World Usability Day: design for inclusion

 “User experience” is increasingly important for who works in  development and design, at all levels.  It is confirmed by the 2017 edition of the World Usability Day, the event that will take place, for the fourth year in a row, in Rome on November 8th and 9th, gathering Italian and international experts in workshops and talks. The World Usability Day was established in 2005 by the Usability Professionals ‘Association (UXPA). Since then, every year, on the second Thursday of November, all around the world there are events aiming to boost awareness towards the importance of thinking and designing taking into account, first, the main character: the user who what you’re working on is addressed to.

World Usability Day 2017

The subject of this edition of the World Usability Day is user experience as an inclusion promoter. The goal of design professionals, as a matter of fact, must be contributing to shape a better future, taking into consideration the specific needs of all the people, seen in their own uniqueness. In a world that changes quickly, also under a political and demographic perspective, we can’t keep on designing keeping in mind just a part of population, forgetting about the remainders.

How to reach this ambitious goal? The speakers who will alternate on the World Usability Day stage will present different perspectives and food for thought: design thinking to create technologies and products for all, services accessibility and usability, empathy as  a starting point for a designing process focused on the individual.

This initiative underlines, once again, the increasing awareness towards the unavoidable need to think according to the “Design for All” logics, developing products and services suitable for the specific abilities, attitudes and needs of the users. As the insiders say, designers are often reluctant towards change. Then, it’s important to help them approaching their job using something we all, as human beings, have: empathy, that is the ability to “put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes”, feeling his needs, spirit and life as ours.

 

 

More accessible railway stations: RFI’ commitment

Who daily lives with any disability and has- for business, study or leisure reasons- to take the train, knows how tricky this experience can be, even though the availability of assistance services is granted in the overwhelming majority of the Italian railway stations.

Stations - Milan Central

Milan Central Station

On the occasion of the XV National day for the architectonical barriers removal, on October 1st, RFI (Italian Railway Network),  companioning with FIABA, a non-profit association that has been fighting for years to remove architectonical barriers, officially announced its plan to improve its stations accessibility and usability for all the passengers.

Planned interventions include:

  • elevating sidewalks (55 cm from the platform plan) to make it easy hopping on and off the trains;
  • redeveloping passages and building new ramps to access the platforms;
  • activating elevators;
  • installing tactile paths and maps for visually impaired passengers;
  • building new platform roofs and redeveloping the existent ones.
Stations - Milan Central Station

Milan Central Station gallery

Furthermore, public information systems, both video and audio, will be improved, installing new monitors and sound diffusion systems and improving the station signage and lighting. The plan also includes interventions on the stations access areas, building parking lots, stalls for 2-wheels vehicles stop and appropriate systems facilitating the travellers hopping on and off, without bicycles on their shoulders. Digital technologies will also be more used, to improve the “user experience” for all the passengers, speeding up the access to platform and the electronic ticket validation and making it easier to find real time info about train circulation and more.

Renewal and removal of architectonical barriers interventions, in 2017, will involve 50 railway stations all over Italy and likewise in 2018. Is that going to be enough to, at last, ease train commuting for all the passengers? We do hope so!

What’s your experience travelling by train and in the stations? Let’s share it in the comments!

 

Hackability@Barilla: accessibility enters the kitchen

For many people, cooking is a joy and a passion, as it’s confirmed by the success of so many TV programmes about it, broadcasted all day long on all the TV channels. But for people with a disability, isn’t always possible to enjoy this passion since, very often, the design of utensils (and their packaging) doesn’t take into account accessibility, that is the possibility that they are used also by someone with any physical limitation. That’s the starting point of Hackability@Barilla, the hackathon promoted by the well-known food company to promote the meeting (and the chance to work together) among “makers” (designers, computer technicians, digital professionals) and, precisely, people with disability, to create together utensils (and their packaging) suitable for disabled people.

Hackability@Barilla

Designed by Freepik

HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN hackability@barilla

Do you have an idea that could make a cooking utensil or its packaging more accessible? Or is creating your passion and you want to put it to use in an initiative with a high value and social benefit? If you answered “yes” to one (or both) of these questions, from September 18th to December 15th 2017, you can “answer the call” (that is, enrol) directly on the Hackability@Barilla website, filling the registration form with all the requested info. The teams selected by the company will have the opportunity to work together   at its location, in Parma, in January 2018. Then, the selected ideas will be presented, together with their prototypes, at the end of February 2018, always at Barilla offices in Parma. For more details, you can check the guidelines.

Hackability@Barilla joins many other initiatives which, in the last years, have increasingly focused on the importance of accessibility and inclusion for all the people, including those with a disability. In this case, there’s something more: the involvement of the individuals concerned, the disabled people, who are called to work together with the makers to help them looking at the objects also from the perspective of the specific needs of each individual. A golden opportunity, which confirms the commitment that Barilla summarizes also in its mission: “Good for You, Good for the Planet, Good for the Community”.

 

School and disability, between excellence and chronic deficiency

September: in these days, school gates open again all over Italy and, among the students sitting at the desks, there are also more than 235 thousand with a disability (about 3% on the total), almost equally distributed among nursery school, primary school, grammar school and high school. But is the school ready to welcome and support them, so that they can fully exercise their right to education?

Italy is the leading country for school inclusion of disabled students, to the extent that, at the beginning of 2016, it received an official recognition by the UN. Indeed, while they are still present in countries such as Spain and Germany, here in Italy the so-called “special classes” (real ghettos inside the “normal” schools, where students with physical or cognitive disabilities and those who experienced another kind of disadvantage were enclosed) are, now (and luckily), just a past thing, since they were abolished in 1977, when new flexible educational models were introduced, aiming to promote the integration among all the students, beyond their peculiarities, using, where needed, also specialized teachers. The 104/92 law further emphasized the importance of integrating the disabled students of all levels into normal classes.

school and disability

A long way has been walked also as regards removing architectonical barriers, during the years, with more than 80% of schools having stairs and bathrooms suitable for physically disabled people. Things get slightly worse when we look at expedients for sensory disabled people and accessibility of internal and external spaces: only 30% of schools, as a matter of fact, are equipped with visual, acoustic and tactile signage, while a little bit more than 40% has easily accessible paths.

Another not exactly rosy chapter regards those who’d assist students with particularly severe disabilities and special needs teaching assistants, who are essential to ensure access to didactics and inclusion to students with cognitive disabilities. Every year, punctually, there’s a raging controversy because they’re not enough to ensure adequate assistance to all the students who would need it. Unfortunately, there are also issues about their training, often inadequate to the specific needs of the students they’d be supposed to assist. Not to mention the fact that, if being a teacher, more than just a job, is a matter of vocation (or a real “mission”, as some say), that’s even more so for those who, due to their specific role, have to deal with particularly tricky students, often unable to collaborate: without a proper training and if they live their role just as a way to “earn money”, it’s easy to get discouraged, leave students to their own devices, contributing to ghettoize them, instead of including them into the school system, which is the fundamental harbinger of their full and successful inclusion in the community.

“Lombardia Facile”, an easier region for all

Since a few weeks, citizens of Lombardy with a disability can enjoy the use of a brand new service: “Lombardia Facile”, the portal that will collect info, as the project’s name itself suggests, that could make the disabled people daily life easier.

"Lombardia Facile"

From welfare to work and education, from tourism to sport and leisure: on “Lombardia Facile”, you’ll be gradually able to find info about laws, facilitations and services available for resident citizens and tourists with a disability in Lombardy.

Arisen from the companionship between Regione Lombardia and associations and organizations representing and defending the rights of various categories of people with motoric and sensory disabilities, the “Lombardia Facile” project wants to remove all the obstacles and barriers (both physical and informational) that, nowadays, complicate the life of people with disability or special needs.

The portal pays particular attention to subjects such as mobility and accessible tourism. On “Lombardia Facile”, you can find a search engine to access info about the accessibility of monuments, museums and other places of artistic and cultural interest in Lombardy.

Moreover, on the website you can find info about another service, active since 2001, dedicated to disabled people: SpazioDisabilità, offering consultancy services about various topics related to disability. SpazioDisabilità is addressed both to disabled people and their families and caregivers. These services has been redesigned as well and the goal is to create a front office system widespread all over the region, opening other info points in all the administrative centres, in addition to the one today available at the HQ or Regione Lombardia. Starting from next year, those who will turn to SpazioDisabilità will have another service too: the video-chat in LIS (the Italian Sign Language), that will give deaf people the opportunity to communicate with the front office operators intermediated by a LIS interpreter connected through videoconference.

In conclusion, important progresses are in place towards accessibility and inclusion of all the citizens. We hope similar initiatives will be activated in other regions too. Are you aware of some? Please, inform me!

Accessibility: Kimap maps Bologna too

We already talked, some time ago, about Kimap, the digital ecosystem developed by Kinoa srl aiming to map the architectonical barriers in our cities, paying particular attention to the accessibility for people with a motoric disability. After Florence, now it was Bologna’s turn. Here, the mapping process involved the streets that, starting from the Central Station, lead to the most important monuments and the centre of the city and the university area. Overall, the Kimappers mapped the accessibility of about 8 km of streets daily traversed by tourists and citizens.

Accessibility map of Bologna

Mapping of the centre of Bologna

The green dots represent a good level of accessibility for the street, the yellow ones indicate small obstacles and vibrations averagely impacting on the path, the red ones indicate a danger registered through very emphasized vibrations of the wheelchair and through obstacles or stairs that are difficult to avoid. Then, the red symbol with the wheelchair indicates the presence of architectonical barriers, the purple one with the skittle the presence of a temporary obstacle, while the orange symbol signals a slope that’s hard to traverse.

As always, all the job has been carried out with the precious contribution of the Kimappers, the community of users and volunteers (whose number constantly grows) who daily share paths, obstacles, experience and tourist itineraries that are accessible also for people who, to move, uses a wheelchair or other aids.

Kimap - smartphone app

The Kimap project sure doesn’t stop here: the next steps include the release of the free app on the most important stores for mobile devices and further tests in the most renowned tourist cities in our Country. The next stage has been decided already: i twill be Rome, our capital city, that attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. A big challenge, indeed, given the particular features of the wonderful (but not very accessible indeed) “eternal city”!

We’ll talk about it for sure on this website, of course: stay tuned!

“Corsie gialle e Ztl”: an app that makes life easier

Once again, technology helps people with a disability. We’ve already talked about some app with this goal, for instance those used to identify or point out architectonical barriers. Today, we’ll talk about “Corsie gialle e Ztl” (“Yellow lanes and controlled traffic zones“), the app that allows to speed up the procedure to request the permit to access the controlled traffic zones, increasingly present in our cities, and to fast tracks.

driving a car

Car drivers with a disability who have the specific blu permit, can access:

  • the controlled traffic zones
  • the lanes reserved for buses and cabs 
  • the pedestrian areas, provided that other type of vehicles can access them, particularly those used for public transport services
  • in case of block, interruption or limitation to circulation due to public safety, public interest or against pollution, for instance during eco-friendly Sundays or  even and odd numbers of license plates.

Usually, to access a controlled traffic zone, you must follow a quite complex procedure and communicate your intention to circulate in that given zone to the appropriate offices of your Municipality, sending, through fax or e-mail: your license plate data, the day and the time slot you want to circulate and a copy of the specific documents requested by your Municipality (for instance, you can find here the web page with the forms to send your request to the Municipality of Milan).

This procedure can definitely be made faster and simplified thanks to “Corsie gialle e Ztl”. The app, which is currently available for Android devices, enables you to send, in a few steps, all the requested info to get the authorization to access the controlled traffic zone of the city you’re interested in. You can see how in this short video:

Through the”Corsie gialle e Ztl” app, you can:

  • scan the documents, needed to send the circulation request, even using your smartphone camera
  • import from the photo gallery of your device the images of the documents, if you have previously scanned them
  • select the city, the date, the time slot of your transit and the license plate of your car to prepare the e-mail message that will be sent to the Municipality where the controlled traffic zone or the yellow lanes are located
  • license plate and documents scans are stored into the app so that you don’t need to upload them every time you need.

"Corsie gialle e Ztl"

 To make a long story short, you can do everything in a few clicks, in an easy and fast way.  Isn’t it an advantage?

Kimap: technology supporting accessibility

It would be great to be able to go around without bumping into any architectonical barrier, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to make this dream come true in a short while. Then, what do we have to do? Accepting the status quo and wait for a magic wand to remove all the obstacles or doing something concrete? The Kimap creators chose the second option.

Kimap logo

Kimap - app per smartphone

What’s Kimap? It’s an “anti-barriers” digital ecosystem, made up by an app for smartphones (that will soon be available both for Android and IOS devices) helping to map the architectonical barriers and serve as a “barrier-free” GPS, helping people with disability to easily move along the mapped paths, a user-friendly IoT (Internet of Things) device, that improves the results of mapping, keeping them constantly up-to-date, and a community of users that confirm or update live le info obtained through the mapping process. Kimap has been promoted and designed by Kinoa, an innovative start-up founded one year ago to design innovative products integrating Big Data and Internet of Things technologies.

A few days ago, in Florence, the Kimap creators organized the first “live”mapping of the city, companioning with the kimapper Armando Dei, who covered on his wheelchair some strategic points of the city both for tourists and citizens moving for business, study and other reasons. The mapping involved: the Campo di Marte railway station, Piazza Beccaria towards the old town centre and the Sant’Ambrogio market; via Maragliano, piazza San Jacopino and Viale Redi, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Pitti, Santo Spirito and Piazza del Carmine.

Kimap

The kimapper Armando Dei

The mapping allowed to obtain various maps in real time, directly stored on the kimapper’ smartphone. They assess the architectonical barriers using three colours: the green dots indicate a street with a good accessibility level; the yellow ones indicate small obstacles and minimum risk of vibrations during the path; finally, the red dots indicate a sign of primary risk registered by very strong vibrations of the wheelchair and by obstacles and stairs hard to overcome. Moreover, black is used to mark “not-accessible” roads, that cannot be safely covered due to the lack of sidewalks and/or a very damaged asphalt. Using the Kimap app, the user can also point out other temporary obstacles, building sites and slopes that are hard to face.

Kimap la mappa

The map of Campo di Marte’s area

The Kimap project has just started and the team is still working on the app and on the device improvement. After Florence, real time mappings will be carried out in other cities, companioning with associations, universities and local administrations. It’s gonna be a long and complex job, but the premises to success are excellent. Good luck, Kimap!

 

Accessibility of live music events: Alice’s thesis

Alice Cerafogli

Months ago, casually, while I was navigating on the Internet, I bumped into the questionnaire of a girl who was about to graduate and was collecting info about a topic that’s close to my heart: accessibility of live music events for people with any disability. Of course, I filled the questionnaire and invited also Move@bility followers on social media to do so, since I think that full inclusion of people with disability into the social context also passes through leisure. That girl is Alice Cerafogli, 25 years old, who in a few days will discuss her thesis to get the specialized degree in Performing Arts Management and Entertainment at Bocconi University in Milan. From my answers to that questionnaire arose a mail exchange, based on the interested we shared. Now that she has completed her research, here we are to share it with Move@bility readers.

Hi Alice, how did you choose to talk about the accessibility of live music events for disabled people as a subject for your thesis?

Hi! I’ve always wished to work in music industry and concerts organization, so I chose this course of studies. During university, I became interested in accessibility and, particularly, I began studying accessible tourism thanks to a course I attended during my exchange period in Australia, at the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS). I was very impressed by the amount of initiatives promoted for disabled tourists there, so, once I got back to Italy, I wondered what the picture was like in our country and if there was a change to be inspired by the Australian example. Since I’m very keen on live music, I chose to study the topic of concerts accessibility.

How did you structure the analysis for your thesis about accessibility of live music events?

In addition to sharing the online questionnaire, which collected answers from many websites and associations working with disabled people, I interviewed some representatives of these associations and of important companies which organize musical events all over Italy. My goal was to get a picture that was as more complete and stick to the actual situation as possible.

accessibility of live music events

In your opinion, in view of the results of your analysis, what is the biggest obstacle disabled people have to face if they want to attend a concert, in Italy?

Based on the results I got through my research, I think that one of the main issues to face for disabled people willing to attend a concert is to find the info they need to access the tickets and be “prepared” to what’s waiting for them during the night of the show. Events’ promoters often adopt similar, but note identical, procedures, to ensure accessibility of live music events and each venue has different features that can affect the procedures to reserve, pick up the tickets, have your seat assigned and so on.  I think that fixing standard rules, valid all over the national territory, and make official communications clear and complete could help not only disabled people and their companions, but also the promoters themselves to better manage and more effectively all the spectators and the event overall.

In your analysis, you say that, besides promoters, also venues hosting live music events “set the rules”. As a woman with a motoric disability (even though I can walk autonomously) who loves attending both live music and sport events (usually, in Milan and around, then, ultimately, in a privileged situation, compared with other areas in Italy), many times, even though I had followed all the steps indicated by promoters of the event I was interested in, I had unpleasant surprises in loco: seats reassigned to other (not disabled) people (in the reserved area…), seats assigned in areas not reached by elevators or, however, far from the stage or from playground (for sport events), parking permit next the event venue not guaranteed (a quite big issue for who, just like me, can’t walk kilometres)… and the list could go ahead. Sometimes, reaching directly out to the promoter company, in the end, I succeeded solving the issue. But it didn’t happen all times. That had negative effects not just under a physical perspective, but also under a psychological one, often resulting in mined nights for me and for my companion… What would you suggest to do to boost the awareness of venues hosting the events as well?  

The main issue, for many venues, it that they often host different events. For instance, stadiums and arenas designed to host sport events, must “swap their face to host music concerts, reconsidering their spaces. It can easily generate issues, but it isn’t fair that disabled spectators’ needs aren’t always respected. Sure, it could help if the venue staff (both permanent or temporary hired just to manage big events) was made more aware about it. For instance, associations and volunteers could join the staff or some venues and provide it with a basic training about managing disabled attendees. Even small expedients can often make a difference, together with a more aware staff, who pays more attention to anticipating the audience needs, resulting in a right way to deal with specific situations.

In your opinion, would it be possible, soon, to ensure an adequate experience (including, maybe, the chance to live the concert together with a group of friends or with the rest of the audience, instead of reserved areas) to those who have any disability (motoric, sensory, psychic) and want to attend a live music event?

The topic of areas reserved to disabled people particularly impressed me, since, based on the data I collected, it represents one of the main reasons of crash among disabled audience and promoters. On one hand, I think that all the attendees could have the opportunity to choose where attending the concert and together with as many friends as they like. However, on the other hand, I understand that promoters must ensure safety of all the audience in case of emergency and, therefore, they need to ask the disabled people to attend the show from a reserved and controlled area. I think safety must be priority #1, but I’d like there were more reserved seats for disabled people and their companions, maybe not just in one area, but in different ones (at least, in biggest venues, where reserved seats are really too few compared with the demand for tickets).

I can only agree with you! What would be needed, also under a cultural perspective, to reach this outcome?

A huge organizational glitch to the accessibility of live music events is the commercial interest. However, during my searches, I discovered that many disabled people would be ready to pay a fair price for accessible experiences and would have the free ticket granted just for their companion. I think that starting to look at disabled people as a market segment could take to develop interesting initiatives and, generally speaking, to improve accessibility standards of spaces and services. Obviously, we could figure out a lot of initiatives funded by the Government to boost awareness towards accessibility, but I always tend to think from “my” point of view, and, then, that of businesses and service providers.

As a professional communicator, I like your idea of an institutional campaign to boost awareness towards accessibility of live music events: how do you imagine it?

It would be great if some artists would become testimonials of a campaign aiming to boost the awareness of industry operators, but also of the rest of the audience, towards the issues that disabled spectators and their companions must face. Various studies, which I reviewed for my thesis, also show that leisure opportunities, devoting time to their own passions without too many concerns, have a positive impact on wellness, facilitating the inclusion of disabled people into the community.  After all, fun is part of life to!

Thanks a lot, Alice, for your thesis about accessibility of live music events and for this chat. Good luck with all your future projects!

Thank you and cheers to Move@bility friends!

“Giocando si impara”: the UILDM campaign for accessible playgrounds

We know it: playing is essential for the individual development, starting from the most tender age. Through play, we don’t just develop body coordination, logic and cognitive capabilities: playing together with others, the child socializes and puts himself into the context he lives in, learning to relate to others, acknowledging and accepting differences.  Outdoor playing, moreover, has many benefits, both at a physical and psychological level. And that’s also valid for children with any disability. But the right to play, that is ratified by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,  is too often denied to children with motoric or sensory disabilities, due to the lack of accessible playgrounds, which could ensure them a fully safe experience. This is the topic of this year’s UILDM National Day, whose emblematic title is “Giocando si impara” (“You learn by playing”).

"Giocando si impara" the poster

The campaign poster – Picture by © UILDM

Until April 19th, we’ll have the opportunity to support the Italian Union Fighting Against Muscular Dystrophy in its awareness campaign aiming to grant the right to play, even outdoor, to all the children, including those with a disability. The number of accessible playgrounds, in our country, has increased, throughout these years, marking a higher awareness towards accessibility: thanks to your signals, we often talked about it on Move@bility social profiles as well. But we cannot stop here and the “Giocando s’impara” campaign reminds us of it. Ensuring access to outdoor play to all the children, we don’t just protect their right: we also help the entire community to become aware of the need and possibility of a full and effective inclusion for everyone, including people with disability, in our community.  While playing, differences are cancelled and all the children are equal: then, starting right from children, through play, we can aim to create a social context where no one is excluded.

"Giocando si impara"

Picture © UILDM