Dr McIntyre on Attendance at ASSETS'14 : The premier research conference on computing and accessibility.​

Dr Lesley McIntyre has provided us with an account of going to ACM ASSETS 2014. She was one of many members of BESiDE staff at ASSETS 2014.
Read more about the team's presence at the event here.

My full technical paper was accepted. I packed my case and off I went to the 16th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, in Rochester, New York. ACM ASSETS'14, the premier research conference on computing and accessibility.

This was my first time at this conference and what a supportive, innovative and exciting community it is. Through exploring the design, evaluation, and use of computing and information technologies, everyone at this conference has one collective mission - to benefit and socially include people with disabilities and older adults.

My presentation was entitled, ‘Buildings and Users with Visual impairment: Uncovering Factors for Accessibility using BIT-Kit’. BIT-Kit is the Building Interactions Toolkit which is used to gather evidence of what enables and disables building user’s interactions with their surroundings.

I reported on an investigation of the way-finding experiences of 10 participants with varying levels of visual ability, as they undertook a way-finding task in an unfamiliar public building. 

Through applying BIT-Kit  in this user study, 54 enabling and disabling interactions within the case study building were uncovered. While this building adhered to building legislation, our findings identified a number of accessibility problems including, issues associated with using doors, hazards caused by building finishes, and difficulty in knowing what to do in the case of an emergency evacuation. This user study has demonstrated a disparity between design guidance and the accessibility needs of building users. It has uncovered evidence to enable architects to begin to design for the real needs of users who have a range of visual impairment. 

_‘You’ll know nothing about us, without us’._

This quote from one of my participants really sums up the importance of involving users in the design process of creating buildings, interactions, interactions and objects for people, regardless of discipline. 

Furthermore (in the presentation), I discussed how, in BESiDE, we are advancing BIT-Kit methods by developing dialogue tools, indoor location sensors and sensors measuring physical activity to better understand design of care homes for older people. 

 I had 2 take home messages in my ASSETS presentation:

1 - the importance for architects to work with users and the potential for digital tech to aid in gathering user-evidence towards making buildings more accessible

2 - opening the area of Architecture as a research area for the ASSETS community with the question: If a building, or element of a building is in accessible to a user – how can digital technology interventions enable when a building disables?

I was delighted to have my work so well received by such a forward thinking community. The discussions, prompted by my presentation, will continue well into the future  with the aim to develop cross-discipline and cross-institutional collaboration. I am looking forward to ASSETS 2015 in Lisbon where I hope to present our exciting and novel findings from the BESiDE project.

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