Background

An important aspect to service and product design is looking for and recognizing imbalances or injustices in our society and ideating on solutions that address those issues. 

The mobile app I am designing that I’m showcasing here stems from my own discovery of such an imbalance on my college campus: the challenges that many students with physical disabilities face when trying to navigate and access buildings and services that are widely accessible to able-bodied students.

My Role

Creator and UI/UX designer

App Concept

The Problem 

According to the National Center for College Students with Disabilities, students with disabilities that impact their mobility make up approximately 7 percent of the undergraduate student population of most colleges and universities. These student face numerous challenges when trying to safely navigate and access buildings and services on campus that are widely accessible to able-bodied students.

Value proposition   

The goal of my mobile app is to ease the burden faced by University of Mary Washington students with physical disabilities by helping them more easily and efficiently plan for and safely navigate their on-campus and near off-campus journeys. 

Eventually, I hope other campuses can adopt this same technology to help their own students with physical disabilities more easily and efficiently navigate their own college campuses.

design process (so far)

initial research 

My own research of online resources provided by the university revealed little information to assist students with physical disabilities, other than to contact the Office of Disability Resources. 

The only resource I did find was a PDF version of an on-campus map. This map offers: 

  • Locations of handicapped parking lots
  • Wheelchair-accessible entrances  
  • Accessible or inaccessible pathways

This map has these shortcomings:

    • The map is so small and the wheelchair icons so small, it’s difficult to decipher where exactly the wheelchair-accessible entrances are located
    • The map doesn’t offer any details about the accessibility within the campus buildings, such as elevators and wheelchair accessible bathrooms and water fountains
    • The map also doesn’t show distances between parking lots, buildings, and other landmarks
    • There’s no way to interact with the map
    • The map fails to indicate obstacles or challenges that those with disabilities should be aware of

user personas

needs & goals 

  • Location of handicapped parking lots and spaces around campus
  • Distances between lots and buildings
  • Obstacles she might encounter on her journey around campus
  • Alternate routes
  • Wheelchair accessible entrances 
  • Ramps and curb cut-outs
  • Building details: wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, water fountains, elevators
  • Good times to go to dining hall
  • Common pitfalls that other wheelchair students have experiences–shared learnings

behaviors

  • Arrives to campus by car but uses her wheelchair thereafter
  • Doesn’t return to her car until the end of the day
  • Carries her belongings with her throughout the day

“As anyone with a disability knows, there are lots of details you have to figure out when you go anywhere–you have to really think through every step of your journey–things that those without disabilities never even have to consider.”

Needs & goals 

  • Distances between parking lots and buildings 
  • Obstacles he might encounter on his journey around campus
  • Alternate routes
  • Wheelchair accessible entrances 
  • Ramps and curb cut-outs
  • Building details: wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, water fountains, elevators
  • Good times to go to the gym when it’s less crowded
  • Tips offered by other wheelchair students 

behaviors 

  • Lives on campus
  • Uses his wheelchair to get around
  • Returns to his dorm periodically throughout the day
  • Enjoys going to the gym but hates the crowds

“As anyone with a disability knows, there are lots of details you have to figure out when you go anywhere–you have to really think through every step of your journey–things that those without disabilities never even have to consider.”

needs & goals 

  • Distances between lots and buildings
  • Awareness of steep inclines 
  • Alternate routes
  • Ramps and curb cut-outs
  • Building details: elevators
  • Good times to go to dining hall—afraid of getting bumped and re-injured
  • Would like to offer others tips based on his lessons learned

behaviors

  • Lives on campus
  • Uses crutches and knee scooter to get around
  • Returns to his dorm room periodically throughout the day
  • Carries necessary belongings with her in a backpack
  • Is usually found on the soccer field, so he’d still like to spectate and would like help figuring out the best ways to get to the fields 
  • Has new-found empathy for those with disabilities; wants to do something to help

“I’ve discovered the importance of accessibility—things like ramps and elevators and that there are no guarantee of accessibility anywhere you go. ‘Yes, we have an elevator, but it’s currently out of service. Yes, there are stairs, but just a few. That’s ok, right?’ Something as simple as going to lunch should be no big deal, but for people with disabilities it takes extra thought and planning.”

Needs & goals 

  • Obstacles she might encounter on her journey around campus
  • Audible directions that help her navigate and that warn her about obstacles
  • Distances between buildings 
  • Ramps and wheelchair accessible entrances 
  • Building details: wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, water fountains, elevators  
  • Good times to go to dining hall when it’s less crowded
  • Common pitfalls that other disabled students have experienced

behaviors

  • Lives on campus
  • Uses walking stick and wheelchair
  • Returns to her dorm room periodically throughout the day
  • Has campus police sometimes take her to classes in a golf cart
  • Has had several bad accidents where she’s fallen down stairs she wasn’t aware of

“Most people think everything is accessible these days, but just because you can get in the front door doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get around easily once inside. Try finding your way through a crowded dining hall in a wheelchair!”

ideation (possible solutions)

Design a mobile app with the following features:

  • Enter current location and destination and get the distance between the two
  • Be able to select or audibly enter how I’m traveling between locations (on crutches/braces, scooter, wheelchair, car) and learn how many minutes that trip would take me
  • Interactive map that lets me zoom in on the route before I take it or while I’m in route
  • Learn what sort of obstacles I might face on my journey between destinations: walls, inclines, rough terrain, congestion, traffic, street crossing, and so on
  • Option for audible directions that help me navigate my journey and warn me of obstacles along the way
  • Learn where the ramps, curb cut-outs, and accessible entrances are at my destination
  • Learn about all of the accessible resources within my destination: automatic door openers, fully-accessible bathrooms, accessible water fountains, elevators, emergency evacuation chairs, and so on
  • Tap to request buddy assistance
  • Tap to connect with campus police in an emergency
  • Get tips about the destination or the journey to that destination
  • Ability to enter feedback or tips about different locations, trips, and so on
  • Noted locations of disability-friendly transport options for when I need to go off campus
  • Ability to connect with other accessibility apps
  •  

wireframes

User testing: Phase 1

My plan is to conduct user testing of my wireframes before moving any further in order to both gauge interest in this service and gather feedback on its functionality.  I’ll work with the Office of Disability Resources to gather a set of users who might benefit from my app to give me feedback. 

Prototype 

Coming soon

user testing: Phase 2

My plan is to conduct user testing of my wireframes before moving any further, assuming my wireframes resinated with users I will incorporate as many phases of user testing as possible to insure the best outcome. 

future state

My plan is to take my polished prototype to the University of Mary Washington Office of Disability Resources and ask if they are willing to fund the development and marketing of the app. 

If for whatever reason they are unwilling to fund it, I would reach out to some developers I have met in my classes to see if they would be willing to help me. This cause and this app is something I am extremely passionate about so I am intent on finding a way to make this app happen.