Design for User Empowerment: From Principles to Practice

This event is part of the Remarkable Insights series. 

“In the near future disability will be synonymous worldwide with innovation,” Regina Kline, Founder and CEO, SmartJob. 

Echoing Gina’s insights, we believe it’s critical for designers of technology to engage with people with disabilities to design the most innovative, accessible, and usable solutions. Better yet, empowering people with disabilities to design and build the technologies themselves! 

Design for user empowerment means that those with disabilities have control of technology designs intended for them to solve their own accessibility problems.

We were joined by a panel of experts to discuss how we can rethink the principles and processes of design, to identify the main opportunities when designing to spur on inclusive innovation.




[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmZvlgMlfCU[/embedyt] 

The views expressed are solely those of the contributors.


Definitions of terms mentioned throughout the conversation:



Download a copy of the transcript

[00:04 – 03:58] Pete Horsley, Founder of Remarkable. 

Good evening, good morning, good day, wherever you are calling from my name is Pete Horsley I’m the founder of Remarkable. I’m a white male in my mid-40s and you’ll find me wearing a hat and my pronouns are he and him. Remarkable is the venture of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and we have the backing from our principal partner icare NSW as well as partners Telstra, VivCourt and Microsoft. Remarkable is where technology meets human potential and we see an incredible gap in the progress and innovation in technology that breaks down barriers to full inclusion of all human experience. We run a 16-week startup accelerator program in Australia that equips early-stage startups with seed fundings and mentoring and support networks to help commercialise their startups. I want to acknowledge that I am talking to you on Guringai land and this is aboriginal land. It was never ceded, it’s always sacred and I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge that we have people joining us from many other places both in Australia and around the world and so I pay my respects to the traditional owners and elders of those lands as well. I’d also like to acknowledge the disability advocates who have played a massive role in advancing the rights of people with disability leading to addressing the inequalities faced by people with disability and they’ve paved the way for us and that gives us both a privilege but also a responsibility because of that history. So today’s conversation is about designing for user empowerment it’s part of remarkable insights and remarkable insights tries to see the significant opportunity that we’ve got to be able to leverage technological innovation and to drive an inclusive future but it asks the question who is being left behind as we as advance technologically and we also ask how do we create not just an inclusive future but how do we create an inclusive now? So today’s conversation is part of that so for anyone who wants to join the conversation on social media our social handles are on twitter facebook and LinkedIn is at #remarkabletech and if you could use the hashtag #remarkableinsights so this event has live captioning that is available down in the toolbar underneath the image and our Auslan interpreter is David. Welcome David it’s good to have you with us. We’ll be recording this event and this is available later on our youtube channel as well so be sure to subscribe now you don’t want to hear my voice for too much longer so I want to introduce our three incredible panelists tonight we have Léonie Watson from TetraLogical, Christine Hemphill from Open Inclusion and Chris Patnoe from Google welcome to each of you and each of you are actually in the UK and we happen to have Chris and Christine in the same location so welcome to you all it’s great to have you along. So this concept of design for user empowerment might be a familiar term to some people but perhaps it isn’t a well-known term to everyone so Léonie I want to ask you this question. Do you mind explaining a little bit about what designing for user empowerment is please?


[03:59 – 05:28]  Léonie Watson, Director, TetraLogical

Thanks Pete, so for me personally it has two distinct definitions but of course they merge I have a disability I’m blind so part of my answer about what it means is it’s when product services are designed that I can use them enjoy them get the job done do whatever it is I came to do and not have to fight every step of the way to get there flipping that around to you know professional and designer kind of point of view it’s really about making sure that when we do design products and services we’re including everybody in that target audience in the research that we do in the testing that we do in the creative thinking that we do the requirements that we put together you know that there is the phrase you know nothing without this and that really sums it up for me we have to include people with disabilities and other accessibility needs every step of the way through the design and development process because otherwise we’re just guessing and guessing doesn’t really get us very far if we’re creating a product that’s aimed at young people under the age of 16 you know then we need to include people from that target audience you know in every aspect of the design and development process and we have to remember that people with disabilities and accessibility needs are woven into that particular demographic as they are every demographic so we can’t separate any of this we can’t bolt it on it’s just got to be there from the beginning all the way through.


[05:29 – 06:00] Pete Horsley

That’s such a fantastic response and I guess we see some ubiquitous technologies that we use all day every day were first designed for people with disability but ended up being used beyond the disability community solutions like kind of personal texting captioned video optical character recognition or OCR allowing for text-to-speech so Christine I want to ask you this question why do you believe this kind of inclusive design holds so much hope for the future of design?


[06:00 – 09:10] Christine Hemphill, Founder and Managing Director, Open Inclusion 

I think it’s such a powerful way to look at the world when you look at the world  through different perspectives and as Léonie was just saying there are so many different perspectives and there are so many different perspectives even within disability so by going to those different perspectives you’ll understand you know back to that kind of what’s  the empowerment here well it’s actually flipping that and saying how are people disempowered today and that disempowerment can happen in a functional way it can also happen in an emotional way so this isn’t just about access this is actually about that appreciation enjoyment designed for delight design for experience and the only way you  can get there is understanding different people’s experience and understanding how  varied experience can be depending on personal characteristics but also ages really we’re saying  or gender or where people are living or the knowledge they have or the tools they’re using so the more we can go to the edges of those differences and difference being the way people think move sense and feel but beyond that also those other characteristics of difference the more we can understand where that inconsistency is and if we look for where inconsistency is that’s where opportunity is and what’s really interesting about that you just talked about you know there’s so many innovations that are our fundamental tools today because of designing into those spaces those spaces have given people that need and that desire to go and change something  because of you know either that functional loss or emotional loss that they had so it’s just such a vacuum provides you know a draw an energy that you can design into and actually as designers going to understand those spaces is where you find interesting and powerful problems to solve and therefore innovation if I can this is something you said there’s something that you said just reminded me of what Rama Gheerawo from the RCA says he says if you design at the edges you get the centre for free. So if you design for disability you’re going to get all the people who don’t have that specific disability for free it just works it’s like the curb cut effect so taking an inclusive perspective of how to solve a problem you’re truly helping everyone and I think that that the centre is not lost when you start at the edge and in fact, it’s that perspective that people are so much more than their disability or their specific access need or their specific difference and they’ll still go right across the centre of that normal curve in other characteristics so if you’ve gone to the edges on one or two areas on each as you say that whole centre it’s just much more efficient. 


[09:10 – 09:21] Pete Horsley

I love that a saying that’s attributed mostly to Plato who says that necessity is the mother of all invention and you know it is about how we understand the full breadth of human necessity. yeah, I love the conversation there’s an article by accessibility researcher Richard Ladner where he talks about the need for both self-determination and also technical expertise when we’re designing for user empowerment so self-determination means those with disability have a goal of the process like Léonie said before not just passive recipients of the technology designed for them so on this Chris I know that there’s kind of part of the story of how you had your journey into accessibility at google you have a love for opera singing and music and when you moved into a role with google play in the music division there it was there that you met a user tester who had a profound impact on you can you tell us a little bit about that kind of story and also specifically you went on to offer that user tester a job as a manager and why was that important to you so a bit of a double-barrel question for you?


[10:20 – 12:11] Christopher Patnoe, Head of Accessibility/Disability Inclusion, EMEA, Google

I think the whole thing actually goes back to Plato’s expression you see I necessity was the mother of invention I studied opera but I wasn’t very good so I had to get a job so I got a job at technology and it was a much better day job than waiting on tables but the  waiting on tables though I do have to say taught a lot of really important skills about how to  interact with people and how to read people that’s a core factor for anything but going towards  fast forward another 15-18 years I’m at google I’m the lead technical program manager for google play music and a test engineer came into our one of our meetings she turned on voice over yes we worked on iOS and I heard button button button button I said what’s that and she said this is google play music for someone who’s blind I said well that’s stupid how do they use it and she said well that’s  why I’m here and that was my introduction to to accessibility I had 10 years at apple three years  at Sony a year at Disney i’d never heard of it and here is this thing that I realised i’ve never  thought about everything I built was made without consideration and I should probably do something about that so within a couple of months I had the opportunity to take on leading accessibility  for google play the whole the whole suite of play products but I knew I didn’t know anything so I hired this test engineer as a program manager on my team to teach me what I needed to know about accessibility she herself is in the community she’s blind but she’s also a phd and a published poet an author so just because she’s blind doesn’t mean she has to be test engineering she just happened to have those skills too so the breadth of her experience and her ability  to communicate was tremendous and she taught me a lot and she’s still one of my one of my dearest friends.


[12:11 -12:36 ] Pete Horsley

That’s awesome such a great story and Léonie I remember reading a quote by you where you said that lots of the industry are fixated on order kind of audits is the solution and you went on to say that if you needed audit then you’ve probably it’s probably already too late can you tell us a little bit about what you meant by that?


[12:36 – 14:12] Léonie Watson

Yes it’s a lot like building a long road to get you from one city to another and then having built all the road you discover there’s a big ravine in the way and and you’ve you’ve got to build a bridge if you’ve done all the work and you’ve got to the end you’ve got to your product it’s launched  it’s out there in the world and then you start to think about accessibility it’s far too late you’re just going to tip yourself off the edge of that cliff you will find that you uncover an awful lot of issues most of them will sit quite happily on your backlog until a couple of years go round and you either redesign and try to do something about it or you get it retested and you add a few more issues to your backlog where they sit quite happily for another few months I’m being a little bit flippant but but the idea is is that you you’ve got to think about this this from from the very beginning to give another you know analogy if you were to build a house and not put any doors into it you’d have to take the house apart again and put it back together with some suitable spaces for some doors and so people could get in and out accessibility is a lot like that there’s only so much you can do to go back and fix it after the fact some stuff has to be done right at the origin of of the product or the service otherwise you just can’t do it I have no science for this at all but but my several years experience in the industry now tells me that you will probably spend twice as much time and twice as much money trying to retrofit accessibility and only be half as successful and I’m yeah nothing much has changed my my unscientific opinion of that particular you know kind of balance of things. 


[14:12 – 14:45] Pete Horsley

All that while you’re missing out on potential customer dollars as well right absolutely yeah yeah so if the second part of what’s needed to design for user empowerment is technical expertise Christine what are some of the barriers that you’ve seen when working with companies all over the world through open inclusion what are those barriers to engaging technical expertise?


[14:45 – 17:16] Christine Hemphill

It’s really interesting because when I think of expertise and  whether it’s about innovation or just as good design I think of three layers of expertise that need to match in order to create something delightful  one of them is that technical or kind of solution expertise knowing how to mould manage whatever you’re creating whether it’s a built environment zeros and ones in a digital environment et cetera  then there’s a user expertise which is understanding how it’s going to land in the context of a person’s life and what that usage is and you need user expertise into it and then there’s actually an enabling expertise which is an interesting one that’s often  forgotten as well which is that how you bring this together so it’s the people that have the skills  whether it’s audit skills user research skills engaging with community skills you know but also  access to finance access to advice access to human resources you know so when those three sets  of expertise match that’s when magic happens and it’s not when they’re just brought into the room but when they’re actually equally powered when they’re all given um not just that  you know from designing for to designing with but actually designing by and that you know people working together to design something with all three sets of that  expertise being matched in the middle to create something delightful so technical expertise is really important and particularly when we’re looking at things like emerging technology and you know the only Christopher and I were just saying that you know we’d last met at XR Access back in 2019 face to face you know emerging technologies like XR like autonomous vehicles like ai you know these new spaces that things are happening you need solution experts that know  how to use these tools in a really powerful way and adapt them to the situation that you’re solving for to design something that’s going to add real value but that’s like having a really fast car if you don’t have the fuel of the user expertise it’s not going to go anywhere so it’s that matching expertise so technical expertise is absolutely required and really high-tech technical  expertise is a delight to work with that’s not me by the way I’m one of those enablers but it’s those with that matching and matching power not just matching knowledge that’s when I get excited.


[17:17 – 18:17] Pete Horsley

It reminds me of a story I remember speaking to someone at IBM who was working on some of the kind of the code that was sitting kind of behind the ai for self-driving cars and she was saying that a good friend of hers is a wheelchair user and used to drive their wheelchair by shuffling their feet kind of backward so kind of would push her and push themselves backward in the wheelchair and she saw that the code that was going into self-driving cars actually could potentially harm her friend because it considered that a wheelchair user should drive forwards and it was then that she kind of had this kind of light bulb moment of going we’ve gotta include a broader range of experience in these new technologies you know to be able to make sure that it doesn’t harm my friend and just kind of building on that guy. 


[18:18 – 18:41] Christine Hemphill

Yeah, what you said just crystallised something in my head what you described for me is the difference between empathy and experience empathy is recognising that we need to recognise wheelchairs and in our ai but experiences understanding that sometimes the wheelchairs get pushed backward that’s the difference in terms of bringing people of the community together. 


[18:41 – 19:18] Pete Horsley

Yeah, that’s brilliant and I guess we make some assumptions in here but don’t we as well of around access to education to be a technological expert in some of these things as well and that is not possible for all people as well so I’ve got a good friend who she had to make her decision on which university she could go to based on the fact of its accessibility and that wasn’t kind of providing her with kind of the greatest amount of choice I don’t know Léonie have you seen kind of instances where education is kind of a barrier to someone even entering into this space?


[19:18 – 21:19] Léonie Watson

Yes very much so we know that you know there are all sorts of challenges for someone with a disability or accessibility you need to get into education get into employment even get access to technology in some respects I think that’s changing for the better when I lost my site 20 years ago there were one or two screen readers available to choose from and they both cost several hundreds of pounds which to someone at the time who’d stopped work because i’d lost my site was you know an extraordinary barrier at the time now of course we have integrated screen  readers in pretty much every platform that someone might want to to buy a device and within that we’ve got a good or reasonably good array of different cost levels you know of devices so that’s one area where I think you know the the playing field as they say has started to to level out but we’ve got a bit of a circular problem on our hands because a lot of the barriers and not just the socioeconomic barriers it’s just simply if you can’t access the educational tools if you can’t access the you know employment websites to apply for a job you’re never going to get over those barriers no matter how great your technology is or no matter how capable you are unless we can solve the problem of getting more people with disabilities and different perspectives into education and into the workplace then we come back to that original question of you know we’re not designing good products and services without  people like that on the team without them involved in the processes so we’ve really got to try  and you’ve got to start somewhere I guess and I think we really need to fix the education problem first because if we can’t fix the education problem both in terms of getting people access to it and in terms of educating people to build things that are accessible and usable to everybody  the rest of us are just going to keep fighting a rearguard action so yeah I think education is core to the solution.


[20:20 – 22:08] Pete Horsley

I guess kind of somewhat related to that there are people around the world that are starting to speak of the great resignation following Covid 19 where a great number of people are kind of reconsidering new career opportunities or a new role and I guess we’ve seen some of the areas that people with disability have really kind of petitioned for many years of flexible working conditions and those sorts of things have been you know brought in literally at the drop of a hat in some instances are there opportunities here to build back better and to give more opportunities in employment particularly in technical roles to people with disability Chris I want to ask you what are some of the opportunities you see here to potentially build back better?


[22:09 – 23:25] Christopher Patnoe

I think coming from google we started to see how technology can provide that bridge but also the mismatch between what a person can do and what the skills and what society or the technology allows. So taking a moment like Covid and this world we’re in where we have to do things differently it now becomes a matter of intention to build back better. It will never happen by itself you have to take that opportunity by the horns (that’s an American expression) run with it and not be chased by it because then you have the opportunity to bring people in work with a company like Open Inclusion or TetraLogical – bring people in at the beginning shift that engineering and do it well and then make these products more accessible and do it broadly. Everyone has an opportunity to do it no matter where you are here at google we do it on search and we’ll do it in android but everybody has an opportunity to do it it’s a choice that you make and if you make that choice to make your product better and contribute to humanity and that doesn’t suck either.


[23:25 – 23:49] Pete Horsley

That’s great well Léonie Chris just mentioned your company TetraLogical as well and it has four values and one of those is around how you can consider everyone and make decisions that exclude no one I want to kind of get kind of a little bit practical here so what does that kind of practice look like as you work with businesses?


[23:50 – 25:26] Léonie Watson

Well it starts with our own so you know when we when we choose new tools which we’ve actually  just done recently we wanted a new project management scheduling kind of tool to use  we’re a small company so we got around the table and and we we looked at some options and we  found one that was you know accessible usable and interestingly not necessarily always in the same way some of the team are using the web interface I’m using an integration into slack because the website’s not so accessible but actually in Slack it works really well and and that then is how we  we try and encourage the companies that we work with to think about it is when you make a decision  not just purchasing but any decision a direction you’re going to take a thing you’re going to buy  try and think about the needs of everybody who’s involved and try and think creatively about it  humans are complicated varied we come in all sorts of different shapes sizes configurations abilities capabilities and I know universal design is a very sort of popular concept but I actually think it’s a little bit of a myth because there is nothing that’s you know universally accessible because humans are so different but what I do think you can do is is encourage people to be inclusive by as I say thinking creatively if you know solution one works for a number of people are  there alternatives that give people access to that same thing you know through different routes and different avenues that give the same experience same capability just in different ways and so creativity is is a big way that we try and encourage companies to think about inclusion.


[25:26 – 27:34] Christine Hemphill

To add to that I think and to bring two parts of that conversation together the word Christopher used before intentionality and what Léonie was just talking about which is for the people in question in this group so when you know in TetraLogical Léonie’s looking at her team that’s the team that it’s relevant for it’s not all of humanity and I think it’s being conscious being intentional about who you are designing for there are trade-offs. I don’t believe in universal design I believe in inclusive design which is you push the universal design approach as far as it can go but there are real limits to it and then you need to  bring adaptive design optionality capability that people you know as Léonie was just talking about some people might choose to go at it one way some might choose to go at it another way and it’s just making sure that there are roots into everyone that you have intentionally chosen that for and that won’t be absolutely everyone because there is too much variance in the way humans are so it’s taking that as a very conscious decision and not doing it by accident which is where most of the exclusion happens today.


[26:41 – 27:23] Christopher Patnoe

If I can build on top of that this is a juicy area here customisation is critical because you’re never going to be able to create any product that meets everyone’s needs you have to allow people to customise it to meet those needs some people need bigger fonts some people need easier text so how you create your interface how you create your product by being intentional you understand what are the options that you want to empower? Who do you want to enable with your technology? So customisation is one key factor that I’ve learned over the years that is a really powerful way of making something useful for everyone.


[27:23 – 27:28] Christine Hemphill

And giving agency to the user because you can’t possibly imagine all the context of all the users but they can. 


[27:34 – 28:15] Pete Horsley 

I think that AI is kind of a double-edged sword in that space right like because you know potentially it has a way of being able to know a particular user and to adapt kind of the needs to that particular user but if it has been designed in a way that’s kind of through assumption then potentially we’re kind of worse off as a result of that so yeah the whole suppose both promise and kind of potential pitfalls as well. 


[28:15 – ] Léonie Watson 

That’s the thing I was just about to say is not too much around ai but you mentioned you know not making assumptions and that’s critical to what Christine was just saying it’s about empowering the user the person to say look I want to change this font size change this colour scheme listen to this rather than read it not assuming that because a person has  x disability this is how they’re going to consume the content or these are the decisions they’re going to make so yeah that assumption kind of you know philosophy is is so wrong so bad it’s got to be about empowering people to choose how they consume your content or your product and service.


[28:50 – 29:18] Pete Horsley 

It’s brilliant soon we’ll have some option some opportunities for audience questions so if you’d like to jump into q a rather than the chat function and post your questions in there we’ll be able to pose those to our amazing panelists Christine what would you like to see for to create better conditions around design for user empowerment what would you like to see kind of everyone on this call and those that listen to this afterward too?


[29:20 – 31:48] Christine Hemphill 

Such a gorgeous question a little bit like Christopher I came to this quite late and you know in my quirky way and I was a designer for many decades before I became an inclusive designer so I’ve got a really strong perspective on this because I failed people not because I didn’t turn up with intent every day to do something delightful but because I didn’t know better and because I didn’t have that fuel to do better than knowledge of how people experience things differently than I was creating and imagining and designing with all positive intent for them and not having that knowledge of how that was being consumed and how that was being experienced to do something better. So to me it’s preventing people from being me in the future by giving people the tools the the the fuel the capability the confidence and the competence to be able to understand that early on as Léonie was talking about before not building a house with no doors and then going dang we didn’t let the people that  were actually really wanting to to come into this house actually get in so to make to lower the bar of knowledge and of experience to allow people to understand how people differ and how that difference is going to impact the design that they’re creating so that and also to lower the bar on design that there’s not this a community of designers and non-designers i’d actually like to see a real fluidity of people stepping in and out you know everyone having a role in design and having more shared power you don’t need to go to a certain college and university and and have a  degree with a capital D on it but that people are actually empowered to come in and create stuff better and technology is such an enabler of that because you don’t need to know how to write javascript to know how to design something better you need people that can do that you need  people that have that technical capability but to bring more people into the design part of that have more experiences that experience is intuitive to them and also to be able to reach to experiences more easily that are not intuitive to them.


[32:06 – 32:45] Christopher Patnoe 

What you said Christine reminds me of something that I talk about when I give a sort of a lecture on how to build inclusively and I have sort of three key points one is what you’re good at – do something where you have some technical expertise because like in jazz you need to improvise you need to understand where you’re going and how to get there next is nothing about us without us it’s a Léonie’s point and the third and for me, this is important when talking with people who are just getting started to start with one person, solve one person’s problems first and do it well because you have the technical expertise then you can expand it and broaden it and make a more robust solution and provide support for more people.


[32:45 – ] Léonie Watson 

I’d add to that and say don’t be afraid. That’s the other thing, yes yeah this is a serious matter of course it is but don’t be scared by it you know  I knew nothing about accessibility until I got interested and bit by bit I learned. If I  look back on some of the first websites I built back when I was a designer in the 90s oh horrors all the accessibility nightmares you know you know bad intent I just didn’t know any better and you know just read one one blog post listen to this podcast one thing and just decide today I’m going to do one thing differently I’m going to learn one thing and I’m going to put it into practice give it a few days of doing that choose another thing move on, move up keep going but just don’t be scared to get started whatever you do it’s vital.


[33:41 – 34:57] Christine Hemphill

I often talk about two things get in the way of people stepping into inclusion more fully really often one of them is fear and the other is complexity and what Léonie and Christopher have both just given you are two beautiful ways of getting around that so firstly everyone gets stuff wrong and this is a world that you can never know everything it’s a journey  and you never get off it and actually that’s the joy of it so just get into it take one step get  curious learn keep learning you never step off that learning you know map that’s moving under  us as well because even if you thought that you could possibly get to know the seven billion  configurations of humanity which of course we can’t we’re also innovating all the time in our  environment so those matches and mismatches are never ending so don’t worry about the fact that they’re never-ending just get in and enjoy it and leverage the bits that you know about and do that thing that you can today and that’s it, you’re not worrying about complexity, not worrying about solving for everyone and everything but do that one thing leveraging your skills that you can do today to do something better.


[34:57  – 35:30] Pete Horsley

That is so brilliantly put by all three of you I feel like that’s kind of we should just like tie a bow in this webinar right now with that point but we do have some questions here from the audience so Paul has asked to find solution experts is working with a university that supports students with a disability a good place to find this talent and the second part of the question is I’m trying to find the right path to iterate and I’m unsure if students will have time. Who would like to answer that one Christine would you like to take that one?


[35:30 – 35:53] Christine Hemphill

I think it doesn’t matter where you go recognize the limitations and the strengths  of communities of people so if you’re going to students you’ve got a lot of energy you’ve got  a lot of intent you’ll probably have some really fresh ideas because you know people haven’t been  anchored in decades of thinking in a certain way so there’s some real advantages of of leveraging  students for technical expertise or new ways of thinking and not being too anchored equally  there’s not a lot of life experience and so that nearly only talking about just turning up  and failing you know I did that for decades as well then you turn up and you learn over time  so recognising that there’s a trade off either side and actually trying to balance and again that were Christopher was talking about your run always goes to the edges I often draw a  star and go go out here to the star students are one edge of that in terms of life experience  and depending on what they’re studying what their expertise is that they’ve learned they’ll have  different you know particular capabilities they’re bringing but look to what they’re not bringing  and look to who you can balance that with that can bring you know a different perspective to balance  where those gaps might be if you’re only looking to one community there will be gaps that’s in any community


[35:54 – 37:13] Pete Horsley

We had a question that came through from Jennifer related to this and she was asking what criteria do testers need to become trusted testers or better testers. Does anyone want to answer that one?


[37:13 – 38:19] Christopher Patnoe

I can take this one trusted tester is an overloaded term to use a computer science thing it has lots of different meanings in the US there is a capital ‘T’ Trusted tester which has to do with section 508 testing which is like website testing essentially at google we have a thing called we have a trusted tester program lowercase ‘t’ is on both sides though we sometimes will capitalise it and this is for people who are in the community who wants to help and sort of test early our software and provide feedback for us I think the most important thing is you have to be good at some piece of tech some piece of assistive tech so you want to because you need to be able to provide meaningful feedback and not just what’s broken but also what’s important is how you can do it better so can use the technology thoughtfully and explain what’s broken and how it could be done better. I think those are sort of and be willing to do it be hungry and enjoy that kind of work so those are the three things to understand the technology to be able to explain what’s working, what’s not working well and then just enjoy doing it.


[38:19 – 39:41] Christine Hemphill

If I can add a layer to that I think you know that’s a it’s really important to have those things but actually I don’t think so much of trusted testers as I do trusted insight and there’s a real difference between the two it’s not the person that we trust or don’t trust the person is the person they turn up with intent yes that’s important they turn up with capability around a specific assistive technology that’s important but let’s also be really conscious of that varies enormously from person to person an expert screen reader is very different you know screen reader user is very different to someone who’s another screen reader user and these are both trusted testers if you’ve designed the research to understand and engage them in a way that will get you the insight that’s going to inform what you’re doing so the person just needs to be genuine authentic honest look for good as well as bad you’re not just looking to find all the problems you actually want to tell people what they’ve done right so they protect that they don’t by accident throw away what’s already working so to me people are trusted it’s not that the test is trusted the other person is trusted and it’s up to the researcher or the organisation doing the review to make sure that they’re given the framing of the question that gives you trusted insight and that’s you know that’s you need to know that you can trust what you’re hearing to make a better decision on the basis of


[39:15 – 40:17] Pete Horsley

One of the other questions we’ve had come through was from Jonathan it is how can inclusion in the disability space not only work on disability inclusion but lift the economic participation of people with disabilities so this is really kind of to the core of you know not just kind of being involved in part of the process but how do we see kind of genuine inclusion that lifts the economic participation of people with disabilities who would like to answer that one?


[40:18 – 40:58] Léonie Watson 

well I guess in some senses it comes back to that secular problem I was mentioning before the best  way we can elevate participate participation by people with disabilities is to make sure that the tools resources you know are the paraphernalia that are part of those processes are accessible and usable by those people you know it doesn’t matter how many degrees you’ve got if the website that you need to apply for the job that you want is not accessible it’s just as simple as that so we’ve got to solve accessibility to a large extent I think to solve the kind of participation and you know the elevation of that participation


[40:59 – 43:49] Christopher Patnoe

if I can build on top of that I think the there’s the other form of accessibility is important too  that we have actually there is there is training that that is affordable and and available so it has to be available first and then it has to be accessible because one and not the other  doesn’t really solve the problem so having training that gives people life first digital  basic digital skills and then the more advanced skills there are a bunch of great certification  programs that google we have a grow for google role with google program where we have like  a program management design data science certifications that will give you the skills  necessary to get a job so there has to be training that can be that are available  and they have to be made accessible I think that’s really important I think it’s also fluidity of different ways people might wish to engage and participate so yeah we’re talking about you know the change post covert and giving people different ways of participating in creating value and I think the disability community by the nature of mismatch in the world is incredibly innovative and creative and as we were talking about incredibly valuable because of the insights  through that you know understanding where those mismatches and where those gaps and opportunity  spaces are it’s turning the innovative into innovators it’s turning creative into creators and allowing that valuable to be valuable to the individuals that have that value and there’s so many different ways that can happen I mean even remarkable and the program you’ve got is taking that entrepreneurial taking that innovative perspective and allowing people to become  you know entrepreneurs and go helping people being you know bringing that enabling capability in and saying how can we support people through that learning process to go from i’ve got a great idea  to actually being able to commercialise that idea and be supported in doing so  even things like you know the programs in the uk that are designed around innovation  just little things like making sure that the process to apply for them is accessible  and not just accessible from an audit you know accessibility way but inclusive and considering how different perspectives are going to generate a more innovative and more valuable solution so  the people reviewing them are actually taking that into consideration as they review them so it’s there’s such natural value there it’s being able to make sure that that value is able to be  generated by the people you know involved in that.


[43:49 – 44:11] Pete Horsley

it’s brilliant we have so many other questions that I’d love to get to but we’ve come to the end of our time so I want to ask one last question and if we can keep it brief that would be great but if we’re to ask each of you what is one insight or way that we can design for user empowerment what would your insight or what would your encouragement be? Let’s start with you Léonie.


[44:13 – 45:13] Léonie Watson 

get to know the different medium or media for which you’re designing so if you’re an oil painter you get to know how oil paints behave if you’re a watercolorist you understand the differences it’s the same here you as a designer or a developer of a product will be familiar with the difference between a desktop or a laptop interaction and a tablet device or phone device broaden that out get to understand what the modes of interaction what the media are like for someone who listens to content and feel free to experiment with that and to design good experiences because they’re all different modes of interaction what’s it like when you speak to your technology in instead of use other input devices what’s the experience like for that think about you know the language that someone needs to use so yeah get amongst it get used to to the different modes of interaction and broaden your horizons and start designing for different experiences right the way across the spectrum.


[45:12 – 46:30] Christine Hemphill

I’m going to keep mine a short one ‘unlearn’ it’s a slightly weird one rather than just looking to learn look at yourself and work out what we need to unlearn so if we’re going to you know we’ve just gone through a pandemic again there are things that we assume either individually or in our society are barriers to our progression going forward so get curious about where they are in ourselves individually and start with yourself but actually also in organisations in your own  organisation obviously you know in ripples around yourself and out from yourself and in society as well and work out what do we need to unlearn that is limiting us today that is limiting our  ability to see and do better because it’s actually quite a lot and the more we engage with people  the more we can see that more easily and more quickly and that gives us the ability to see  these spaces that are all around us all the time where we can just do things so much better so yeah rather than just thinking about learning thinking about what we need to unlearn to get there.


[46:30 – 48:03] Christopher Patnoe

I’m embarrassed to talk after Léonie Christine because nothing I have to say is really remarkable I guess the thing I would I would say is you’re never going to get it right  so you need to provide options for people because everyone is I used to say people are hard everyone  is is a complicated human being Christine said there’s like 7 billion permutations of humanity  and I think there’s even more than that just because people are so difficult because there’s the situation changing so the same person’s environment will cause them to  to react differently so as you’re designing your experiences you want to do it with the community  because you never know you’re never going to know what the problem is it it’s it’s the wheelchair forwards versus the wheelchair backwards problem so you want to provide solutions  and variations of the solutions but now that that sounds really scary I have to do everything no you work with a community to understand what is the most important thing and provide the most  important options first and when you become successful as Léonie said learn something  new every day bring it together and continue to develop so you’ll you create a product that is robust and thoughtful and and designed with intent.


[48:03 – 49:20] Pete Horsley

Well, I want to thank each of our panelists Léonie, Christine and Chris. Thank you so much for your insights today! It’s been fantastic. Thank you for getting up early to talk to us here in Australia and for those that are joining us from other parts of the world. Thanks also so to David Childs our Auslan interpreter thank you and Remarkable we recently launched a fellowship program called the Jessica King Fellowship it was launched in honour of one of our founders who is no longer with us but it is aimed at providing pathways for people with disability to explore the world of entrepreneurship and startups it involves six-month support program five thousand dollar donation to your learning and you can put that to use in whatever way you choose and we also provide mentoring over those six months as well from incredible mentors applications are currently open they close next month so if you or someone you know could be interested in that please head to our website remarkable.org.au  and look for the Jessica King Fellowship.


Mentions made:

[9:10] Rama Gheerawo, From Extreme to Mainstream

[09:27] Design for User Empowerment, Richard Ladner 

[37:13] Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Other stories you might be interested in
White tile with purple centred banner that features bold white text '2023 Remarkable Highlights'

2023 Remarkable Highlights

Wow! 2023 has been filled with hardwork, achievements and ground-breaking milestones. As we near the end of this year we want to take this chance

Read More »