The Challenge of Ensuring Accessibility, Usability and Acceptability

The accessibility, usability, and acceptability triad

Products and services that are designed and created for vulnerable (or potentially vulnerable) people, or those with additional needs, must clearly ensure that issues of accessibility and usability are addressed. There are many examples of how this is managed in a wide range of areas, for example: installing electrical sockets at or above a specific height in new build properties to improve usability and accessibility for wheelchair users; hearing loops at checkouts for those with hearing aids; and Motability services in shopping centres. These examples are well known and commonly available, therefore it seems that they meet the requirements of accessibility and usability, and the established nature of them imply acceptability for those requiring them. However, there are also examples of services and products that seem to miss some of these criteria.

 

The missing piece

An example of this in care services is the well-known ‘red button’ wearables often seen in additional support residential settings. These devices, often worn on a bracelet or necklace, have been around for many years, and for many older people can provide a secure way of getting help in an emergency, or simply to provide the peace of mind that this is available should it ever be required. In terms of meeting the above requirements, these devices are accessible and useable due to features such as large, single, high contrast emergency button, and the wearable nature means that they should be at-hand should they be required. For some older people, these features alone, combined with the psychological benefits of the security in case of emergency, mean that the devices also meet acceptability criteria. However, through both our work and personal experiences, we have seen numerous examples of older adults in retirement or supported housing settings removing or not wearing the care buttons for reasons of acceptability. The main reasons given are that the devices are reasonably large and obvious, and the recognisable nature of them can be viewed as stigmatising for some. Additionally, we have been told by several older women that their ‘functional’ appearance is at odds with their personal style, and how they wish to present themselves. In these instances, the devices, whilst meeting needs related to accessibility and usability, do not always meet the need for acceptability, as if they are not worn for aesthetic reasons, they cease to be effective. As a result, companies looking to develop in this area need to ensure that user-centred research is carried out, to allow the products to develop in a way that meet acceptability as well as usability and accessibility criteria.

 

Digital acceptability

This same concept applies across product and service development – missing one of the key elements outlined above can reduce the potential of the product or service to be as implementable or useful as it could otherwise be. In our area, considering digital engagement for previously excluded groups, it is crucial to consider all these aspects. Introducing accessible design, ensuring that the system is able to be used by those with additional needs, combined with features that respond to the real needs of the target audience is clearly of fundamental importance. It is also essential to ensure that the product we develop is non-stigmatising and is a pleasant and engaging experience that maximises acceptability and promotes inclusion and improved outcomes.

 

The Link-ages difference

In our work as a software company that specialises in accessible technology, we see it as crucially important to create products and services that are also usable and acceptable. Our product research and development has encompassed extensive work with specialists in this area, as well as considerable work with end-user groups, to ensure that our products meet these criteria. There are a wide range of features that meet a wide range of accessibility and usability requirements, aiming to ensure that we respond to the real issues that we see ‘on the ground’. Furthermore, our trials in residential settings have demonstrated the acceptability of the system. Nevertheless, we constantly aim to improve all these metrics, and our current work with care and residential service providers is helping us to evolve our services, ensuring flexibility in what we offer, to maximise the usability of the system for both service users and providers. We are always looking for settings to work with that would benefit from the Link-ages suite of products and would be able to help us learn from their environment to deliver the most effective solutions. Settings that work with us at this stage can benefit from significant discounts on the Link-ages ecosystem licenses, and the ability to tailor the service to the needs of their service.

 

If you would like to know more about the Link-ages system, please get in touch with us on info@link-ages.com.

 

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