IBM’s product teams needed a way to include people with disabilities in design and development processes in order to better understand real user needs and challenges. This would allow them to produce better, more inclusive designs with greater overall usability.

What I Did

After conceiving the idea and introducing the concept, I formed a small team of "co-creators" to shape Team Able as a sanctioned IBM resource. This required shifting from a focus on end-users with disabilities to the product teams who would actually use Team Able, and how that experience should look and feel. When facilitating inclusive design as part of a seamless, larger process, we needed to make engaging users with disabilities both easier and more repeatable. For this, we introduced the new “Team Able Icebreakers”, which included standardized online request forms and pre-defined methods for moderating, tracking and recording these real-time user testing sessions.

Problem

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people live with some form of disability. The United Nations reports that the number of people aged 60 and over is projected to grow 56% worldwide by 2030. The need to design products that are accessible to all people is well understood, but historically the main motivation for doing so has been legal risk, which misses key elements of authenticity, user experience and universal design.

Results

Team Able launched as a concept at IBM in July 2017, and was handed off as a fully-formed IBM resource two years later. During the interim, we conducted Design Co-Creation and established the Team Able Icebreaker Session, which allows IBM product teams to engage directly with people with disabilities for honest product feedback. Requests were initiated via online form, and we held a number of successful live sessions leading directly to design changes or enhancements. Each of the sessions was moderated, documented and recorded to be used for educational purposes. Though I eventually handed Team Able over to IBM, it is gratifying to know it continues to evolve and develop.

IBM Team Able