In April, Ann Shor and I went on an interesting and informative tour at the Design & Usability Center at Bentley University. The Center gives their clients suggestions how to make things such as websites, cars, and medical equipment user friendly. Peter McNally, Senior Usability Consultant, gave Ann and me several examples how the Center gets information to incorporate better usability.
Several years ago, for example, the Design & Usability Center did a study for a financial firm to determine ways how to make its website easier to use for business professionals. About ten people went to the Center’s lab and were asked to navigate the website. Cameras followed and recorded their eye movements while searching for information that they wanted. Based upon where and how long they looked on the website before finding the information, the financial firm gained insight to ways to increase its website’s usability.
Mr. McNally told us that recently the Center was involved on a project with the Federal Government to review accessibility of electronic voting machines. Before working at the Design & Usability Center, he did an assessment for MassHealth ensuring it met the State’s accessibility standards.
The Design & Usability Center is interested working on a collaborative assessment project with MassMATCH. Ann and I asking Advisory Council members and affiliate agencies if they know of any project currently or will be under development within the near future that involve people with disabilities in significant numbers. MassMATCH could work with whoever was in charge of the project to make sure they were aware of Usability Center and encourage them to use their services. It would probably have to be a project that one of us was involved in in some way or had a connection with, and the entity doing the project would need to pay BUC.
A good project would be determining how to make some aspects of public transportation, a state website, or healthcare more user-friendly to people with disabilities and senior citizens with disabling conditions.
Usually, it takes the Center a month to perform an assessment at a cost of $20,000. So, an assessment project must be large enough to be cost worthy, but small enough so it will not exceed more than a month.
Mr. McNally told Ann and me an assessment would be less expensive if a Center’s student does it for a class project. Personally, having a student would be a good idea because he or she will become aware of the needs of people with disabilities and seniors. Dr. William Gribbson, who teaches at the Design & Usability Center, said only a few of his students are aware of such needs. He tries to teach the rest of his students the same concept, but most of them do not get it.
Ann and I are looking forward to your suggestions. Besides making a service or product more accessible and user-friendly, the Design & Usability Center MassMatch might be able teach students about the needs of people with disabilities and senior citizens.