Discussion: Design for Everyone – at the Service Design in Government conference

How do we make our services available to everyone who needs to use them?

A group of us at the Service Design in Government 2014 conference came together in a Goldfish Bowl group to talk about our personal and design challenges.

In the Goldfish Bowl format, some leaders start the discussion from a central sets of chairs, and then anyone else in the room can steal a chair to ask questions or comment. I’d like to thank our inspiring group of leaders:

  • Julie Howell who brought her perspective as a communications coach and accessibility campaigner
  • Esteban Olmedo, a user researcher who brought his perspective from working on government service design
  • Rachel Singh, an anthropologist who brought her perspective of considering how services relate to people’s overall lives.

Participants shared stories of their own experiences as service users

Many of the group shared examples of good, bad and ugly service design they had encountered. Their stories showed that people:

  • with physical disabilities
  • mental health issues
  • who have difficulty in understanding or reading English
  • or who haven’t used a computer before

may all have different reasons why they find services challenging, but we need to consider all of them in our service design.

image adapted from original by Mississippi State University, under Creative Commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
image adapted from original by Mississippi State University, under Creative Commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

We need to test services with people with a wide range of special needs

We agreed that when we’re designing services to be accessible we can’t rely solely on our own experiences. We need to do usability testing with as many groups with different special needs as possible.

Another example of users with ‘special needs’ are the victims of sexual violence

In another conference session, Manuela Aguirre from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design shared her research into how victims of sexual violence go through the criminal justice system – and what accessible service design means in such a difficult context.

More ways to get involved in design for people with special needs

I suggested the ‘Design for Everyone’ session because of my long-term interest in designing for readability.

The Service Design in Government 2015 conference will be in London on 19-20 March 2015.