc. has substantially changed because of the rise of this mammoth information system. The economic, social and cultural development as a result of the web and associated technologies are countless, unexplainable and priceless. This has caused a colossal dependency on this system to access information by human beings of all age and it has increased over time for varied purposes.

The number of internet users in world have been increasing every year. As of now, about 35% of the world comprises of internet users. In developed regions such as North America it is estimated that about 81.59% of the population uses the internet. It’s clear that for most of us our functioning of everyday routine life would have to change if there would be a hindrance to our access to the web. However, as of today, there are large number of people from under developed, developing and developed countries that face many difficulties in performing simple tasks in everyday operations through the web. Their disabilities forces them to cut off their information access through the world wide web.

Access to information is considered as a fundamental right by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, there are many users with disabilities for whom usage of this medium of information is out of question because of their difficultly to access to web. Web Publishers, Designers, Authors, Engineers, Technology and Policy makers and associated people in this field and ancillary industries are slowly realizing the significance of the urgency to increase access to information and information services delivered through the World Wide Web easily available to all type of users. Although the web is inherently more accessible and inclusive than other forms of traditional media, like print or television, it still lags behind in making information universally accessible and reachable for all kinds of people including those with disabilities. A lot needs to be done in order to achieve a state of the web that is friendly and open to admit and include all types of users around the world. The internet is here to stay and it’s clear that as time passes our dependence on it will grow immensely.

There are many forms of disabilities like disability in perception (affects hearing or visual), cognition (affects memory or attention) and physical (affects movement, balance, locomotion etc) that bars users from accessing the web. With varied forms of disabilities arise a varied sets of problems that need to be assessed when we speak of web accessibility. Listed below are some of the instances in which people with disabilities face difficulties in accessing the web.

For instance, it is estimated that about 285 million people in the world are visually impaired out of which about 39 million people are completely blind and about 246 million people have low vision. People with low vision cannot read websites with small fonts and people with contrast sensitivity or visual acuity disabilities cannot view unclear graphics in form of photos or videos.

Another instance of disability in access to information through the web are people with hearing disorders or disabilities. It is estimated that about 360 million people in the world have disabling hearing loss. This is over 5% of the world’s population! Examples of such disabilities include difficulty faced due to low hearing which could make the user miss out important information contained in an audio file with no sub titles or people with sound detection issues who miss notifications that use beeps, tones and other sound outputs to communicate with its system users.

Instances whereby people who have physical disabilities that affects locomotion, dexterity, reach and stretch and so on have a different set of problems in web access. People who have arthritis or osteoporosis could have trouble performing simple tasks to access the web like maneuvering the mouse or clicking the keyboard.

There are many people have different kinds of cognitive disabilities. Disorders in cognition processes could affect perception, working memory, short term and long term memory, visual or verbal thinking and attention. People with cognitive disabilities like dyslexia could have problems with navigating through the website and people with attention disorders could have trouble focusing on the important pieces of content.

As people get old they could face all of the above mentioned problems. There are a whole range of problems people could have that could potentially block their access to information. These problems also come in different forms; they can be device related, software related, technology related or even connectivity related.

Solutions: Laws, Policies, Guidelines, Technologies and Educational Outreach

The problems listed above are not conclusive or explicit. There are a lot more problems that are unaccounted and faced by persons with different disabilities but it’s clear that it is impossible to find a single sized solution that fits all boxes. There is need for changes to take place across many spheres of the web with regards to its accessibility. One of the most significant issues to consider while designing solutions for accessibility is that the web is not created, owned, regulated or managed by a single body. A great number of individuals and organizations from dispersed places of the world have contributed, and are contributing, towards the development of this vast information system. This is the reason a several measures need to be taken within different areas of workings of the web to ensure promotion of web access to people lie disabilities. Some of the solutions are discussed below in this essay.

Governments across the world could pass laws that declare information access to every person as a fundamental right. They must also pass policies whereby universal access to information could be promoted and made more affordable to all. For instance purchase of assistive technologies to improve web access for disabled people could be made taxfree. Another important aspect that needs to be discussed here is the ever changing and rapid development of technologies. The state of the web is changing everyday as there are new technologies (and their applications) being developed every day. This makes it difficult for law makers to set guidelines and rules of information delivery for usage. It is important for such authorities to stay updated with modern day technological changes and pass the right policies/laws at the right time that ensure inclusion of accessibility to all kinds of people.

The W3C, an international consortium of the world wide web for development of web technologies, standards and guidelines, had started an initiative called Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in 1997. Development efforts of document sets like Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Authoring Tool Accessibility Guides (ATAG), User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) and Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) by the WAI are trying to ensure that the future of the web is more accessible to all.

The WCAG tries to set guidelines on how to design web content and applications to made accessible and it also provides semi-automatic tools that help in evaluation of information access. The goals of WCAG are to make web content access more perceivable, robust, operable and understandable regardless of the abilities of the user. Different techniques are documented and listed for web developers and designers to ensure applicability of WCAG guidelines during their content creation process.

The ATAG attempts to set guidelines accessibility standards for development of software and tools that help in authoring. Its main goal is to make sure the tools used for authoring the web should be accessible to people with different disabilities. This increases participation and contribution of disabled people to the web.

The UAAG provides guidelines to user agents that are used every day to access the web like browsers or media players and encourages them to promote web accessibility to all. One of the goals of UAAG is to address interoperability issues between mainstream browsers and multimedia players and various assistive technologies like screen readers, speech recognition software, language translators and so on. Integration (and advancement) of many different devices that are converging with the world wide web pose another collection of challenges with the issue of web accessibility for disabled people. Devices like digital cameras, mobile phones and digital television have now started to use the internet to deliver certain extra services to people or deliver the same services with different methods. The inclusion of these devices creates a new set of problems in web accessibility and demands new solutions in interaction design to include all types of users.

Unlike the early days of the web, many websites or applications today do not have static content. Content on many web platforms changes every day and it is difficult to implement changes to make such sites or applications more accessible. The WAI-AARIA is a special set of guidelines that tries to address issues of accessibility of dynamic web content.

The concurrent development of each of these divisions of guidelines, the development of various tools that retrofit websites to easier access or evaluate site design and development, developing educational material to increase awareness and coordination with organizations on researching future technologies are all ways for WAI to achieve its goals in making the world wide web more accessible to people with disabilities.

There is an enormous number of people who are contributing to the development of the web. Content is being produced by many users across the world and we now spot to a need to increase awareness among these groups of people to create more accessible information for all. The WAI tries create educational material for outreach of this message. Contributors like designers and developers need to be more aware of what kind of content they are creating and how it will be accessed (or used) by different people with varied disabilities.


In addition to some of the above mentioned solutions, active participation is needed by people with disabilities from various streams. This helps in discovery of new accessibility problems and finding their solutions. It also speeds up the policy making process in making the web more accessible and making information open to people with such problems. With the help and involvement of people with disabilities there is a lot more that can be done by the WAI, the governments, the organizations and contributing individuals that promote accessibility to the world wide web. 


Assuming a persona and understanding their disabilities

Assignment 1

For the purposes of this assignment, I have assumed the persona of my grandmother. Her name is Laxmi and she is 78 years old. She has a disease called osteoporosis and because of this she has trouble getting around everyday objects/designs to get her work done.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease which the bones become extremely porous and heal slowly, occurring especially in women following menopause and often leading to curvature of the spine from vertebral collapse [1]. It is a widespread metabolic bone disease characterized by decreased bone mass and poor bone quality. It leads to an increased frequency of fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist.

Image Source:
Image Source:

Osteoporosis is a global public health problem currently affecting more than 200 million people worldwide. In the United States alone, 10 million people have osteoporosis, and 18 million more are at risk of developing the disease [2].

One of the biggest life altering effects of weak bones (or lack of calcium) in elderly people’s routine is having a bent back. There many old people in the world who have a bent back and this affects their day to day life operations as objects and services have not been design keeping their body structure in mind.


In this exercise I have been trying to understand the different difficulties a person in such a situation would face in an ordinary act of going from one university room to another. Below are two videos from different perspectives. I asked a friend to shoot one video while I was trying to navigate from one room to another. The video after that is the one from my perspective. I have studied both the videos and observed several discrepancies in the design of the building, the signs and maps.

Third person perspective

First person perspective

I have a bag pack on back with two 20 kilo dumbbells that I got from the University gym that would weigh me down. The added weight on my back made it relatively easy to simulate the effects of osteoporosis. Of course, it’s not even close to what patients/people who have osteoporosis (or a bent back) feel but it was good to get an general idea of the situation as a designer.


A 7 minutes’ walk was tiring, cumbersome and frustrating as my back was hurting and I had a low a visible range. The whole walk could have been done in less than half the time if buildings were designed better with some of the following solutions:

  • Colour Coded Flooring – The flooring of the different buildings could be colour coded. The image below is an example of how navigation could simpler if each building was assigned a colour and the pathways would have coloured stripes of this colour coding system. Getting from one place to another would be a lot simpler. Many airplanes, airports and other public transport systems have such elements within their design.
Image Source:
Image Source:
  • Large and Coloured Signs – The font size of the different buildings/directions could be made in a large font. Along with alterations in the font size, it would be ideal if the signs could also have a colour code to them. For e.g. – The colour blue could be attached to one building (Mare). All signs that have Mare written on them should be in blue background and white font.
  • Better Placement of Signs – At present, in order to view the sign, we have to look up. However, with a bent back it makes it impossible for me to look up as the signs do not fall in my visible range. To view the sign I need to move backwards. But when I move backwards to get the signs within my visible range, the font is not readable Instead of having the signs close to the ceiling, it would be nice if the signs would be placed exactly in between the ceiling and floor level. This would increase visibility for many.
  • Push Doors – As noticed here, the doors need to be automatic or push doors that can be pushed both ways, back and front. People with Osteoporosis have joint problems as well. It hurts to pull or push a door with the hands. It would be easier if the entire body weight could be used to push the door.
  • Clearer Maps – As noticed in the start of the video, the orientation of the map is wrong. This can very confusing for many people – not just elderly people with Osteoporosis. The map needs to be rotated.

The above mentioned are juts a few examples of solutions that were derived through this simple exercise. Prior to designing road maps, walk ways, etc. designers must try to simulate various personas to enable the design to be inclusive to all kinds of people.