Podcast 25: What does inclusive by design really mean?

Welcome to a question of gamification. My name is An Coppens. I’m your show host and the chief game changer and CEO at Gamification Nation. And this is the second installment in our series inclusive by design. When it comes to inclusion, the big question is, how do I know I am being inclusive? How do I know I’m not excluding certain people by being inclusive to other people, et cetera. And you know, what is inclusion in the first place? And I guess it starts with diversity as a spectrum in my view. So the first thing to notice is, for me, inclusion is about culture, is about abilities, it’s about gender, it’s about age. It may be other choices that are more lifestyle related, but for most businesses, it comes to creating an environment where everybody has the opportunity to succeed, to their level of ability, their level of wish, desire.

So I guess it’s, in some sense, slightly philosophical in other ways. There’s also very practical things to think about. But first of all, let’s talk about four areas, of what I would see key, in workplace kind of workplace focus, diversity or work, workplace focused inclusion. And they are a culture, first of all. So culture can be the company culture, but it can also be the country culture. It can be the melting pot of nationalities, cultures that are working for you. And if you’re a global organisation, it may be the interrelationship between all of those suppliers, providers, the head office, the local office. And if you are, let’s say a national organisation, it can be head office and local office. It can be regional differences. And I think, you know, we all have some sort of culture that we reflect and you know, whether that’s a good or a bad one that remains to be seen.

But from an inclusion perspective, I would say look at it as a spectrum. Some of us have a global vision and want to make the world or workplace others have a very clear national vision. No, I’m only focused on, you know, this region. Therefore, the people that interact with my clients would need to either support this region as a near native or be a near native. So, you know, so those are the kinds of typical questions that you would ask there. And then a local business may mean you need local knowledge. I mean, just think about it. If we look at a, let’s say you’re a local taxi driver, you want them to know the local area to get you to your destination as fast as possible. Of course they can be using great apps, I give them the best routes, et cetera. But once the GPS doesn’t work or it gets it wrong, you don’t want them to be stuck and you know, clocking up a massive big bill.

You also want to be able to communicate with them. So in a national context, you could have a scenario where people need to know and we know have been guilty of that in some countries. I visit and speak a lot in many areas. And, you know, at one point I was trying to go by train from one place to another and the person at the rail car desk said, no, you can’t do that miss, because geographically that’s not possible. And I sort of went, oh, oops, I didn’t realize that which he grabbed the, the map where she said, oh here miss, there’s a, here’s the map of the rail network and you can check for yourself. And you know, I thought it was a very nice, respectful way of dealing with my lack of, uh, the national rail network knowledge. And that’s okay. You know, I, I was definitely in the wrong place.

And then if you have a global mindset, it might mean that you don’t limit yourself to just national or local markets. It may mean that you have a staff that’s also diverse and spread out all over the place. And that comes with its own, I suppose its own difficulties from time zones to language use to certain habits that are really acceptable in one culture, but maybe not so much in another. We’ve worked on a few projects around cultural acceptance and cultural inclusion, including a kind of a fun way of getting people, even within Europe to cooperate, together better and to, to create an awareness and understanding of what are the habits that are so different. What are the customs that you find so annoying in the other person or so great in the other person or the other nationality or culture. So there are things that we can learn from one another, but it is a spectrum.

So the spectrum from a cultural perspective goes from local to global and anywhere in between. And that’s your workforce, that’s where you’re based, that’s where your clients are, that’s where your suppliers are. So it’s an up and down any given moment of the day. You could be interacting with people from a very diverse range of cultures. And then the question is how respectful are you treating them? How much dignity do you give them? How many chances do you give them to be successful at what they need to be delivering? And you know, it’s a two way street. It’s not a one way traffic scenario. I mean we have a few collaborators in the Philippines and I, you know, I always tell them, look, if you don’t understand, just ask, just look for clarification. We had the same, we use the platform provider, uh, in India and they always said yes and then delivered something totally different.

And I, at one point I asked something little bit later and I said, you know, I want to do this. And he said No. And I said, wow, fantastic. Because it was the very first time that they had actually said, no, we don’t do that very well. We’re not even going to try. And to me that was really distinctive of a learning curve. Instead of saying, yes, we can do everything. They had narrowed down their scope, they have narrowed down their focus and actually could deliver a great service but in a very narrow niche. And that’s okay. I think that’s pretty amazing when you can do that. So culturally be aware of the differences and notice that there is a spectrum. When it comes to ability I would say it’s again a spectrum. It goes from full ability. So your, you know, fully able to do everything which you know, the skills that you’ve been born with, uh, with your physical abilities, with your mental abilities.

And you know, even there abilities will vary even if you have full access to all five senses. And I say that because not everyone’s, let’s say a science wiz is not everyone’s a language wiz, not everyone’s a mathematician, a statistician. We all have different abilities and different speeds, which we comprehend and learn new skills. So our abilities will vary from the start. And some of us continue to vary and work on our progress, learn a lot. Others will be very stuck in their own little ways and you know, say, well no, this is my Max and I’m not going over it. And you know, there is a definite diversity across the spectrum of abilities. Then you have people of mixed abilities so they can be great at one, one aspects of mentally fantastic but maybe physically not fully able to move. And then you may have people with limited abilities.

And for example, vision, if you’re blind, for example, touch, if you have, disabilities that affect your hands, your arms, your legs, your feet, you know. So again, there is limitations. That doesn’t mean that they’re disabled and don’t function. In fact, I know a lot of disabled people or our class with, you know, officially being disabled who are, for example in a wheelchair or you know, have various physical things that don’t function optimally. Uh, but yet their brain is just as bright as the next person. We see in the tech world a lot of people hiring specific people with autism and aspergers and various other very specific abilities to work as engineers and coders. So I think from a workplace perspective we could all do more. We can all accept that, you know what, there are things that we do, but from a design perspective there is many things we can do to be more inclusive.

So I mean, ability as a spectrum, I range it from full to mixed to limited. And that’s from skills to physical, mental and ability to learn. So ability to me is kind of core for every workplace, whether we like it or not. And I think we don’t need to make disabled people, the scapegoats. I mean they can actually do an awful lot of great stuff for us as well. And you know, my vision on that came about through having a blind person and a person in a wheelchair in a workshop way back when, even before I was in gamification and the lady in the wheelchair said to me, well actually I have different abilities. I’m not disabled. I am abled in other things. And I thought it was such a nice way of putting it. And I actually try where possible not to use the word disabled because it does a dis justice or injustice.

And I think, you know, disability come in so many shapes and forms. And I think, you know, if as a wish, I wish that we would be more respectful and more accepting. Now, there are many people that can contribute to our society in many ways and that it’s up to us as employers, as entrepreneurs, to sort of look for ways of how can we be inclusive, how can we give their ability a chance and there may well be a role for them within your organisation. So you know, when it comes to a design, I did a presentation recently where I demonstrated, I asked for someone to pick up a note in the local currency and I asked her first look, pick it up, just pick it up. And she picked it up with her hand and no problem. Of course it was a very flimsy little note.

And then I said, now put your hand in your shirt and try and pick it up with that particular hand. And she managed, but it was harder. So that’s already showed. Uh, you know, when we limit our abilities, then you know, there’s different things we need to do. And now, then I said, well now imagine you have no hands. And she thankfully did what I had hoped. She went and picked up the note with her, with her teeth, you know, there was a big sigh of disgust that rippled through the audience. And I thought it was fascinating because in effect she was working with the means that she had. Now I know money is not always the cleanest, but there are people that actually have to do that because trying to pick it up with their hands or no hands is nigh on impossible. And yet we produce games and gamification designs that require money, like monopoly money, and we try to untangle monopoly money when it’s got a bit sticky, you know, and for, I’ve seen my niece in action who has muscular dystrophy, so she has some muscle groups that work well, some muscle groups that don’t work so well and sometimes handling the money is not the kind of thing that comes easy to her.

So, you know, it’s through observing and it’s true noticing like, hmm, have we actually created something that excludes people. So putting those able bodied people at a checkout where you have to handle money, we’d be tortured and obviously you wouldn’t do that. So, you know, we turn in our other designs, we try and be more inclusive in that. So it’s about noticing the spectrum. Uh, the same with gender. And you know, I gave a talk a while back around the differences in gender from a design perspective. And I started my talk by saying I see gender as a spectrum. Some women can behave in very masculine ways, some men can behave in very feminine ways and in any given situation, some of us move in and out of our comfort zone on that spectrum. I know some men that are way more feminine than I’ll ever be.

I know some women that are way more masculine than any men I know. So, you know, it’s a choice on how we show up. But it’s also how we’ve been brought up. It’s very, very much a something we have as a learned behavior because, there have been studies to say that gender, in fact, we are born gender neutral, yet by age four through socialisation, we learn what’s feminine and what’s masculine and what boys do and what girls do. And that’s very much copying what we see all around us, what people tell us, what movies tell us, what media tells us. So it’s great to see that there are epic stories coming out, from the Disneys of this world and other, child friendly providers who are harrowing both sides and you know, making things more spectrum relatable rather than the girl that needs to be rescued or the princess that’s in the ivory tower and you know, has the need of a hero, which again, it’s a story frame.

It’s, it’s something that could work. But if that’s what you work, that’s also how you’re putting women at a disadvantage or the feminine soul’s at a disadvantage. And that can be, you know, your more feminine men than as well. So in gender, I sort of describe the spectrum going from feminine to masculine and passing through neutral. And you know, gender neutral is now a thing. And you know, some sports people have major ideals with that, that there may be a need for a neutral league where under our talks of that people that are gender neutral that actually carry genes from both the male and female spectrum may need to compete separately. So rather than just make a choice and that’s it to keep, I suppose competition equal. So there is many implications with that. So, the spectrum is for gender for me is feminine, neutral, masculine, and in age the spectrum is old, young, and age agnostic.

So you know, going from old to age agnostic to young sort of made up of the, the neutral form. Now there are eight year olds, um, can relate to 15 year old like no. Tomorrow. There are 15 year olds that sound like an eighty year old and you know, and anything in between. So age, again, it’s relative, but from a design perspective, again, it’s something we need to be mindful of aware of. With age comes a range of abilities that may change, from metabolic processes to the way we assimilate, the way we learn things may be different and we may have a different world view, but we also from a game design perspective have different expectations and again, that changes over time. So, my view is that diversity and inclusion should be looked at from the perspective of it being a spectrum and that at any given point in time you move across that spectrum for all things you do in work.

Whether you’re good on a good day, you could be on the top of the spectrum for everything. On a bad day you may be middling or even on the lower end and it will change over time. It will change by situations. So I would see we’re not dead set in one side or the other. I think we actually can move on, and should aim to move and flex across the spectrum and try and flex the majority of our spectrums to be as large as possible from a design perspective so that we can be inclusive. So, in my framework I say, there’s four steps to inclusion, culture, ability, gender and age. And then the aim is to aim for 100% inclusion. Now aim for not design 100% inclusion cause aim for may just be the best you can do in some situations. And in that case there may need to be adaptations.

So it’s good to look at a definition. And I went to look for the definition from another source in mind. It’s the British Standards Institute in 2005 came up with a definition of inclusive design and they name it the design of mainstream products and services that are accessible to and usable by as many people as reasonably possible without the need for special adaptation or specialized design. So there’s a couple of keywords in that accessible to and usable by as many people as reasonably possible. So there’s reasonably possible in there, there is accessible and usable. I mean these are the products we use every day from a phone to let’s say computer to a bus to a train, to anything around the house in the home. And you know, if once you’ve lived and experienced or worked with people with different levels of abilities, different cultures, you’ll notice that, you know, sometimes in some places toilets are different, some needed b-day, some don’t need a b-day, some have a hole in the ground, some have a seater, you know, some people with different abilities, may need an extra piece of equipment to make sure, that they can comfortably make it on and off the seats.

So there is many things to look up. But I liked that definition because it kind of sets the tone. Now, in they have handbooks and everything. So I urge you if you really want to go down the line of product designing, et Cetera, it’s is looking at inclusive, the inclusive design handbook, I believe it is by the British Standard Institute. Now they also said, okay, how prevalent is the part of society that we may actually end up excluding? And they looked at a very logical workplace tool, which was everything to do with Microsoft. And they said they questioned people with a Microsoft project in or products in the workplace. And that’s a study from 2003 so it’s a little bit dated but still it’s indicative, I think, and Microsoft product have improved since as well, I would say in terms of user friendliness.

But 21% of people reported no difficulties in using the tools, 16% minimal difficulties, 37% mild difficulties and 25% severe difficulties. So if we apply that British Institute definition to this, then we should really be aiming the maximal use of these products to be for let’s say the bottom 75% the ones with no difficulties, minimal difficulty, small difficulties. And we aim to take a bit of the severe difficulties back by doing user tests, by improving and iterating the product design to be more inclusive so that we can extend our inclusive design to a larger and larger proportion of society. And yet not modifying, let’s say it for their use and you know, and some things may just need to come modified. So charities like special effects in the UK, they modify game console equipments and allow children with major disabilities and often a diseases too, to play and to be part of an online game world because sometimes the console needs to be controlled with their eyes, sometimes with their mouth or with their feet.

So the standard consoles and you know, gearboxes and you know, pointers, clickers, et Cetera, may not function for them so they need other ways of doing it. And what’s Special Effect did is that they then adapt and aim for that specialist target audience. So inclusive by design and you know, if you look at it from a gamification perspective, then has to, you know, sort of demands a couple of very deep understandings. In my view, it’s a solid understanding of the intention the user has. What, why are they using your tools? Why are they using what you’re created and their player’s style, their personal motivations, as in how do they play, what’s their style? Are they, uh, jump in, explore and do it all? Or do they want instruction and then play? So you find out how they’re personally driven to succeed.

Then you obviously need to understand their, their ability, their also their access. I mean from a gamification design perspective, we often ask the question, how do you access whatever service or product that we’re working on. We worked with one charity for example, where users, we were asked to create something 3D and yet most people were accessing their information via mobile devices. And at that point 3D was not, nearly impossible on mobile devices. And to a large extent it still is. And we therefore said, look, you know 3D was nice. I think 2D would be much better and much more accessible. So you, we did a design in 2D as a result of user research. What knowledge do they have? And again that came out clearly in a design we did recently for an organisation want to recruit students and you know, encourage students to apply for roles that they may not have considered.

But it was sort of teasing them to see where they have the right kind of mindsets and the right kind of resourcefulness to test could potentially be a great engineer, was knowing that they had no engineering knowledge yet. So that was an interesting one. So we assume no knowledge, yet we do want interest and testing of how resourceful are they, are they good at problem solving? Do they take well to puzzling, you know, so there were a few things, but that was the kind of, I suppose, design constraint and design challenge that we were working, which was good and interesting. You also want to know their attitude towards risk and their willingness to explore and tinker. Now, the attitude towards risk in some cultures, risk is just not a good thing. You should know what you’re doing and only take this step, when you’re sure.

And I see a lot in terms of leadership that the higher up the ranks you go, in terms of experience, in terms of age, but also in terms of numbers of people that you need to lead, the attitude towards risk becomes different and often smaller because they don’t want to lose face in front of their people. So you need to make it safe for those people to explore what you may need a different setup than for example, a young person straight out of college who is still testing and you know, in a lot of cases still exploring how good are they or what are they good at even. And you know, from a gender perspective, there’s actually studies that would say the attitude towards risk is different in cultures. The work from Hofstader which give you quite a few perspectives around risk and exploration, but also how people may be held back in certain circumstances, et cetera.

From the gender perspective, I would recommend looking up the Gender Mag research for those of you who like finding out more research who have really amazingly contributed. You could also look up the interview I did way back with Margaret Burnett who was key and instrumental in this research. So from my perspective, I think, you know, user research should be a core part of all of your designs. If you are designing for diversity or inclusion and you want of course, testers from the different backgrounds that you’re aiming for. You want feedback from the different segments of the society that you’re aiming for. And you want to also see them play because a lot of the time what people answer in surveys or in interviews was they’re qualitatively and quantitatively important for you to get trends and to get, uh, to get something juicy to work with.

Observing also gives you very clear indicators as to what’s working, what are they taking to, where are they getting stuck? So I would say combine qualitative, quantitative with observation and then data, data analysis and, you have a very solid base to, to design from. So I would say it’s, it’s a combination of all too. So I hope that that enhances your spectrum. I hope that sort of broadens out, what your perspective is when it comes to inclusion. So thank you for listening to a question of gamification and do like us. Do give us a good rating and do send us your questions, especially around inclusion and designing for inclusion cause we’d love to talk about it. So thank you very much for tuning in.

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