Universal Access in the Information Society

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 269–278 | Cite as

Pragmatic research issues confronting HCI practitioners when designing for universal access



Many HCI products exclude potential users unnecessarily. Such exclusion often arises because of a mismatch between designers’ perceptions of the wants and needs of the end-user and their actual wants and needs. Sometimes the mismatch originates from the designer being unaware of the need to design inclusively, or of methods for implementing inclusive design. Other times the mismatch comes from the commissioner of the design, for example the client of a design consultancy. If the design commissioner specifies a target socio-economic group, but does not explicitly recognise that the group consists of users of varying functional capabilities, then the designers will often be given a design brief that overlooks the need to address the wider range of users, beyond simply the able-bodied. In either case, for universal access to be achieved effectively, information is required to identify the need for inclusive design and thus to generate demand, and design guidance is needed to help designers make inclusive design a reality. Currently, that information is largely unavailable to designers in an appropriate off-the-shelf format. This paper investigates methods for researchers to provide the kind of information that HCI designers need to design for universal access. It focuses on the profiling, recruitment and selection of users, along with the interpretation of the data gathered. In many instances, the HCI designer may also be the person performing the research, where specialist researchers are not available.


Universal Access Functional Capability Social Acceptability Inclusive Design Inclusive Solution 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IBM TJ Watson Research CenterHawthorneUSA

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