ARLIS/NA 2012: Designing for Diversity

This morning, I attended the ARLIS/NA 2012 Conference workshop on designing for diversity presented/facilitated by the OCAD Inclusive Design Research Centre. There was a lot of discussion on barriers and challenges with some discussions on solutions. Honestly, I’m not sure I learnt anything new, but there were some interesting discussions that happened.


Goal: digital inclusion

All their projects are open source, and include:

  • Engage: museum vistor experiences
  • CollectionSpace: collections management system, primarily by museum
  • Decapod: document digitization
  • Floe: inclusion in open education resources
  • Fluid: inclusive user experiences, umbrella project
  • Tecla via Komodo

User Experience Examples

We started with a discussion of general examples of good and bad user experience elements in our own personal experiences.


  • cord tangle
  • lack of browser interoperability
  • inconvenient touch keyboard layout
  • lack of flexibility in filling out forms e.g. 2 last names, accents
  • downtime
  • having to relearn interface of new version
  • can’t link direct to article
  • lack of search features
  • locked font sizes on email
  • meaningless error messages


  • responsive design
  • transparency
  • alternative interactions i.e. touch
  • augmented reality layer
  • switch languages
  • filter searching
  • free wifi
  • autologin
  • RSS
  • cloud sync e.g. dropbox
  • social bookmarking
  • bibliographic managers
  • citation linking
  • security
  • consistency


With respect to inclusion, what are some of the challenges or barriers at visual-based libraries/collections, image management, or other related products, services, organizations?

  • facilities concerns (i.e. older buildings)
  • alternative formats e.g. descriptions for image collections
  • cost/resources
  • expertise
  • attitude/awareness
  • vocabulary, translation
  • non-standardized vocabulary, but standardized doesn’t work as one size fits all
  • arranging physical collections to make sense
  • equipment/software inflexible

User Focus

Think about the user’s

  • goals
  • abilities and needs
  • expectations
  • pain points/frustrations
  • physical/environmental context
  • workflow context
  • current solution (if it exists)

User Modelling

While no linear or checklist, there are some important steps including working out scope (hunting and gathering of what are the possible problems), and behaviours (what happens when you interact, what want to achieve). Always a constant iterative work.


  • fictional, archetypal profiling of groups of users
  • humanizes abstract users

User states & contexts

  • enumeration of the various states and contexts users might be in
  • much more granular understanding of users
  • e.g. sensory, dexterity, cognitive, communication

One Solution Fits All

No one solution fits all, but if you’re restricted to one solution, then the key is to make a:

flexible, configurable environment.

Case Example

One of the situations we discussed is the physical reference desk. While the goal is for the desk to be a welcoming place where people know that’s where they can get help, the desk is frequently a place where there is a big standing only desk, which can be uncomfortable, tiring, and inaccessible.

Solution? Possibly, separate desks for different types of questions, with double monitors and possibly double keyboards for more in-depth or look up questions.

Do we need the desk? Particularly for directional questions, perhaps a desk isn’t even needed. For in-depth reference, the suggestion is to have two chairs on the same side of a table.

Media Access & Media Accessibility

Captioning is important to compensate to audio (poor, noisy background, not allowed), to quickly browse a video, catch details, show correct spelling, support for ESL, accessible, and it’s compliant. Description is important for similar reasons.

Captions and transcripts could greatly help with searching of media as well.

Few Media Players & Internet Plug-ins

  • Flash (DFXP, QTText)
  • Quicktime (QTText, SMIL, tx3g subtitles, CC tracks/Line 21 braodcast captions)
  • Windows Media Player
  • Silverlight
  • VLC
  • Flow Player – fallback to non-flash video
  • NCAM Player – find feature
  • JW Player – fallback to non-flash video
  • Magpie – Windows Captioning
  • Capcat (s?) -MAC Captioning

Information & Resources:

Future Tools

  • HTML5 video with track tag once built into browsers

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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