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Tue, 3 Aug 2010 10:05:41 -0400
Rachel Menzies <[log in to unmask]>
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Rachel Menzies <[log in to unmask]>
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BCS HCI 2010

Tutorial - Designing with and for People with Complex Physical and Learning Disabilities
Organiser: Dr Annalu Waller
Contact: [log in to unmask]
When: Tuesday, 7 September 2010 (full day)

Despite the potential of technology to transform the lives of people with complex disabilities, many assistive technology devices are not usable and are quickly abandoned. One reason for this abandonment is the lack of end user involvement in the development of these devices due to perceived difficulties when involving people with complex needs in the design process. The aim of the tutorial is to help researchers develop appropriate skills and confidence needed to include users with complex disabilities in the design of inclusive and assistive systems.

The tutorial will use a mix of case study and group exercises with adults who have complex disabilities.


The tutorial is of interest to:

Students and researchers who wish to develop skills for including people with disabilities in research projects
Developers who wish to include a broad user base in product design
At the end of the tutorial, you will:

- Have an understanding of complex disability and augmentative and alternative communication;
- Understand how HCI techniques can be adapted for use by people with different disabilities, especially those with complex needs;
- Be able to design a study protocol using a multiple baseline case study methodology;
- Understand how qualitative data can be analysed;
- Understand the ethical issues and processes required when working with vulnerable people.
- Although the tutorial will focus on people with complex needs, the skills learnt will apply to a wide range of needs and are not restricted to disabled people but provide alternative ideas for use with all users, children and adults alike.


1. Complex disability
Participants will be introduced to the field of assistive technology and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The session will use a combination of video and role play to present the physical and learning challenges faced by people with complex needs, especially those with life-long disabilities. In keeping with our philosophy of user inclusion, participants will have the opportunity to meet people with complex disabilities and will be able to use a variety of voice output communication aids.

2. Adaptation of HCI techniques
Examples of how traditional HCI techniques can be adapted for use by disabled people will be presented with the support of video footage. These techniques will include: role play, focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, observation and prototyping. The role of adults with complex needs as expert users and strategies for people who use AAC to participate in feedback sessions will be discussed. Participants will be divided into four groups to adapt different techniques for a given scenario. Volunteer disabled users will be assigned to each group which will be facilitated by a presenter.

3. Evaluation methodologies
A major consideration when evaluation technology with people with complex needs is the heterogeneity of the user groups. Traditional experimental research designs are therefore not always appropriate. A short presentation will compare a multiple baseline single case study methodology (qualitative) with quantitative experiments. Participants will be encouraged to problem solve the issue of experimental validity and reliability in a qualitative framework.

4. Data analysis
A short presentation will introduce techniques to analyse qualitative data using conversational analysis and other strategies. Participants will work then work in groups to analyse and compare two prepared transcribed conversations.

5. Ethical issues
The tutorial will end with a short discussion on ethical issues. A method for obtaining informed consent will be presented. Participants will also be given guidance on how to apply for ethical approval through University and NHS Ethics committees.

6. Plenary
A final presentation will be given by the presenters of the workshop. This will summarise the challenges and benefits presented when working with users with complex needs.


Dr Annalu Waller is a senior lecturer in Dundee University’s School of Computing. Having studied computer science, she qualified as a rehabilitation engineer and has worked in the field of Augmentative and Alternate Communication (AAC) since 1985. She established the first AAC assessment and training centre in South Africa in 1987. Her doctoral research highlighted the need to provide access to conversational narrative in AAC systems. Annalu has published widely in the areas of narrative and the design of effective AAC devices. Annalu delivers regular workshops on AAC to medical and therapeutic professionals in addition to teaching HCI on computing degrees. She currently supervises 5 research projects, all of which deal with the design of AAC with and for people with complex needs.

Rolf Black is a research fellow on the “How was School Today? In the Wild” project funded by EPSRC. He has led the design and evaluation phases of the "How was School Today…?" project, the PhonicStick project and the STANDUP project. Rolf is a rehabilitation engineer and has worked extensively with children with complex disabilities and their families.

Suzanne Prior is a PhD Research student and is the lead researcher on the Champion project funded by Capability Scotland. This project is looking at the development of HCI guidelines for designers who wish to work with adults with complex disabilities in user centred design.

Rachel Menzies is the PhD Research student on the ECHOeS project, a multi-centre TEL project developing a learning environment for children with Asperger Syndrome. Her doctoral research focuses on enabling both disabled and typically developing children to design software to support social sharing.


Please feel free to email Annalu for further information ([log in to unmask]).

To register for the workshop, please see the BCS HCI2010 registration site (

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