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There is always a lot of talk about using design thinking as a launching pad for accessible design, however, I rarely hear about people talking about making the design thinking exercises accessible themselves.

When we ask a blind person to perform post-it tasks, how might we make that easy for a blind user? Inclusive considerations like this are just as important as the considerations we make during the design phase. Any suggestions or best practices for this? Would love to hear what others are doing to make parts of the process more inclusive!

More context:

In the discovery phase, we tend to do a lot of post it ideation. One idea, one post-it and we throw it up on a board. Once that is done, we generally have everyone come up and do dot voting followed by categorization and grouping based on positive/neutral/negative clusters.

I was thinking, the easiest solution I could think of to get everyone on the same page is to do the exercising using tabs in google sheets or something. We generally keep the ideation part private so that everyone has a chance to think up ideas without being influenced by others.

People can work on their own tabs, and sheets are relatively accessible for those who have mobility issues or for those who require screen readers. The process of sharing is pretty easy once the method is established.

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    +1 what an interesting and important question! I am glad that someone has thought to ask this :) – Michael Lai Mar 18 at 0:51
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    List some of the exercises you are thinking of doing and I will drop a few ideas over. Example given of blind person and post it notes:- announce what is being added to the board out loud, someone also uses SMS to text the items to the blind participant so they can review the list using assistive tech they use often and are familiar with. Better yet build a web page and let everyone submit electronically (will expand on this point in answer) When thinking about this I would recommend setting up 'personas' with how they use assistive tech and their impairments so you can easily find solutions. – Graham Ritchie Mar 18 at 1:19
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    Given the Covid-19 crisis we started experimenting with Miro as a digital whiteboard. Not sure if Miro has good screenreader qualities though. – Kevin M. Mar 20 at 9:31
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    We are experimenting with it too but, unfortunately, it's not remotely accessible. :( – Jerry Lee Mar 20 at 16:36
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    The "silent disco", digital version of voting that you suggested seems to be pretty strong. What don't you think about it? – MXMLLN Mar 22 at 9:59
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+25

I prefer the "silent disco", digital version of voting that the original poster suggested, but will present the first option that came to mind.

The Idea: Brailled post-its. If all the post-its were translated into braille versions and each participant was given their own set and a labelled grid for them to work with, this would be the visually impaired version of a post-it workshop.

Optional reading: More details about implementation

  1. Braille alone won't solve the problem - Placing post-its randomly on the wall is standard for sighted participants, who always have the proximity between notes as a visual reference to understand their relationships and groupings. This approach doesn't work for visually impaired participants. Even if all the post-its were in braille, there are a lot of interaction problems that make this problematic for a workshop. For example, since braille is read through touch, only 1 participant can read a braille note at a time.
  2. The Grid - Visually impaired users could more easily group separate notes if there was a reference. Most 2-D data will have these references, from the longitude and latitude of maps to the clustering of X and Y values on simple excel graphs and charts. A braille chessboard might work for the grid, which labels the columns with letters and the rows with numbers. Participants could refer to the groups in many ways, for example, "the group in the board's top right corner" or "the notes centered at D5".
  3. Grid memorization - We can assume that blind users might be strong at spatially memorizing information, but it probably doesn't happen right away. They will need time to play with and learn the data. With this in mind, each participant should have their own set of post-its. Taking a note, then making 5+ copies for all the participants isn't very "lean". That is ultimately why a digital version is much more natural. If this was browser based, visually impaired users would probably have all the accessibility tools built in.
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    An interesting idea, but given the amount of post-it notes I am used to seeing at workshops, I wonder how feasible/practical this will be. Also, considering that Post-It (TM) Notes are already quite expensive, I wonder if we will be able to afford accessible versions of this :p – Michael Lai Mar 22 at 22:49
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Here's how we did design thinking exercises with a stakeholder who was completely visually impaired.

  1. During the divergent ideation phase, where everyone was writing ideas on Post-Its, the stakeholder told a designated scribe (our intern) what to write on each note.
  2. When Post-Its were being grouped together, we'd do a read-out of what was on the board and ask for audience members to suggest groupings. We kept the pace quick and kept repeating the notes aloud so that nobody really had to look at them in order to group them. My intern moved the notes around so that nobody had to get up and look at the board, which was also good for people who can't stand up for a long time.
  3. For each phase after this, we made sure to quickly keep running through and calling out what was on the Post-Its, but in a natural way that kept the flow going. For example: "We called this category Trees, and it includes Willows, Oaks and Pines."

In the end, we created a system that required nobody to look at the board, and that made it easier for our visually-impaired stakeholder to contribute her ideas.

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  • +1 How was the experience for everyone involved? How successful do you think it is and has it been continued? – Michael Lai Mar 23 at 3:49
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    The feedback was that it went well. Stickies can be hard to read for a lot of reasons, like difficult or tiny handwriting, and using call-outs helped sighted participants with the experience, too. I've left the institution where we practiced this, and I hope this is continuing. – Stacy H Mar 23 at 16:12
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I think this is a very relevant time to bring up this question because many of us are probably working from home.

Recently i've tried hosting full and partial remote DT sessions, using all kinds of online tools e.g. Miro. Compared to fully offline workshops, I think remote workshops do shorten the gap in terms of accessibility given the virtual world supersedes the physical world in this setting, levelling the playing field in a sense. This makes posting a virtual post-it easier for a wheelchair bound person for example.

But at the same time it took longer due to various measures taken, e.g. repeating things, or asking participants to repeat things to make sure everyone heard it, or simply making sure everyone had posted their ideas.

Based on this remote DT experience. I feel that while technology is known as the great enabler, its limitations can equalise the playing field for activities that are meant to be purely real world. Which means these remote collaboration platforms have a lot of room for improvement.

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    Did you find yourself doing anything differently during your sessions? If you think about it, hosting a virtual meeting makes everyone experience a situational disability to one degree or another. Nobody can see the whiteboard, nobody can get up and write on the board, half the attendees are on mute and a great majority can't understand anything the others are saying because of the terribly congested network.. I ended up announcing and repeating things verbally more often and facilitating more in terms of documentation through chat for those who couldn't hear. An experiment in redundancy – Jerry Lee Mar 24 at 15:11

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