Why the opinion of disabled people matters to researchers

Maya Middlemiss of Saros Research explains why it is so important that researchers include the views of disabled people:

Saros Research is the UK’s main portal that qualitative researchers and user experience designers turn to, when they want to find people to give feedback on what they are doing.  They specialize in matching researchers with the right participants at the right time, and recruit hundreds of people every month to take part in interesting and well-paid projects. 

These might be focus groups, individual interviews, diary exercises, online communities or products to test at home  – about any product or service under the sun.  Whilst no one person can take part more than occasionally, it’s a genuine chance to influence the brands you love (or hate) and help make things better.  And right now, Saros is keen to attract more disabled people to register with them to take part in events, for a wide range of reasons. 

Of course there are projects where the input of disabled people are specifically required, such as testing how a new website works with a screen reader, or how accessible a transport service is.  And other projects may be publicly funded and require proportional views from all different kinds of users, from disabilities to ethnic background.

But what Saros would like to see is better representation of disabled participants in everyday consumer research, and their Managing Director Maya Middlemiss addressed an international research conference on this matter in 2014 – directly challenging  practitioners to make their methods more inclusive and to consider participant needs more widely.

“A lot of consumer work we recruit for demands imagination and creativity”, she explained.  “If someone is developing a new product for example, they need people who can think beyond what’s already in existence and in front of their noses. 

 “We know that disabled people, living in a world not designed to meet their needs, are incredibly resourceful and creative.  Fantastic at re-purposing things around them, finding practical and effective ways of getting things done in ways people whose lives are more unchallenged may never think of. If researchers don’t find better ways to learn from these participants, they are missing a trick, and doing a disservice to their clients”.

And of course, designing products which work for disabled people means better and more considered design overall. It’s something Saros themselves have taken on board, finding more visual ways to present screening information and instructions for example, making more use of video and images instead of wordy text which may be inaccessible for some people.

“We would like to see more positive action in research design”, Maya told the research conference. “Part of it is simply failure to consider the impact of disabilities.  For example, we recently recruited a project involving 8 focus groups of women aged 40-60, to look at packaging designs for an anti-aging skincare product. Now had one of those groups been comprised of people with arthritis or chronic illness, they could have got a different perspective on their product – because it doesn’t matter about the latest and greatest miracle youth preserving ingredients in the secret formula, if the customer cannot get the lid off”.

The events Saros recruits for are all over the UK or online, they’re interesting, safe and fun to take part in, and you get paid for your input.

You can find out more, and register with Saros, right here

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