Inclusive technology is a universal human right
Updated: Dec 3, 2021
About a year ago I’ve been involved in cutting-edge research from Capgemini Research Institute that investigated how to build a brighter future for everyone through the use of more inclusive technology.
Capgemini is a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services at the forefront of innovation to address the entire breadth of clients’ opportunities in the evolving world of cloud and digital platforms.
To develop one of the most recent and impactful reports on DEI Capgemini Research Institute spoke with 500 tech employees, largely women and persons from ethnic minority communities, and 500 leadership executives from large organizations across nine countries in key consumer-facing industries, one of whom was me :-)
It was found that nearly 50% of women from ethnic minorities were offered lower credit facilities for certain banking products and 40% of ethnic-minority consumers faced difficulty in accessing information that was relevant to their gender/ethnicity while using healthcare services online.
In the light of this great piece of research, Capgemini invited me to speak at a LinkedIn live stream event, which you can view again here, with Jane Pope, Corporate social responsibility leader for America's Strategic Business Unit at Capgemini, Kit Ahweyevu, CEO of Mindweaver, and Charlotte Fereday, Director Product Strategy at Frog.
The live event was viewed by an average of 300 viewers and reached a peak of 560 viewers for a total of 8.4K minutes viewed in total and 4.7K visitors on the event page.
The conversation started by decoding the buzzword “Inclusive Tech” and explaining more about how Inclusive Tech can impact the lives of billions of people across the world.
To start, I believe that inclusive tech is a universal human right.
It must provide equal access and opportunities by empowering people of any culture, age, ability, gender, religion, or spirituality.
Often when we design new technologies we think about the mainstream users (e.g., who has no disability, is neurotypical, is young or middle age, and with male or female gender identity), however, more than 1B people suffer from a disability today, and we are rapidly reaching 20% of the population composed of older adults.
We must start to design by considering and involving first the people we would normally exclude from our brainstorming process.
Let’s have a look at a few examples of current inclusive technologies.
Now we all use closed captioning services, voice-controlled devices, and augmented earplugs to receive bespoke immersive experiences. Those technologies, when pioneered a couple of decades ago, were considered assistive technology developed specifically for people with disabilities.
We first designed technologies for non-mainstream users and now they are de-stigmatized and used by mainstream users.
However, when we design new technologies, several times we involuntary design them in a way that excludes certain people. There is a huge challenge that often is underestimated: we think of accessibility in correlation with people with physical disabilities, but we rarely think about digital literacy, neurodivergent individuals, and people with different cultures and how they can adopt, use, and benefit from emergent technologies.
An example I brought to the stage was about a microwave oven that I developed with a team of researchers at TU Dublin and Saint John of God Community Dublin to support people with cognitive impairments. Those people needed to have constant support from caregivers for most of their daily activities, but we understood that certain technologies could help them to achieve a sense of purpose in their life.
After doing inclusive user research we ended up creating a prototype of a microwave oven that supports people through their journey to autonomously cook a meal.
This is an example of technology that empowers primary users by enabling autonomy, but also that decreases the burden that caregivers experience.
It comes naturally to understand more about the current state of Inclusive Tech for both consumers and tech teams, but how the environments where we live and work can shape inclusion?
When we talk about inclusive workplaces, we often talk about productivity, but we forget about their purpose of helping people thrive, nourishing curiosity, connecting with others.
Our recent research at Cambridge highlighted that only 10% of designers and architects' clients are well informed about Inclusive Design and aim to redesign workplaces and products that are inclusive.
To overcome this challenge, we developed a unique tool to evaluate the impact that the workplace and technologies have on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility for people of all ages, gender, abilities, and culture.
This is a breakthrough innovation that helps companies to assess exclusion, allowing their employees to enjoy their workplace and create products and services that reflect the company’s mindset.
As final remarks, Janet elicited some great feedback from all of us speaking at the event.
This is my call to action to all of us, designers and innovators.
Raise awareness and educate people
Create the market demand
Develop the right skills and create the right mix of people within the teams
Answer the demand
How to do it?
Well among the methods out there you can use our Cambridge Inclusive Design Canvas, which is a strategic design template that allows teams to efficiently embed inclusive design in the whole design process.
Then measure your success with our tool to evaluate the impact of your products based on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility for people of all ages, gender, abilities, culture.
This was just a sneak peek of what will be the outcomes of the research that I’ve been doing at the University of Cambridge and funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement N° 846284.
Stay tuned for Q1 2022 for the Inclusive Design Canvas and the IDEA tool!