Good design is inclusive design. Handy for COVID-19

Everything starts with a redesign.

Every design is matter of inspiration.

Inspiration comes out of curiosity.

Curiosity comes from the continuous willingness to learn and understand how to solve problems.


During the start of the pandemic, back in late March 2020, I was deeply touched by the events that were happening in the USA, in Italy (my home country) and all over the World. As a UX researcher and designer I felt I needed to act and offer my knowledge and skills to help other people.


One day at the end of March, when I went out to send some letters at the post office, I got back to the car checking my receipts and suddenly I looked up in front of me: I noticed a guy who was acting quite weirdly with the door.


I then decided to take a picture. And then another and another and another, until I noticed that several people were replicating his behavior.


In about 1-hour, while observing (one of the tools from my UX researcher toolbox) people getting in and out of the post office and taking notes and pictures I realized that a pain point was there. People were worried about touching objects such as doors, handles, and buttons in the public space as the COVID-19 was spreading all around the world with a high mortality rate. Nobody really knew at that time how exactly the virus was spreading, how it was possible to be infected, and how to behave in public spaces, with masks, gloves, napkins, sanitizer gel or any other possible safety precautions to avoid a contagion.


Shortly after I came back home, and I started sketching some ideas in order to bridge the gap that I identified earlier on. I made some prototype with cardboard and I tried to use it around me, with the car, shopping bags, doors.

As I wasn’t able to fully engage physically with other friends and coworkers, I got in touch with some of them and proposed the idea. In a few words they were all very excited and extremely curious about Handy. This was another tool (user validation), from my UX researcher toolbox, that I found very useful for this little project.


I then quickly made a 3D model and refined it (thank you Andrea for your precious advice!) and 3D-printed through an online service, as entrance to the lab at Stanford was forbidden. In a few days I got my first 3D printed Handy!


That was cool, I was finally able to have it in my hand. The solution that I created with a Google Design Sprint approach, in less then a week of part-time iterations, sketches, mock-ups and designs, was finally ready for full testing.

After a few tests, I decided that the best way to help the world with this design was to make it publicly available, under a Creative Common License.

Why?

Simply because in a worldwide crisis, every little help to slow the spread of the virus, every little idea that could make the change and empower people to build, 3D print and personalize their own little portable Handy hook, was a priority.

At that moment, after having used all my UX researcher and designer tools, I needed to jump over my marketing and business development expertise that I luckily gained during previous jobs and with my startup.


On one hand, I wrote a little story, I drafted a storyboard with some sketches, and I went out with my phone and with the help of a tripod I shot a 1-minute video that I edited and shared on YouTube later on.

On the other hand, I shared the news with a few online design magazines and trough a Social Media campaign. Like a snowball effect in simply a couple of hours Handy went viral, several journalists wrote to me to feature Handy in their magazines, in the news on TV, companies contacted me, and, in a few days, I got thousands of downloads and views on YouTube.

Countless is the number of magazines that featured Handy in their pages (see at the bottom of the page a selection of them) and invitations to online events and interviews with magazine directors just came out all in once.


The idea behind Handy multipurpose tool was to offer an open-source response to COVID-19 outbreaks. However, I received so many emails from people with disabilities and little impairments that found the design so simple, usable, ergonomic and that could effectively solve some of their challenges while performing activities of daily living.



“As a walker and mobility scooter user, I am particularly bothered with doors to stores and commercial buildings that don’t have power assists. I’d love to have Handy for dealing with these doors.” Jerry


“How inspiring and engaging your story is. The pupils I work with will find your design fascinating - and it is beautifully designed!!” Chris



Beside the whole success and visibility that Handy brought to me, I’m grateful that it didn’t turn only as a Covid-19 temporary disposable solution to pull or push a door handles.

Many people saw the value of Handy not only as an early pandemic multi-tool, but also as a reusable assistive device for people with different abilities.


This was the most valuable outcome of my experience: with every design we make, before looking for solving one problem, let’s stop, step back, relax and think more broadly about who is the extended audience that could benefit from our design.

What simple add-on or improvements could we add to our design to widen the spectrum of users and to solve a variety of different challenges?

How can we design more inclusively, by expanding the form factor, fit and function of the solution to guarantee a more accessible experience for our customers?


After all we are all customers.

We are all users.

We are all people.

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