Aishwarya: We have with us as the session chair, Dr Namita Jacob. I’d like to quickly introduce her before I give it before I hand it over. Dr Namita Jacob works around the world as an advisor with several national and international organizations and universities in the area of sensory impairments and multiple disabilities in early childhood development. She’s program director of Chetna Trust Chennai, which pioneers unique evidence-based solutions to issues and to issues around access and learning among people with disabilities. She designs and develops services at the community level within hospitals, schools and orphanages. She has helped establish some of the earliest comprehensive services for children with complex sensory impairment. As the Regional Education Specialist for Perkins International, she is engaged in creating services for infants, children who are deaf-blind, or have vision impairment and additional disabilities in the Asia Pacific region. Over to you, Dr Namita, for the session.
Dr Namita Jacob: Thank you. I’m very excited to chair this session. We spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out what should actually be the title that holds this very interesting group of talks together. The concept of inclusive design is to design an environment that can be accessed, and that can be used by as many people as possible, regardless of age, gender, and culture, ability. And this idea is very much in keeping with how we knew issues related to disability today, and the disabling component being so much more to do with the environment than with the actual capacity of an individual. We have a packed session. So I will keep my introductions short.
I would like to welcome Dr. Rama Gherawoo as our chief on sort of responsible for setting the overview in a way, and I cannot think of a more qualified speaker. Dr.Gherawoo is the director of the Helen Hamlyn Center for Design, Royal College of Art. He has won the Hall of Fame Award for his work at the design awards in 2019. And as director of the Helen Hamlyn Center for Design, he uses design to address issues around these very topics age, ability, gender, and race. He is an innovator in the fields of inclusive design, design, thinking, creative leadership, and has led numerous projects internationally and works closely with governments and organizations. Today in this talk, Dr Rama will make the case for why inclusive design needs to be at the very heart of any creative conversation. What would you use, looking forward to
Rama Gherawoo: Thank you so much Namita J and all the organizers. I almost didn’t recognize myself in that introduction. But it’s a very honourable and, and wonderful introduction. Great to be here with you. I am a person of Indian origin, a man with a beard sitting with wearing a purple sweater against on a grey sofa against the purple background. So I will start off my presentation. And I hope you can all see that. So if I could ask Gaurav if you can just give me a thumbs up if you can see. Wonderful, you are my main test person.
So my name is Rama. My talk is called human first, design a second because that is the right way around. what ties us all together is not our disabilities. We don’t look at the differences. We look at our humanity. And I think that is the core principle of inclusive design. It’s about togetherness, it’s a unity of spirit. It’s lives in a kind of philosophy of Advaita lives in a kind of knowledge of the head, the heart and the mind. So this is what I’ll be talking about.
On-screen is a picture of me in a blue suit kneeling in my back garden. And I am holding a car wheel. And next to me is some small fruit trees in a part. The reason for this is during the lockdown, I took two restoring old cars and gardening as a way of creating my own health. I live alone. And these two activities really spoke to my mental health. So Inclusive Design is an intensely personal activity. It’s not something we inflict on other people. It’s something that we are a part of. So when I say human first design a second, the first human that you should speak to is yourself.
On this slide, are six images of projects we’ve done at the Helen Hamlyn centre, we’ve done over 300 projects with 200 organizations. And on-screen, you can see products, vehicles, services, we even did the wayfinding at Heathrow terminal five, using inclusive design principles. That’s the bottom centre of this picture. If you like the wayfinding at Heathrow, terminal five, we did it, if you don’t like it, they executed it badly.
The next slide says I am an active designer and a design activist. So I’m not just a director who sits behind the desk, I go out and do design. The image is a picture of me holding what looks like a gun but is actually a video camera. And I’m pointing it at a lady in a wheelchair called Fiona, we are conducting research into the London taxi and the accessibility of the taxi.
Now, the slides without images, I will just readout. So please forgive me if I don’t describe what’s on screen. But there is a problem with the design. If you type in the word designer into any SMS or WhatsApp application on your smartphone, and the image shows this happening, what pops up as a predictive icon? Is this a designer? eople with yellow faces looking very French wearing a beret holding a paintbrush?. Are designers artists ar are we just about making things look good. I would argue no, we are strategists, thinkers, makers, facilitators, creators. There are two words in inclusive design. One of them is design. And this is what we need to speak to.
Design is about people and on-screen you see a mosaic of images of people of all ages, genders, abilities, and situations. There is even a picture of a guide dog who, you know a working dog who supports human life. Design is centered around people. So you can’t separate the two they are inextricably linked. Design is done for people, by people with people because of people and rearranging the words you get people-centred design. The term we use is inclusive design, the topic of this congress and this seminar, and it’s something that I live and love.
The British government defined it like this in the year 2000. The government doesn’t always get things right, but they got these rights. They defined inclusive design as including the widest number of people very simply, but it’s a beautiful set of philosophy, philosophy of ideals, but also actionable statements. It has a 27-year history. On-screen. On the left of the screen, you’ll see a black book with a red title that says Applied Ergonomics. This was the first publication done in 1994, where a person called Roger Coleman, who was co-founder of our centre define the term inclusive design for a conference in Toronto. On the right, you see a website called Designing with people.org which is an open-source website for anyone to use something we’ve created to help you use the tools of inclusive design.
As Namita mentioned, we look at the future of inclusive design across four axes of innovation. And these axes are age, ability, gender, and race. There are many ways of classifying and qualifying people. But if you look at these four, primarily, you get most of the planet, you make the most progress in the shortest amount of time. Why do we need this because the same sun rises and sets on our soil every day. But that day can be radically different, depending on your age, your ability, your gender, or your experience. And on-screen is a diagram that shows these four axes. And the title is called the Four axes of implead inclusive design.
The next slide shows four hashtags, which are ageism, ableism, genderism, and racism, and inclusive design speaks to this. This is the work, these hashtags are rising, they’re trending, people are not standing up for ageism anymore, or ableism. And inclusive design is a way of gently and generously moving us forward. On the right of the image, you see a talk I did called Insession series called exclusion, why design should be doing more than the images of four people, the four speakers, including myself, all of us were, were of either black heritage, Indian heritage or indigenous heritage. All of us were appointed to leadership positions within design, within five years of doing the talk, and we were the pathfinders. So there weren’t many people of color, leading global institutions, as directors, Dean’s or presidents. And that was a really surprising thing for me. I thought there would be other people that went before me, but there weren’t.
So we hold a responsibility, it goes back to being human. First, you hold a responsibility first for yourself. But then for others. Talking about the innovation axes. Age we look across life stage rather than just a numerical age. Numerical age is only relevant to your passport, you have a consumer age, biological age, aspirational age. All of these things change minute by minute. So we think of life stage rather than age. Ability is looking at the range of physical, cognitive and sensory abilities. And neurodiversity is a huge part of that mental health, gender, its understanding and including the evolving landscape, there’s more than two genders on the planet.
At the last count, one of our students at the RCA counted 124 Gender identifiers. So it’s evolving conversation and race. It’s including people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, cultures, what does race mean? But we know that conversation needs to be defined with equity. There’s a quote at the bottom of the screen from McKinsey, that talks about how people with ethnic and cultural diversity, companies that have diversity perform better. And these four innovation axes, the reason we call them innovation axes, is if you have diversity in your company, your collective, or your community, you will perform better, you will be better, you will live better, you will breathe
The next slide shows some work from the Helen Hamlyn Center for Design. We we have four different research groups, one that looks at age and diversity, one that looks at health, one that looks at inclusive design for business impact, and one that is social impact. And their various images across the screen that depicts this bottom left is an image of a group of young women standing in front of an orange sign that says include this was our include conference in 2019. Our next conference will be in 2022. But it signals a future of inclusive design for me because the people standing there, they’re young, they’re black, and they’re female.
Inclusive Design is designed at its most powerful and conscious. It’s most enabled and enabling. It has a global context, but a universal impact. And really importantly, it deals with some really difficult situations in life. And on-screen is an image from the valley and Gary hills in South India, with a dark mountain framed against the setting sun, and the lights reflecting off the clouds. And the text says only the dark truly helped to help see truly appreciate the light. And for us, this is inclusive design also. The pandemic has brought issues of exclusion into all of our lives. We all thought that aging happens to someone else. And on-screen is the image of a white presenting 75-year-old talking to an Asian presenting male who is 25 years old.
We all thought the disability was someone else’s issue. And on-screen you see a mobility scooter and a grab handle next to a bed, both of which, in my opinion, are fairly ugly designs. Why do we inflict ugliness on people with different abilities? So issues of accessibility and now mainstream, we all have reduced access and ability and reduced choice. The last two years have really shown us that and we’re more reliant on technology. Previously, in 2019, we all believe the wonderful nonsense, we will like the cartoon of a peacock on the left, who’s standing up and preening and looking good. The chicken on the right is doing good. She’s strapped rockets to her back and she’s taking first aid somewhere. And inclusive design can be a little bit like that it can feel a little messy, a little bit strapped together. But it is about doing good, not just looking good. So now we need an inclusive design. And on the right of the screen is an image of five people sitting down around a table three Qatari nationals to migrant workers of Indian or Pakistani origin. It’s one of the rarest photographs in my collection. Because inclusive design brought these two groups of people together to talk about the recruitment process to actually look at migrant workers’ needs in that country.
We think about design as having a four-stage process. And on-screen is a diagram that has those four stages. There’s an Explore phase, a focus phase, then the develop phase where you develop ideas and the delivery phase when you deliver them. On the top of these four phases are eight inclusive design activities that you can add to any creative process. The first is about understanding your context with talking to people. The second is about designing your research, then is discovering needs. Then you map and curate your insights. Only then do you get into designing translating briefs, building scenarios and testing them out. And then actually delivering your solutions. Inclusive Design is a creative power to improve life. It’s designing for and with disability is important. It gets it right for everyone because we are all on a spectrum of ability. So this isn’t designing for other it’s designing for your future self and your present self. It’s designing for people’s abilities, not their disabilities.
On-screen is a shot of a conversation from an iPhone. I was sent this by a young lady who said she was caring for her mother who had cancer. And every weekend she would go and take her mother shopping. One weekend she couldn’t do this. Her mother had to go by herself and then texted her to say this. So the text message on the screen reads like this. I went to town. I went downtown on the bus bought dresses and shoes was great to do it by myself a milestone in my recovery. The daughter realized she was should stop doing everything for her mother she needed to build on her mother’s ability and her mother going by herself downtown was important for her mother’s own recovery, her mother’s own confidence. So sometimes we need to stop wrapping people up. We need to enable people to live the most visible and vibrant life they can. Some of the projects that we’ve done I’ll just throw a whip through a couple of them. The texts test says can you pay a carrot one-handed and on-screen as a prototype that we worked with a lot of people with arthritis to develop and it fixes the blade of the peeler onto a wireframe that’s fixed onto the chopping board. So you don’t need to hold the peeler anymore. It’s fixed to the board. And then you just take the carrot and scrape it along the blade and up left one-handed. One principle of inclusive design is don’t design anything you wouldn’t use yourself. And I really want this.
The next slide asks can color change a person’s life. It’s got food of various colors on a white plate and on the left, and then on a blue plate on the right. Half the food is white. We do a lot of work in care homes. And in one care home. They told us the residents had given up on life. It turned out they just couldn’t see the food. A lot of food and care homes is white food on a white plate on a white tablecloth in very badly lit conditions. We change the color of the plate and put the white plate the white food on a blue plate. And people started to see the food and eat again. And this one lady put on 25% of her bodyweight again. She hadn’t given up on life. She just couldn’t see the food.
I’ll skip this one because I’ll talk about it later. Looking at digital design and accessibility, and I want to shift gears and talk about gender here a little bit. Two years ago, we were working with Tata Consultancy Services, looking at chatbots for one of their clients. Most chatbots at the time looked like these white, sorry, Caucasian, white presenting young subservient females. And I jokingly said maybe it’s because they’re designed by male coders who design themselves a girlfriend. But why is it this we thought something wasn’t right? Our research and you can see some of this on-screen that we pull down, we pulled off from our desk research show that most assistants in AI applications are female, most AI movie roles are male. So are we being guilty of gender discrimination in the digital world that we wouldn’t be acceptable in the real world?
We decided to look at a chatbot that was you know, that was different. That was more like a parent or a boss or a friend or a coach. And we did some research with the accountants in the company and they picked friends. And they wanted a chatbot who was a friend, but the friend that they wanted would be like these two people, Dame Judi Dench, or David Attenborough, older, wiser popular figures in UK culture, who could cover up your mistakes, encourage you to have a glass of tea when you need it, or take a break. Or if you’re running late with a deadline, they could run interference with your boss. And for me, this is inclusive design and action.
This slide which shows a Japanese gentleman in his 60s with another Japanese gentleman in a wheelchair and the standing gentleman is helping the man in the wheelchair down a set of stairs. This was one of the most inspiring photographs in my career. The Standing gentleman is called Sada Mourasan. He is the CEO of a major Japanese company. And he told me when I was starting in my career, never ever be too busy or too important to go out and do the research yourself to talk to real people. And this is what he’s doing. What he’s designing is a whole new transport system for the city of Fukushima. And on-screen you see a picture, of two trains on a platform with beautiful lighting. This is still one of the most inclusive transit systems in the world, because he designed it with love with care and with connection to real human beings.
Moving to London, and then the last five minutes of the presentation I’ll talk about a couple more case studies. Moving to London, one of the reasons we won the 2012 Olympics was what you see on screen. It’s a picture of the river Thames. More importantly, the bank of the river where a 10 mile stretch of the river was given flat surface access. But importantly, there were rest points every 50 meters to allow people who need help with walking to rest little wheelchair users or maybe 5 million people in geographic Europe. But those who cannot walk without help are more like 50 million. And on-screen you just see some beautiful vista points that allow people to walk and rest and wide open pathways that allow families, people of all ages abilities to walk by the river. They also looked at London’s historic streets on the left, you see a wheelchair user struggling to go up the cobblestones and on the pavement. And they change the street to a more flat access even surface as you see on the right. But it still holds the same historic character as the street on the left. And what resulted was the most accessible games ever. On-screen is a picture of the Olympic Park. There are more people with disabilities, more people of different cultures and races and different ages that deliver around the park as a result. So this accessible design in the City actually has drawn a greater diversity of the community.
And getting it right for people who have greater needs, gets it right for everyone. So on screen is a picture of a wheelchair user unable to get up some stairs. But there’s also an older person, a parent with a pushchair and someone with a large suitcase, who’s also inhibited. So aim for the margins of existence, and you get the mainstream on-screen as a bull’s eye diagram with a tall male right-handed individual in the center. And outside of him a little figure of people of different ages, abilities, genders and races, you aim for the wheelchair user right at the edge of the diagram, or the child or the parent with the pushchair, and you get more of humanity in your design. So this is the business case, really for inclusive design, you know, go across the age-ability gender race spectrums, and you get more of humanity, your design is more applicable. So work with real people. And on-screen you see some shots of our researchers out in the field talking to people. On the right, you see a project we did for Samsung with our youngest ever participant who was two years old, a little boy in the blue. So work with real people, not fake people
On-screen are many shots of personas that have been developed. And all of them are smiling. So if you see too much teeth in a presentation walk away, because it’s fake. Don’t make up a fake person, there are 7.6 billion people on the planet go out and talk to a real one. I’ll very quickly go through this because I realize I’m running out of time. But there’s a very strong message here of designing for your future cells. And on-screen is a picture of a 21-year-old Chinese student called Christina. This was a project we did in Hong Kong, her face is split in half, graphically, because the right-hand side of the screen has digitally altered her face to look like it’s 80 years old. And part of this was a dialogue with her future self. The project looked abroad at young students to talk to Hong Kong elders in the city of Hong Kong. And on-screen you see images of that happening in context. in people’s homes,
Research is a beautiful thing. And what you see here is a person Paul. Who’s had a stroke. And there’s a bird’s eye view of his bedroom. And these are formed a greatly beautiful kind of mosaic of research. And what resulted from it was a care home bed that you see on screen and the brief hair was to rival the first-class cabin on an aircraft. And you can see that the colour palette was very different. Not the greys and the browns of existing care homes but blues, greens and pinks. And on the right you see a picture of two of my designers, Samantha and Gabrielle actually using the bed they using their own design.
So I’ll skip through some of this. It’s um, this is a vehicle design project that we did, looking at driverless cars. And on-screen is the best driverless experience of flying carpet. We did a lot of research with people as you see on screen, getting them to imagine what their vehicle would look like using Lego. We created a number of different design briefs and I’ll just share with you some of them. On-screen you see a person swimming in a vehicle. So why can’t you swim your way to work? We redefine the sports car to be a car you do sports in. On-screen you see a vehicle that’s a little urban park with a dog sitting inside of it. Why can’t your journey feel like you’re travelling in a garden with a resident pet? On-screen you see a vehicle the size of a photocopying machine. That’s a local delivery service vehicle. And then finally, on-screen you see one of my favourite ideas, which is a toilet that comes to you. It’s called Uber Loo. So if Uber is banned from driving people around, could they bring you a toilet when you need it.
So very finally, included in inclusive design, we need to show leadership. We call this creative leadership. It’s based on three principles of empathy, clarity, and creativity. And I’m going to skip through this, final couple of slides. Inclusive Design for me is summed up in this quote by Tagore quite often we crave power, quite often we want to, we want to have authority over people. But Tagore said this, power said to the world, you are mine and she imprisoned him on her throne. Love said to the world, I am yours and she gave him the freedom of her house. So walk forward with empathy and with love. Launch your boat on the water because even small boats make big ripples. And I will end here. So if you Google my name, you’ll be able to reach me on LinkedIn. And I’m happy to take any questions on that.
Namita: Thank you so much for this. Start to the section. I think what struck me and I can see already the comments come into our chatbox. But really what struck me is the idea that we really wanted to set up for the session. When we design inclusively, we design for ourselves in a way. And that’s when we make the best designs. To continue this conversation. I’m going to take questions right at the end of the session. To continue this conversation, I’d like to invite Professor PVM Rao. Professor Rao is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Design at IIT and also serves as the Head of the Department of Technology at IIT Delhi. He works towards the development of assistive technologies, particularly for the empowerment of persons who are visually impaired. He holds many numerous positions of responsibility as a consultant as a guide, as a visiting scientist at MIT, Stanford and serves multiple roles as chairman, part-time director, scientific adviser to more than a dozen startups. Professor Rao today will speak on the enriching value and experience of assistive technologies through inclusive design.
Prof PVM Rao: Good afternoon Thanks, Namita, for that generous introduction. And I also want to thank Rama because he made my life easy by actually covering a lot of things which I wanted to do so so that I can concentrate on more relevant things. Thanks for that thing. So I think I just quickly wanted to take up this particular subject. In fact, my audience for this particular talk is people who want to develop assistive technologies, whether they are individuals or researchers are more often startups, because now we have a very good startup culture in the country. So what if you really look at the way the startup culture has evolved, including assistive technologies now, and look at the AT innovation system. So the country had close to 450 plus startups in about the last 10 years. They’re all in assistive technologies.
So when we look at particularly the products, which are in the market, we have about 60-70 products, which have already hit the market, which is available for people, and some of them have already made an impact, that may be still a small number. So AT innovation ecosystem is more like a funnel, where you start with larger them, some of them will fail, some of them will succeed. And ultimately, I think our goal is to basically accelerate the process of new product development in AT. Because particularly in countries such as India, and the rest of the world, there are millions waiting for affordable ATs, which is that, so I thought probably I’ll touch upon an inclusive design more from the new product development perspective, which is an AT. And I think Rama already defined inclusive design, and I think he gave a wonderful definition, I will not go into much detail, sometimes people use it for universal design and Design for All, which is there, but I think the definition which was given is that it may not be that you are designing for all, but at least you are very clear about the population for which you are actually trying to design. And I think that way includes your design is slightly different. And the two things which probably differentiates from Universal and other design is that choosing and understanding the appropriate target users that is one aspect, and also maximizing the product performance indicator for those type of users who have selected and I think that probably kind of differentiates in terms of what is an inclusive design.
And we’ll spend a few minutes basically looking at this aspect more from the assistive technology perspective. Now, generally what happens is when we look at a typical innovator or an entrepreneur who embarks on a journey of new product development, they always look at a journey as something going from idea to market which is which is generally a typical slide which is used in all entrepreneurial ecosystem, usually, but we also know that many of the people who are now taken up Assistive Technology also comes from a technical engineering background, that is, it’s pretty heavy in terms of people who have done engineering to take up these, but what generally happens is this is kind of a journey, which is very incomplete, because if you look at this innovation process from idea to market, what is missing here is a head and tail. So the head is very important. Okay, how did you basically arrive at this particular idea? What is the kind of research which is done, what is the kind of empathized process which you used, and how much of immersion and understanding the disability and accessibility which was done by the people that actually really makes the core of assistive technology innovation, and people often miss out on that particular aspect.
If I don’t do enough research, before I embark on my journey, from idea to product, generally, there are multiple pitfalls, and one of them will actually definitely will end the innovation process. So the whole idea here is that I think I’m also mentioned about empathize as a very essential process. And I think spending enough time understanding the problem, the context, the users, the user environments, the stakeholders is extremely important, because the people who take up assistive technology, most of them, do not necessarily understand what disability, inclusion and accessibility is. So it takes considerable time to understand. And I think that time is very, very essential. It also has a day, if you have a product in the market, it does not necessarily mean that it will make an impact unless somebody has actually looked at how does the product reach from market to the people, what kind of policies what kind of provisions which exists.
And in order to do that, how the design process was carried out. So the whole idea of the journey of going from idea to market is to look at these head and tail and make it as an integral part of the process, which is that it’s not about just making a proof of concept or a prototype, or a minimum viable product and go into the market. So I think that is where when we analyze some of the startups, which have terribly failed, we see that this initial research, which is really required, is lacking considerably. And I think that probably needs a strengthening.
So we also kind of looked at, what are the reasons for many of the startups which fail, particularly looking at the specific one, as I said, there is there’s not enough time which is spent on empathizing with the user environments, immersing in those environment. Rama mentioned about actually going to the field and spending considerable hours and days, actually, getting a first hand experience of the problem is extremely essential. When it comes to assistive technology, it may be an option in some of the products. But I think when it comes to assistive technology, it’s almost mandatory.
And then in terms of what kind of research which, people do in terms of both primary and secondary. And often the needs which are picked up or not the real needs, are not validated with the users and the stakeholders. That’s another important reason for a lot of fails. And why I’m trying to bring these reasons is that if somebody follows a truly inclusive design process, these are very unlikely to happen. And I think I’ll come to that little later.
This is one more. I think the reason where we have seen a lot of failures is that most of the startups are working on products and solutions which already exist, either they’re too expensive, or they want to make it further affordable, etc. But it’s very important to know what are the existing solution? Why do they work? Or why do why don’t they work? This knowledge is very, very important. And spending time is another aspect, and consulting all the stakeholders that are almost at Dajin stakeholders when it comes to assistive technology in terms of caregivers to assistive technology, first to government. And I think each one of these stakeholders is important and can be a reason for failure.
We have also seen that it’s culturally we are trained to look at one solution or couple of solutions, not spending enough time on ideating with multiple solutions, which is when and insufficient testing and prototyping before going to market and people. But I think among all these, the most thing, which is probably I put it as the last which is very key is failure to understand what inclusion is all about inclusion, though it looks like a very simple term, it is a very complex thing to understand. And it takes a lot of time to know what inclusion is all about. And particularly a lot of people who take up assistive technology come from technical backgrounds, sometimes physician background, have not studied inclusion, the way a social scientist would study and that’s where a lot of I would say problems and bottlenecks come into the picture.
So, our experience says that more than the functional considerations of assistive technology, these are the social considerations that are far more important. And that is where the real, I would say, the effort would be required for anybody to do just to give some of them, which probably all of us understand whether it’s independence or social integration, participation, aspirations or stigma, they can be many more, I’ve just put some of them. And I can actually give a number of examples of each one of them. And if you have actually attended yesterday’s session, there was a lot of stress by many people, like, whether it was Vibha, who mentioned about the social integration in terms of their playfulness, etc, these are extremely important, participation is even more important. And I think when you sit for designing and assistive technology, are these considerations come to one’s mind, or to the team is extremely important and that is what is probably what we see is strongly lacking.
Just to give you an example of participation, Rama mentioned about a Wayfinding app, we recently put a Wayfinding app in all India Institute of Medical Sciences and National Association for the blind. And I think one thing which people appreciated a lot about the app is that it is the same app, which is used by for different types of people. So it can be used by people who are visually blind, it can be used by low vision, it can be used by people who are not literate, it can also be used by the normal sight people. And since it is the same app, which actually works for this thing, people actually love it, because it kind of integrates them to kind of thing.
And another very interesting example is one of our students was actually designing a more inclusive gaming console for elderly people. And so he is supposed to actually redo the existing gaming console, and redesign it so that some of the elderly people can use and it was a semester long project. And finally, when he did it, when we evaluated we found that probably the work could have been better, because many of the usability considerations etc, were not addressed. But he took it to the elderly person for testing, and gave it for a week, and went for a feedback. This elderly person is extremely happy. We thought it’s very poorly designed. But still, the person who is actually using this assistive technology was extremely happy. Now, when the student actually asked the elderly person, what is the reason why, why are you so excited about this, is that after this gaming console, my actual grandson comes more often to me. And I think that’s the participation aspect, which is very, very important. And I think they sometimes for this particular elderly person functionality is not important. But I think that the participation aspect is very, very important.
And I think the same is true with aspirations. Even when we were doing some of our assistive products, we kind of did not give enough attention to aspirations, for example, selecting the right color for people. And I think most of the visually challenged people came and said, We want a specific color for a product. And I think these are these, these type of probably understanding doesn’t come sitting in a lab or probably in a workshop, I think one has to go to a field and spend time in order to do that. And there are I think this aspect, consideration of all these things is extremely important. If we want to do an inclusive design, and inclusive design process, which is strongly human-centered, user-centered, gives enough opportunities to address these issues in a listing.
I’ll probably just spend another minute or two and just close it. There’s another interesting study, which we did it for now, last two, three years, is looking at, particularly digital products, such as mobile apps, and websites. So there are guidelines. There are accessibility regulations, just meeting accessibility regulations is not enough for an inclusive design. Okay, it only covers the utility aspect of that. But what about the usability and user experience? If you look at most of the mobile apps, they’re strongly depend on the visual content and the visual communication to actually improve the usability and user experience of the sighted users.
But at the same time, it’s a big obstacle for people who are visually impaired. And though there is a, for example, interfaces or technology options such as text to speech are available, but it is not the same experience and usability, which people get it. So we have a guidelines for utility, but we still don’t have a guidelines for usability and user experience. And I think that’s one big gap. And we are trying to look at that seriously. And there are few PhD students who are working. It also kind of reiterates what Norman said that you don’t work at just one level, you have to look at all the three levels, whether it’s by serial, behavioral, or even the reflective, and I think that is the ultimate probably a goal of any inclusive design process.
And we also found that particularly when one sits for designing and assistive technology, particularly in countries such as India, a lot of concentration goes and affordability. And everybody thinks how can I reduce the cost of a product from existing one, but I think awareness and access that the bigger issues. And unless these are included as a part of the design process, one is aware, one may end up with a solution, which is affordable, but doesn’t address the other aspects. And same is true with when people look at consideration, as I said, many people come from technical background, they’re good at technical, but I think the leaving out or doing a poor job, either on medical, social or business aspects, actually lets them down when it comes to that. So it kind of requires an interdisciplinary team. Where are sometimes if the founder is alone, or there are only a couple of people, they need a lot of partnerships mentorships in order to actually bring all aspects of design, particularly inclusive design.
Yeah, so this is my last slide. Okay, and, more importantly, now, WHO also has recognized that just looking at a people’s requirement is not enough. And I think it’s a holistic approach, requiring products, policy provision and personnel, which are very, very important. Thank you Namita, for allowing me to complete
Namita: I’m sorry, Professor I realized, you know, I was just thinking as I went through each of the topics, each speaker that perhaps each and every one of you have a lot to share a lot of valid things that are going to be so interesting to our participants, we should perhaps have organized this as a discussion rather than a presentation because I can also imagine that each of the speakers has much to share with each other. I think particularly what you speak about this notion of how do you because this is a nation where we have such innovative designers and thinkers, but not always deeply connected to the community they are designing for. And perhaps as you pointed out, this is one of the big reasons why there is a lot of things that are stopping right that concept and never really moving forward attitude.
Thank you so much for your presentation. I’d like to move on to the third speaker today, Professor Gaurav Raheja. He is a well known design thinker, an expert in the domain of universal design, social inclusion has been a creator of many course that are available on accessibility, universal design, social inclusion and such topics. He is the professor and Head of Department of Architecture and Planning at IIT Roorkee and a joint faculty in the Department of Design. He is the professor in charge for inclusion and accessibility services. He is a key consultant to be accessible India campaign and has is a consultant on many of the committees at a government level. The chairman of the UGC committee for developing accessible standards and guidelines for higher education, for example, he works as an advisor to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment. So In many, many ways, I think he has thought across the very individual level of problem solving but also at a larger policy level of problem solving and standards creation standards for the country as diverse as ours. So really looking forward to hear from Professor Gaurav Raheja on his stock and empowering access.
Professor Gaurav Raheja: Thank you, Dr. Namita. I think just the simplest introduction is that I am a student of inclusive design. And I definitely could write a small testimonial that ever since I was introduced to this whole direction of thinking almost two decades ago. It has been a very, very transforming experience personally, humanly, socially, technologically, and even in a context of whatever we do every day. In fact, it is the context of inclusion, which has made us less of a designer, less of a technocrat, and more of a very, very curious person, all the time everywhere, and everything in life has started mattering otherwise, typically, any form of education that we receive, makes us so focused only to that aspect, that the rest of the world ceases to exist. But I must thank my contextual I would say students who have taught me how to start thinking even higher and better. And today, I would rather very humbly state, I am no expert, even though it is all stated sometimes in our CVs, but we are all still exploring in what better ways could we learn. So I would share with you in my next few minutes of time with you certain experiences certain journeys and ways of thinking, because I very much believe design has also very subtly transitioned between the world of tangible and intangibles.
And it is the intangibles somehow, which controls the tangibles, which is emotion, the feelings, the concerns, the context, where one understands these words, what was accessible and what is not. Rama has already laid a wonderful foundation I was cherishing in 2015 when I visited Rama in the Royal College of Arts. Had a wonderful discussion about the age and the ability labs. Met Joe butcher, I remember a wonderful project on toilets. And today I see a transformation on the Uber Loo and also the Fukuoka station I remember having taken a train journey to visit all those stations to truly understand the idea of inclusivity in Japan, I remember in 2012 Conference of EOD. Now with all those background settings, which I completely resonate, let me share some glimpses of what I think you know, from my side of the world, could be a little flatter on the idea of inclusivity. So, maybe I use Rama to give me a thumbs up in case my slide is visible.
This is the title and in very simple words, if I just want to say the conference title is also empowered, which means a lot of things, you know, empowering itself means enablement, it means a certain degree of expands within yourself. So that you are able to adapt with great degree of independence and dignity. Now, those words are never written, but they are always meant. So, at our laboratory of inclusive design, which is an initiative at IIT Roorkee, which I had taken few years ago, we just did the new icon for that, which is here, we are very happy to be working on the same four axes as what Rama mentions age, ability, gender, and race, but I think we added another layer to it, which is the economics layer, which makes a lot of contextualization in a context like India.
So to start this whole thing you know, we are sitting in one part of the world or different parts of the world, and when this term inclusion or Universal Design is seen many of very often with my US colleagues, with my German colleagues, with my European colleagues and with my South Asian colleagues, this subject is discussed, I find while the soul of the entire debate is very, very common, the context of each one of them is very, very distinct and different. And it’s time that we start appreciating that in order to customize and take this whole idea forward. So looking at it from this lens of universal design, the simple question that comes to me is, why are we still talking about it? Why, what is the need for contextualization? And how should we go about it?
I have no definitive answers, friends. All I have is small stories, small experiences and some live cases, I fully endorse what Rama says, ever since we sit on these high chairs of being a head or being a director, our soul lies on the street, because we are people from the people side. And the questions that we have is what makes us where we are. So same question I’m asking is: What is the need for contextualization? Why can’t the world continue with standardization? And I think contextualization itself is an effort of inclusion, which is an antithesis to the idea of standardization. And take it further, in the context of this conference, when I see, I see there are subtle overlays between the understanding of assistive technology, which actually is the interface between the humans who exist in an animate way, and an environment, which sometimes supports in an inanimate way. The question is, who can bend a little lower, who can make an adjustment, and if we believe humans cannot, an environment cannot. That’s the time when you start thinking about it as barriers, that’s the time you start getting a mental fatigue. That’s the time you start feeling I’m imprisoned.
And I presume COVID had brought us to that point as a realization. I know COVID was a very deadly disease that has been terrible across the world. But if I see a small trace of goodness and COVID, I think COVID has been a very, very terrible teacher, the lessons of which I presume even the able bodied world if starts realizing we wouldn’t need this course in education, if everybody would have got transformed to this idea of what is called empathetic learning and being sensitive to understand what imprisonment meant, when you could not walk out, despite that you had legs, despite that you had best of technologies. And now after, I think, almost two years of online teaching, which was a huge impact, I hope we have reached some saturation point. And we are rediscovering the need for meeting people in physicality. So it’s that interface, I will not go into these details, but just to map it further. You know, this human is not one person, which very often in the previous century, the designers brought us to a point to assume that as one human body of five feet eight inches usually male dominated, having nice clothes to them, a good purse with him, and can spend something to buy everything in life. But unfortunately, the life is perhaps much more complex.
That brings us to a term called intersectionality. Because all the four axes which are very nicely explained by Rama are overlaid with complex intersections, because gender is also a race and is also a body and is also an economic dimension. And a body is also orientation. A body is also linguistic, a body is also culture. And if you see that way, you will find so many lenses that exist in our societies makes this perhaps more complex. And this which comes from the same author, Mr. Clarkson. The idea is to truly understand Who are we really designing for? What is it really working for? And very often I realized in the US this pyramid so often to, to not actually teach, but to actually analyze. Okay, this is a product that exists, its a technology that exists? Let’s find out who is it working for? It was designed by saying for everyone, but does it really work for who is actually included? To further simplify, recollect this equation of person and the environment fitness? The question is, who fits and who can accommodate this fitness, I will not go into all these details because I quickly want to come to the idea that I want to communicate. So the idea of inclusive design is not about average, it’s about the push of the boundaries and very nicely articulated widest range of people. And therefore I’ve been studying the subject of accessibility and trying to redefine often in many, many different terms. Initially, when we began, accessibility as indicative of the symbol of a wheelchair was a restriction of ability and everything centered around this. But as we started working on it for so many years, every new day you discover, access is not physicality. Access is not building, access is not architecture.
And I today say that accessibility is an experience, even humans becoming accessible. Even communications with the best of WhatsApp can actually tell you that this person is not accessible. So accessibility is an experience. And in order to make that experience, the partial approaches or piecemeal approaches will never work. And that is why sometimes we have best of assistive technologies, but they still cannot deliver the accessibility experience, because they might either be too complex to hand and hold, or they might be too tough to afford.
And these dimensions come from a zone like India, or one, I would say, the world of global South, which talks about this perspective, that majority of people with disabilities live in what is a term called LMIC, low and middle income contexts, or if you say, low resource context, and it requires so many aspects in order to bring together even when you do a start up on assistive technology, you need to support with the data, how are we going to finance it? So data policies, funding capacity, building social norms, built environments and services, everything has to talk or come together to ideate the idea of equity in terms of this global context. So when I look at this word, contextualization, I primarily look at these four sectors, information access, infrastructure access, service, experience, and policy. Many times we realize design is physical.
And that’s where I’m saying it is invisible policies, which most designers refuse to read is what shapes even the physical and the tangible product. And therefore, I think our country is now taking certain steps with active participation of designers. So very quickly, I’ll show you just three or four cases of personal experiences. So all I’m showing you here is what is direct personal experience, but not trying to bring a complete thesis out of it. So this is a low resource context wherein I worked in the rural villages to understand the challenges of people with mobility impairments. It’s very painful to see this that people became victims of a wrong injection. The guy in the center that you see Mukul received a wrong injection of from a doctor, which paralyzed him for life. Now, when he has to walk, the village street is always going to be like this, because infrastructure is still not there. Now, either one is to look at assistive technologies which interface the body, the arms and the context. The other way, which I say is the environmental approach, which to me looks more inclusive, is to have certain better quality of street environments. And that is why I feel it’s it’s a hand in glove situation.
On the left hand side, you see Shakeela, who walks with one crutch, one bucket to do the household chores every day, manages our life with a self created assistive device. On the third side is a is a tricycle, which Momin Ahmad was given in charity, but he uses this only for outdoor movement and comes to take a bath on this, but after he is taken bath on the hand pump, the again gets the dirt accumulated on top of it when he comes back on his tricycle. Well, there are of course, these complex issues, I do not have direct solutions. But when we studied all this, I extended this into accessibility of a sanitation system.
And all I realized was access to sanitation for people with disabilities in this case was first was reachability, which has to reach to the washroom second was the maneuverability to approach inside. So I used the term as approachability. The third was the usability, which is the inside the fourth was safety. And the fifth was privacy. And that is how we started defining and understanding various documentations of full scale simulation. And to understand how various ladies were actually using things. And when the government was investing into schemes for developing public washrooms for people with disabilities and low income groups, we realized there is a challenge with the design itself and one iteration of 90 degree turn could have actually solved the whole thing. So it was not about design, making complex solutions, but within the limited costs that you have. So we analyzed how many turns does she need required to take and you walk through this and two solutions is what we proposed, eventually to the Village Development Authority to actually Do this, which I know sometimes it’s not really feasible. But that’s the kind of challenge we face and implementation.
The second context here I’m talking about is a national and regional context. We’re in right time involved as an author as a consultant to the government to draft the new accessibility standards for India.
So just a quick this thing. So for this, we also did consultations across India with partners as NIUI, which were the major funding agencies. And also thanks to the UK government, which is part of the funding initiative, which is the foreign Commonwealth development office in based at UK, through which we actually did all these connections with various kinds of stakeholders involving people with disabilities. Sadly, this this had to be done during a COVID time so grounded, research couldn’t happen. So we had to rely on experiential researchers.
And we also followed certain studies, which were done remotely earlier as part of the NID campaign, when Professor Malik was leading the universal design movement there, and including the children oriented studies of developing washrooms understanding standards, and creating all those things. So using all this what we have brought in as a new transformation to the guidelines, it is yet to be released, but I’m giving you a precursor to it is that creating access in environments is not just designing, its procurement, its regulations, its implementation, its evaluation, and maintenance and management. So we have created a whole cycle of doing this rather than limiting it to design. The second important slide that you have put into the new standards is that these guidelines are not for one guy to read and implement in the entire world. It’s a complex set of stakeholders, which needs to be continuously engaged even after it is done. And if you see here, it involves people with disabilities, other user groups, architects, engineers, technocrats, implementing agencies and policymakers.
And secondly, we have started to give the new guidelines a very positive frame of look, which does not provide a stigma of disability, but provides the colored spectrum of plurality of India, with the nine kind of sectors that it tries to cater including neurodiversity.
The third context I want to bring here is the language and mobility context. I remember when I visited France, I have always been on the study, I would say, I was just four days before my visit was a nice, Nice attack by the terrorists. I was internally actually petrified moment I arrived on the station, I was panting to look for my way and exit from the underground metro at The Guardian station, which looked like this. What I’m trying to say is there can be beautiful designs, beautiful, archival structures around the world. But when you how you experience it becomes matter. And I now till date, dread the station because of my one experience, because of the bomb blast that had happened a few years ago in Munich station. So in an underground station, when I was looking for an exit sign, I couldn’t find one, I went around 10 times half an hour. And all I was seeing was sortie, sortie, and sortie, which I never knew is what exit means. Had it been a colored coat of green and white, even if it was sortie written, what I’m saying is colors could speak a language of safety, which could unify us across the world. But it was a blue sign. And in my understanding of blue was a facility sign. So salty must be either a name of a street or something else. So pardon my linguistic experience. And I was open to accept that language is my disability. And please find my sortie and these were the signs that you found there, which doesn’t show an exit, I felt well sortie is a station there.
So having said this, I want to bring third context within the language, which is a study we did an India with our students, especially with vision impaired people across metro stations in Delhi. And of course, I’m quickly just showing you because it was about environmental. So what I’m saying is we did these studies on two distinct trajectories of stations. As you know, it’s difficult to get permissions to do these studies. But he’s tried to do and follow through ethnographically with people with vision impairment to understand the efficacy of what we call as tactile maps. We want to lay them across and we have been raising this research question across the world that do tactile maps, or convey a universal language because they are very different in UK as blister tiles. They’re very different in Frankfurt with white tiles. They’re very different in India with different kinds of textures and emboss values. And we found a lot of different kinds of junctions that we met different kinds of iterations that in which they were led. And we found they were not working as effectively as they were thought to be.
The point I’m trying to make is tactile tiling systems are by themselves a design solution. But a design solution, if it’s not implemented with the right understanding and consistency, can actually become a complete failure and intense cost to the whole system. So I will not read out all the outcomes of what the studies found. But this was another context of textile as an information. The last case that I want to bring here, because I assume we might have a lot of Indian audience here was an experience of a notion we thought in India that the world in Europe is more perfect than ours, because it’s Global South-Global North. And that’s where this was a study when I was in Heidelberg, in Bismarck plats. And as you see 12.03, to turn 40 1pm, on a Sunday morning, I was there, this how this beautiful town looked like, but who knew what is going to come in place.
So all I saw was, there were two ladies who are coming with a child on wheelchair, supposedly taking that child to a rehabilitation therapy center that morning, and they were locals. And I found on Sunday, the services do not work in terms of information counters, because it’s a holiday in Europe, but the buses and the systems are working. And this is how the scene looked like people were there, I saw baggage trolleys, etc. And these are those ladies, I began to follow when I saw there was some challenge, which I call it as Shadow mapping as a tool of research. And I found they were looking for information like one side, on the other side. On the third side, ultimately, they had to go to the bus driver to ask for information, then go again, they were directed somewhere else, and you follow the again go back to another board crossing the street, looking here looking there. And then finding here in there, the child getting restless, it might have been a very, very trivial phenomenon. But I remember for almost an hour, these two ladies could not get onto the right bus. Despite that they were locals. What I’m trying to imply here, even for our own systems, we struggle on this every day if I have to use a public transportation. And the kind of inclusivity I’m trying to talk about is is that it fails if we are not sensitive to these information designs as part of our larger infrastructures. And eventually what I found a country which otherwise endorses high tech, ultimately had to rely on human support. And human access is divine when it comes as a help.
Something which I want to therefore say is that these are the lines between sympathy and empathy, equity and equality, discrimination and non discrimination, exclusion and inclusion. And if you start realizing that inclusion is an idea to erase these lines, not to draw these lines by what we design. So to sum it up, I would again bring Tagore I think something common between Rama and me. I don’t know either we are having a reference to poets. But yes, we feel that our poets are far more inclusive in their visions, who said that the problem is not how to wipe out all differences, but how to unite with all these differences in tech.
And therefore I was part of this group of authors in 2011, when we coined the contextual idea of universal design for India, in which we included the idea of equity, usability, cultural inclusion, economic inclusion, and aesthetics, which is most often missed out as part of the understanding of access to inclusivity. So as a summing of perspective, I would say the journey from access to universal design is not an answer. It’s a direction. It’s a continuous path of approach and experience towards celebrating human diversity and inclusion. It’s not a destination for 21st century, it’s actually a path on which 21st century should walk. And it perhaps connects us also to the SDGs. If we are really looking at it in a holistic way, so that let’s not separate inclusion from environment, let’s not separate environments from humans. And that’s not separate technologies across all of them. Because all of us need to come together. And coming together also starts with the word called Co. And that’s what is the conclusion about. And I would say the only outcome I feel here is let’s go because Co is the only way to move forward. And therefore I’m no expert. Let’s Co join, collect the information, collaborate, cocreate and contextualize through these things. And this is what my 175 year old historic British institution looks like. And this is where I reach out to all of you and say my thanks for your very patient listening. Thank you so much everyone for your patient hearing.
Dr Namita: Thank you so much, Professor. That was really giving us a lot of concepts and a lot of ideas to think about. In many ways, you’ve tied together several of the thoughts and ideas that have been presented so far and deeply rooted them in the reality, I think that we face in India and much of the Global South. The one-piece that I feel we’ve all used to, but we haven’t seen quite enough of is done. I’m sure going to be presented by our next speaker, Kavitha Krishnamoorthy. For those of you who’ve seen our program list will see this is the one non-doctor in the one non-professor. But in many ways is the one with the greatest lived experience. We are, I am certainly strongly looking forward to hear what we can learn from Kavitha. She is the Founder and Managing trustee of Kilikili, a network of parents and children with disability that is supported by professionals and volunteers.
She is a social development professional by training, but really how work and her right talk as it were, its eventual right. She is a parent who has a child with autism, who had this question of why a childhood disability is not easily seen in a public agency fundamental rights in such normal right of all children. Kilikili has emerged as an organization from this inquiry and I’m sure Kavitha is going to talk a lot over the years, initiated by problem-solving for her own son and her own situations, she has grown this idea and carried it to cross into communities beyond the first one, where she, where she initiated this effort. A lot of this has happened in partnership with governments with the local population and the citizens of our communities. And this has been the model to scale up. I am very excited and looking forward to hearing what you have to share with us Kavitha, I don’t know if you were with us yesterday or day before when Vibha spoke. Vibha Krishnamurti was talking about the importance of childhood and respecting the perspective of just being a child having fun having freedom of choice, having a normal childhood experience. So over to you.
Kavitha Krishnamoorthy: Thank you so much, Namita. And it’s an honour and a pleasure being here listening to such lovely conversations that have proceeded I will begin by sharing something. That was just an introduction to the network that I belong to which is Kilikili. Kilikili basically emerged in Bangalore and the word Kilikili, in Kannada, the local language of Karnataka, Bangalore, Kannada. And in Kannada, it means the warbling laughter of the child. So as an introduction to the organization, I thought there would be nothing better than seeing this small film, which basically was short on our first inclusive play space in Bangalore.
And it showed children of different abilities, children who use wheelchairs, children who use, you know, I mean, different kinds of mobility, AIDS, and having different, you know, the requirements, all of whom are accessing a regular neighborhood public park, thanks to the kind of, you know, modifications that were made in the space. Um, what I want to, I’m not going to talk so much about Kilikili, or the organization itself, because I think that we could probably just google and find out more about us. But the idea of showing the film was really to set a context to our work, which is basically, you know, working with multiple corporations and other government agencies, to make public place spaces accessible, not just accessible, but inclusive, so welcoming of all children.
And in a way, in the spirit of, you know, the definitions of universal design that we have been hearing, in the earlier part of this session. What I’m going to focus on really is to look at the process by which the design of these pieces were made, and one critical component. And maybe even the most critical component of the process of designing these spaces, was talking to children. So it was really talking to children and hearing what children had to say about their play experiences, which has been the fundamental basis of the creation of these play spaces itself. So I’d like to begin by saying, basically my talk would look at why do we want by we listen to children? Why do we involve them? How do we involve them? And what happens when be involved? So I’m going to be covering these three areas, as I talk through the space.
So why, why do we want why do we listen to children? Why do we feel that it is important to listen to children, we believe it’s important to listen to children because basically, they have a lot to say, children have a lot to say, and they have every right. And they deserve to be heard. So as adults, as facilitators, as parents, as caregivers, as teachers, we are the ones who need to be listening to what they say about their experience, and when we are designing something which they are going to be using. So simply, very simply, we need to listen to them, simply because it’s really the right thing to do. So when Rama, for example, was talking about age, and it being a spectrum of looking across the human lifespan to include older people, I would urge that it is important to include younger people also, and to look at what do younger people need to say for everything that affects or impacts their life. So that’s why we need to be doing it.
The question arises, how do we do it? How do we involve children? And typically, the questions in our minds in our mind is Do you know anything? Do they really know what’s best for them? How will they be able to communicate what is best for them? So I think the question of how is rather important, and it’s really about how do we listen to children. And I think the first point where we begin to listen to children is first by changing our own mindset to believe that actually, children do have something to say, and that if we are willing to listen to them, then actually we will be enriched. And we will find many things that we did not know, which we will we will probably find from their eyes and their, you know, the way they look at the world. So that’s why we need to be listening to children.
And how do we listen is we cannot take very adult, you know, methods of maybe talking or discussing to them. We may need to find child friendly ways of listening to children. And that would involve using a lot of creative materials. So what we have done before every project we’ve had consultations with children, which have been children with disabilities, children without disabilities, all of them, you know, discussing the question of what they would like their path to be like, well What are the difficulties they face in their current path? Or current play spaces that they go to? What are the things that would make it easy for them? What would it make what would be the thing that would make it easier for their friends that they probably see around them? So it’s really looking at what is it that they want and the way we ask them is really we give them a lot of creative material.
So clay for example, using giving them clay from which they can develop the model parts we ask them Okay, take this clay and you know, develop a model part and show us what you would like or it is giving them a lot of, you know, crayons, colours, collage material, asking them to, again, do the same thing. I mean, okay, show us what you would like through your drawings through your painting and so on. So I’ll just give you a sense of what this looks like. Let me show you this.
Namita: sorry to interrupt, Kavita. We were not able to see or hear anything.
Kavitha Krishnamoorthy: So, in this film, it was a consultation where the facilitator was trying to understand how these processes happen where the facilitator is probing is asking questions and children are basically you know, encouraged to talk to contribute to the discussion and so on. So, this becomes what we also have to allow for them is that there is a variety of ways in which we allow children to participate which you saw some of them were talking some of them were you know, drawing they actually you know, kind of made a song at the end of it to communicate what they have to say to the others and I quickly play that song because I think it’s again.
So in this, the kids are saying that they all want a park to play in, the park needs to have many trees and flowers. So you think you would have seen in the first time in the first video, they were actually one of the children says, you know, we want trees and flowers in the park, and then they, when they finish their entire discussion, they actually put it together in a song. And then they performed it as a song now. So I mean, the point I’m trying to make is that we need to be open to different kinds of ways in which we will communicate and express themselves. So you can’t go only with a questionnaire or you know, with better with very static forms of getting information, which may limit and which may not be very child friendly. Basically, you need to look at things in which they are also excited. I mean, they are excited to be a part of it, they are excited to make those drawings, they are excited to, you know, make them make a model ark and it’s actually a great process because there’s just so many ideas flying and then, you know, they kind of listen to somebody else say something and then they some say something else, and somebody else says something else. And it’s also a process, which actually makes you understand how sensitive children are. And I find that’s really something which is amazing. And when we are open to hearing what children have to say. I think that’s really something that’s really so what happens, I mean, what really happens when we listen to children. I mean, what has happened post these kinds of processes. I again, run you through something.
So this is again, you know, some more of children’s voices. These were some all that they came up with in one consultation, which we put together in a set of two posters, and I just want to run you through it, I’m going to read it out. So one on the, a 17 year old teenager who used the wheelchair had this to say, “the most difficult thing in my life wherever I go is accessibility. If I ever design a park for myself, I would firstly have a separate path for all the wheelchairs then I run everywhere to reach the top of the sky.” Vipin, a slightly older youth said that his path should be full of trees and plants and birds and animals.
And then we kind of put down what all they said together in a post and this is some of the things that they said and I urge you to look at the kind of range of things that children are talking about. So they said that their dream path should basically have access for children with disabilities throughout the park that includes specific parts for wheelchairs broad entrance to the park ramps with railing, non-slippery even payment no step secure fence signage, including in Braille.
They talked about water elements found fountain water and then they were really getting ambitious because they wanted a swimming pool. Then they looked at what elements would they want on the surface things like sandpit, pebblepit, mounds of grass, a sensory walkway, soft sand, plants and animals again, they started you know, they started with simple things like ducks and then they went to fish and butterfly and deer and dog and cat and rabbits.
So they wanted a host of things that they wanted in the play area. And they also talked about and this was really interesting because typically when you ask children you think that okay, they’re going to you know, what are they going to ask for they’re going to say you know, put a swing put a slide put something for me to run around in and actually look at the kind of things they talked about. They said they wanted easy to maintain toilets. They wanted a well-lit play area. They wanted benches, they wanted layout map. They wanted colors that are sensitive to low vision. They wanted some small eatery where they could get some snacks. They wanted a first aid box. They wanted signages dustbins a PA system, that water should be reused so that there is no wastage. They wanted longer, you know time over weekends, and they wanted a support group and volunteers.
They also said they wanted things like a friendly watchman or none at all. Lots and lots of friends to play with. rooms to stay again here this Saturday early getting ambitious. A boat beach, but also things like look again look at their sensitivity, no board saying only for children below five years, or no signs that say wheelchairs or prams not allowed. So the kind of things that children are telling us, I mean, they’re not talking only about their immediate play experience on a play equipment, you know, because people think that that’s what children want, they want, they want some play equipment, and they’ll be happy. But actually, what you’re not talking to us about is the entire play experience itself. It’s not about the equipment, it’s about how is the space? How well lit is it? How accessibility is it? Is it inclusive? Or is it exclusive are certain people being left out? And I think that’s what we’ve learned most by listening to children, we’ve learned that their way of looking at the world is, in some ways, so much broader and so much more holistic than us could ever be.
I mean, we would think that if we talk to parents, most of them talk to us about the kind of plate opens that they need, the play experience that they need, but nobody’s talking about a first aid kit, or nobody there was one child who told us they should not be smoking in the park, you know, I mean, the kind of things that they talk about is, is so much broader, that we really have something to learn from. And that’s something that I mean, I would enjoy it with that saying that, that’s what that’s really the most critical thinking, listening to children, because it widens our own perspectives. And when we actually get down to designing a space for them, we try and see how best all that they want can be achieved. So thank you so much for listening.
Namita: Thank you, Kavitha. I really wanted that this session had children. Have the voice of children in it. And you know what you say is so absolutely true. We don’t listen enough. Because we don’t expect them to know things or to think things that we would not already have thought for them and how wrong we always are with anyone who hangs out with kids will tell you that. Once you have been far away enough from childhood, you forget how smart and how perceptive and how wise children are and it’s always a good idea to be with children. I know that we didn’t see your very first video Kavitha, but I also know that we don’t have time. If you have it on a link or if you can share it then I’m sure whenever there is the possibility the committee will play it
With this I’d like to invite our last speaker today who will continue this theme of childhood. We have a pair, Dr Kalpana Kharade and Dr Hema Bhadawkar. They both work at K J Somaiya College of Education. Both of them work in the area of inclusion and have conducted several activities in the area of making science learning accessible to people with visual impairment. This paper is on a piece of work that they have done looking specifically at the possibility of accessible for visually impaired people.
Dr Kalpana Kharade: So, very good afternoon really and it is our proud privilege to be here in this gathering. I am Dr. Kalpana and along with Dr. Hema, who is currently IC principal of Sowmya College of Education and the paper which we are going to share with you is our experience of one of the projects which we had undertaken. And that is “We Want the Moon”: An Exploration of Possibility of Making Astronomy Accessible for Visually Impaired Learners. So it was an exploration of the possibility of making astronomy accessible for visually impaired learners. Friends, it was a project which we undertook few years back, which was sponsored by ICSSR. And we can conducted this project in a very Indian modest, humble context. And that to under the roofs of two very, very ordinary spatial schools in Mumbai, those who really have the knowledge about the kind of spatial schools we have, you know, with very limited infrastructure with very limited facilities, lots of constraints, a lot of barriers, but under those rules, only we try to explore these possibilities.
And that is why our central theme basically was that astronomy is highly inaccessible for visually impaired students, and we really need to do something to make it accessible for them. And when we undertook this project, we certainly did a lot of research review. And we found three main insights we could get from our literature review and that is that very often, whether in India or abroad, visually impaired students are excluded from the learning experiences of astronomy learning.
The second thing that we found that in Indian context, we generally we speak subjects, how to be accessible for that we should have tactile diagrams, models, etc. And we hardly speak about pedagogical interventions, pedagogical innovations, but the studies which we found abroad, we found that they were using very advanced pedagogy is like constructivism, inquiry learning, discovery learning, which we are not using, and that’s why we thought, let us try even the inquiry learning. And then when we started again, searching, we found that technology based inquiry learning has superiority over inquiry learning alone. And that is why then the main purpose of our study was to use technology based inquiry approach, and design this pedagogical strategy and see its impact on conceptual understanding of astronomical concepts among visually impaired students.
And for that, we used a research design, it is very much conventional design, you can say it was a quasi-experimental research design, where you have two groups experimental control, there also, we tried to use mixed-method research design, where quantitative and qualitative paradigms were included, right? So experimental group was taught. So in both these groups, certainly, we had visually impaired students, right. And they were from standard six from two schools. And we transacted four themes. And four themes were very interesting that is the occurrence of day and night, which is again, you know, conceptually also not so easy for them to understand the movement of Earth, right. The third thing is the reason for the seasons and solar system.
So all these four things are that way, conceptually very abstract in nature, and conceptually, also very inaccessible for them. So what we did, in experimental group, we use the technology-based inquiry learning approach. And in a control group, we use the traditional approach, which is generally followed in most of these spatial schools is only explanation and some kind of tactile experiences. The condition of these schools is really pathetic. Nothing was there in the name of tactile diagrams or models. And certainly after the pretest, post-test, statistical analysis, we found that experimental group scored well, in the in reference to conceptual understanding.
But for the purpose of this particular paper, which we prepared for this conference, our focus was very narrow. We wanted to see what constraints or what challenges we faced in using this technology based inquiry learning and how assistive technology help us to, you know, overcome these challenges.
Namita: I’m so sorry to interrupt. I’m going to ask you and Dr. Hema to stay with the key points that you’d like to share with the group. Since we are kind of running out of time. Thanks so much.
Dr Kalpana: And so, we will present very briefly, the challenges which we faced by introducing the technology-based inquiry learning approach, or making astronomy accessible for visually impaired students, and the kinds of solutions we tried to use in this journey, and how assistive technology helped us to overcome these challenges.
Dr Hema: Thank you Kalpana madam and thank you Namita madam. I will be as short as possible. As Dr Kalpana said, to answer this question, we use data from our reflections and the field notes of the field workers. And we could find these are the some major challenges faced, and then from these solutions sought by us by using the technology based inquiry approach for teaching astronomy to the visually impaired learners.
So, first challenge, which was non-accommodative course content. So in that when we noticed that the spatial schools for the VI students are using the same textbooks, only they are made available in the Braille print. As a result, the content is not at all accommodative. And hence, the content largely remains out of reach of the VI learners. So we could find solutions for this lake to solve this issue with data, thorough content analysis of content, identified the complex areas and provided textual and linguistic scaffolds by creating the new learning material. And for this, we use the latest technology to introduce the graphics in tactile form
The second challenge was inaccessibility of information. So, in spite of making new learning resources, it was found that more than 50% of the students could not access the learning material in braille and for this, they expected the reader’s help, which was difficult to provide all the time to them. So the solution we could find for this, we use assistive technology for the multiple representations of the content and the school.
The third was lack of resources. So the school chosen for the experimental group did not have sufficient learning resources like models, charts, etc, but whatever they had also was not in a good shape. So, we could find a solution that you know, we have developed the innovative and low cost resources in multiple copies.
Next challenge for us was the class management. So inquiry required the self exploration of the materials in Braille or in digital form models or audio form, which was many times difficult for five to six students. And it was risky also sometimes to make them touch the electric bulbs in the models as well. So you know, for that the solution was we made the groups of totally blind and partially sighted students and give each group one sighted assistant. The next challenge for us was lack of time, because inquiry learning requires time for Exploration and Analysis, which could not be fitted in a regular class period of 30 minutes. So, for that, what we did you know, we decided to take classes on Sundays for a larger duration. And it was possible as the school is a residential one, and a student could sit with us for a longer time.
The next challenge for us was classroom setting. So, the technology based inquiry approach required the constant interaction between the group members and the field assistants, the students required to touch the models, the materials and take part in the discussions, all this was very difficult in a regular classroom setting with benches and tables and chairs. So for this, you know, we found a solution that we requested the school to provide us with empty room with minimum furniture and to put the models and other things so that the students could have could move freely with their group members and the field assistants in the room for working on the problem.
The next challenge was inquiry overtaken by technology. So, during few initial session, the students used to be engrossed in technology and shift their attention from inquiry into problem. And for that solution was the field assistants were allowed to the group, who put time to time to keep the track of the inquiry process. The next challenge was the lack of inquiry skills. So despite widespread agreement on the importance of inquiry-based learning, it was very, very difficult to adopt this pedagogical approach in the classroom. So initially, we found that students were getting disruptive, paying less or no attention or simply not participating. So for this, we adopted an easy step by step guided inquiry strategy, in which students were guided from one stage to another with the help of structured observations, interpretations and conclusions.
The next challenge was the quality of learning experiences. Hear the main challenge before us was how the totally blind students would get comparable learning resources to partially sighted students. Out of level learners, six did not have any functional vision, and it required that observation has to be made, and conclusions are to be drawn on the basis of analysis of the observation. So in this situation, the sighted assistance, little flexibility and assistive technology help us to meet this challenge.
The next challenge for us was assessment. And the challenge here was how to assess the inquiry learning among VI learners. And how would the marking criteria be applied in the same way. So for this we decided to mark the students based on the three criteria. First was inquiry skills, conceptual understanding, and group presentations. So in the end, to sum up, I will say, there are several pedagogical issues and challenges in using the technology-based inquiry approach for introducing the astronomical concept to the VI learners. But with a little flexibility in designing, teaching, learning strategy, optimum use of assistive technology, and to some extent, sighted help, we can teach astronomical concepts successfully to VI learners. The assistive technology used in this study, namely, multiple representations of the content in audio Braille and Daisy formats, tactile models and diagrams, talking models, or audio described movie contributed to the conceptual understanding of astronomical concepts of the VI learners, and sighted her persistent vi learners to explore the phenomenon and remove the visual obstacles in the way of inquiry and explanation. So this was, to sum up. And thank you so much for giving us the time to present our work,
Dr Kalpana: Just a few seconds Namita. I only want to stress it is not always only the accessibility is not only you know, the assistive technology, but we really have to venture into innovations in pedagogy, because hardly these visually impaired or disabled children, kids with disabilities are exposed to pedagogical innovations and pedagogical innovations revealed really make them engaging learners, you know, reflective learners are thinking learners along into accessibility, I think even the pedagogical innovation should be the key of all the designs. Thank you.
Namita: Absolutely. Thank you so much for that comment. I love the focus of your study. And I love your approach to thinking about what you are finding, because you’re absolutely right. It’s not enough that we design, you know, access solutions. We need to consider also young children and how they think and think about thinking and how they think about independence and all these larger questions so that they want to be independent, who want to explore on their own, who want to make their own decisions, and so on. So thank you very much for this really valuable contribution and for encouraging us to think differently, and more innovatively about pedagogy.
I thank all the speakers and want to apologize because I feel like I rushed each and every one of you. And there was just too much so much to say. As I said, each one of you I think could have been a standalone session and opportunity for data discussion. I’m going to quickly take a question. It’s a question for Professor Rao from Raheel. The question is there is a rise in Upper Limb processes based startups in India. Could you specify specific pitfalls these startups would face since for most of them the only factor they consider is the affordability of the process.?
So while we wait for him, I think Professor had requests that he wants to share their events. Would you like to share with the group?
Rama Gherawoo: Absolutely. Thank you. I will post in the chat. An event next Monday. It is 4 pm. UK time. It is called designed dot different. So this is really looking at inclusive design a future of inclusive design, unpacking the axes of age, ability, gender and race, what it means the future of inclusivity in terms of sustainability, and also leadership, and not the point at that point there, for those who attended the free event, we’ll be giving a 20% discount code for a forthcoming book that I have on creative leadership. But speaking to everyone and hearing what’s going on in India with Inclusive Design, it’s truly energizing. And we’d love to learn from you and be part of the conversation. I’ve already asked Gaurav if I can quote him at that event. So talking about economics, so I think it’s really powerful and potent to hear the Indian voice on the global
Namita: Thank you so much. I am not sure that we are able to get an answer right now from Professor Rao. But we will pass on the question to him and perhaps share the events today. I’d like to close the session by thanking our speakers, who really gave us a lot to think about, and I’m sure everyone has their minds full and spinning. We have gone way over the time that was allocated to us. Apologies for that Amit. And I know we are going to zoom right into the next session. So I’m going to hand over it to you.
Prof Namita: Thank you. Thank you very much for anchoring a wonderful session. Thank you, everyone. Thank you to all the speakers Rama, Gaurav, Kavitha, Dr Rao, Dr Kalpana and Dr Hema. Wonderful work all of you have been doing very inspiring. Thank yo very much.