My name is Paul Ruvolo and I'm a professor of computer science at a small engineering college in the US. Over the last several years, I've been working alongside students and folks from the blind and VI communities to develop iOS apps for indoor mobility. This work has resulted in two publicly available apps (Clew an app for indoor route recording and Clew Maps an app for route sharing) and several more apps that are still in development.
I'm writing with an opportunity that I hope you'll consider joining for. This opportunity is for folks who are blind or visually impaired or who work as mobility trainers or TVIs. If you're interested in learning about and shaping the future of research and development of assistive technologies, trying out and testing new technologies like mobile apps and wearables, or exploring careers in digital accessibility, design and software development then this program might be for you. This program is much more than just user-testing in a lab. The Clew Co-Designer program provides a nine-week learning experience for you to explore career areas in digital technologies. The program happens entirely online (unless you are in the Boston area, in which case you have the option to come on site). All are welcome. While the program is about co-designing apps, it is not the intent that you will be programming apps directly. The more diverse perspectives the better, so please don't hold back on participating if you feel like you are still learning about these new technologies.
We ran the program last summer with 25 co-designers and the feedback was quite positive.
The basic phases of the program are:
- Co-designers learn about current projects happening in the lab, tools and processes for co-design, and get oriented to the general structure of the program.
- Co-designers meet (virtually) with members of the Clew research team (me, undergraduate student researchers, and interns) to provide their experiences and ideas for mobility technology.
- There are several optional workshops that are designed to be interesting to co-designers (e.g., last year we had one on accessibility testing job opportunities in large corporations).
- Co-design activities are conducted virtually using Apple's beta software channel, TestFlight, to get prototypes into users' hands.
- Co-designers give feedback in focus groups to further shape the development of these apps. (Improved versions of these apps are then sent out to TestFlight).
- We close with a demo day presentation to the larger community.
- Co-designers are compensated for their participation in the program.
If you are interested in learning more, here are some links to check out:
- At the end of the summer we held a demo day. Use the following links to find an abridged version of the demo day (roughly 25 minutes long) and the full recording (roughly 1.5 hours long).
- The full co-design program information page
- An article that folks my College wrote up about last year's program
- The registration form for the program if you're interested in participating.
Thanks so much, and please let me know if you have any questions about any of this.
Hi Paul. Nice post! I hope you get an enthusiastic response. Involving end users in the development process is, in my humble opinion, very wise. Smile.
Thank you for pursuing ever greater independence for the blind.
Thanks Bruce. We have been…
Thanks Bruce. We have been working with the approach of including folks from the blind and VI communities for many years now (e.g., we've worked with many co-designers over the years and many of the developers of the apps are themselves blind or VI). Indoor mobility is definitely an area where the tools to enable greater access are still maturing, and the hope is to make some concrete progress with some awesome collaborators this summer! The technology is still in the early days, but I think that gives a better opportunity to make change.
I'd love to help, only I think my technical skills aren't advanced enough. Trying to test out your last version was a disaster because I don't know what I'm doing. It would have been really cool.
Thanks Jo. I think your…
Thanks Jo. I think your point is a really interesting one. What I take from that experience is that we need to learn how to make the app easier for everyone to use (not that you don't have the right skillset). We are not trying to develop tech that is only useful to the most uber tech-savvy crowd! I'd love it if you joined, but totally understand if you don't think it makes sense for you.
One more thing that I wanted to say in response to some questions I got over email is that the program is designed to work around your schedule. All workshops are recorded and can be watched at your leisure. All testing / co-design is done asynchronously (meaning you can do it whenever and we look at your feedback later). We do want to interview everyone, so that part has to be scheduled but we will work around your constraints.