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StudioLR any disability symbol, copyright StudioLR 2019

New ‘Any Disability’ symbol launched at Commons debate

Building on the campaign by Grace Warnock, StudioLR (funded by Life Changes Trust) has designed a new ‘Any Disability’ symbol to encourage awareness of people with invisible disabilities.

Today (Wednesday 5th June), Martin Whitfield, MP for East Lothian, will lead a Commons debate on invisible disabilities and accessibility challenges.

The debate in the Commons’ Main Chamber will also see the formal launch a new Any Disability symbol to more accurately represent the full range of people with various disabilities who use accessible toilets and other facilities.

The development of the new sign was inspired by the success of the Grace’s Sign campaign, developed by Mr Whitfield’s constituent Grace Warnock, a pupil at Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans. Grace, who has Crohn’s Disease, designed her sign following her own experience of using accessible toilets, including receiving negative remarks from adults who did not appreciate or understand her disability.

Grace has received high level recognition for her inspirational campaign, including a Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister and a British Citizen Youth Award.

The new Any Disability symbol has been designed by StudioLR as an evolution of Grace’s Sign with the aim of becoming recognised by the British Standards Institution as the generally accepted sign for accessible facilities, including toilets, parking areas and assistance points.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Martin Whitfield MP said:

The impact of accessibility challenges faced by those living with ‘invisible’ disabilities has too often been overlooked or ignored.

“However, thanks to the dedicated work of numerous charities and inspirational individual campaigners like Grace Warnock, the issue is finally starting to receive the attention it deserves.

“This Commons debate will provide another opportunity for MPs to speak out on behalf of their constituents who live with hidden disabilities and describe the challenges and negative responses they can experience while going about their daily lives.

“I hope the debate will help to increase awareness around these complicated issues and lead to greater understanding about the daily challenges faced by so many people living with a wide range of conditions.”

Lucy Richards,  Creative Director at StudioLR, who designed the new sign, said:

“The wheelchair symbol is commonly used on accessible toilet signs and Blue Badge parking permits, however this symbol doesn’t represent the people with wide-ranging impairments who use these facilities and services. 

Having followed Grace Warnock’s campaign to raise awareness that some people who use accessible toilets have an invisible disability (for instance Crohn’s disease or dementia) the design team at StudioLR saw an opportunity to build on this. With a Life Changes Trust Award (funded by the National Lottery Community Fund) StudioLR has conceived, designed and tested a new, inclusive symbol that can be rolled out across toilets, parking signs and assistance points. Testing was facilitated by Innovations in Dementia.

We created the new Any Disability symbol because people with a hidden disability have the right to access facilities and services without having to explain their personal circumstances. It’s about building awareness as well as preventing prejudice.”

Grace Warnock said:

“The story of my sign came from my own experience of an adult questioning my use of an accessible toilet this ignorance drove me to design the first Grace’s Sign to educate others on invisible disabilities and to encourage everyone to have a heart”

The Value of Listening

Co-design in Practice.

At the International Masterclass on Dementia Care, Design and Ageing, Lucy will share insights from our Inclusive Symbols work funded by Life Changes Trust.

Initial research indicated that many of the symbols we encounter in life are not easily understood by people with cognitive challenges. So, we set out to create a new set of 15 symbols, designed to make finding the way easier for everybody.

Sharing progress and revealing the latest work, Lucy will highlight the value of listening to the views of people with dementia to inform the creative process.

The International Masterclass brings together experts from across the globe to discuss ideas from design innovation through research to policy development to support independence and well-being in people living with dementia. 


Co-design in Practice

International Masterclass on Dementia Care, Design and Ageing

Wednesday 15th May, 11.30am

Iris Murdoch Conference Suite, University of Stirling

Tickets available here

The power of purpose – building your brand from the inside out

[1 min read]

An event hosted by StudioLR at the SCVO Gathering 2019

Thursday 21 February, 11.15am – 12.15pm

By defining the purpose of your organisation and involving your people in the process, you will build an authentic brand and reap the rewards of a united, driven workforce.

Lucy Richards and Joanna McCreadie (Chief Executive of Seamab) will demonstrate the power of this approach by example – sharing the insights and outcomes of their collaboration to create a dynamic and enduring brand for Seamab.

https://scvo.org.uk/the-gathering-2019/event-programme/the-power-of-purpose-building-your-brand-from-the-inside-out/

the gathering 2019, SCVO, Glasgow SEC, february 2019

Social Shifters of the World Rise Up

[4 minute read]

 

I’m fresh out of the Social Enterprise World Forum, SEWF2018. This annual, three-day-event brings Social Entrepreneurs from all over the globe together in one place to share ideas that are changing the world for good. You’ll struggle to find a more inspiring event…

 

What is a social enterprise?

A Social Enterprise is an organisation, or a person, changing the world for the better. Like most businesses they aim to make a profit, but the key is that they reinvest the majority of their profit to create positive social change. This allows them to tackle social problems, improve people’s life chances, support communities and help the environment.

Government statistics identify around 100,000 social enterprises of all sizes in the UK, contributing £60 billion to the economy and employing nearly two million people.*

Here’s a quick illustration of the range of organisations active in this movement:

  • Cordant Group, the UK’s 2nd largest recruitment and services business with revenues of £840 million and 125,000 employees, reinvests the majority of its profits into social programmes across education, employment, and healthcare, pledging to touch and improve thousands of lives, one community at a time. To demonstrate its intent, Cordant has capped all annual shareholder dividends and all executive salaries, and agreed to be independently audited, using recognised Social Impact measurements.
  • Social Bite is a chain of sandwich shops with a difference – they’re on a mission to end homelessness in Scotland. They created the world’s largest annual sleep out Sleep in the Park which last year alone raised £4million.
  • Students of Broughton High School in Edinburgh have created BROEnterprise which tackles social isolation and loneliness in the community by bringing people together each Friday afternoon in the school to enjoy tea and cake, and to have fun together through craft and reading activities. Everyone is welcome from early years to golden-agers and, as you can imagine, the social enterprise has been a really positive movement in the school.

 

How can we make a difference?

Imagine a world where Social Enterprise is part of the curriculum in every primary school. It’s a main subject choice in every secondary school, and it’s a culture that’s embedded in every workplace. We all know that the best ideas come from people working together, free from prejudice, financial constraints and fear of failure.

With our Society offer at StudioLR we walk the talk about improving people’s everyday – that’s our purpose and the reason we come to work each day. We collaborate on ideas that make a difference to people from all walks of life. We listen and improve until we get it right for the people that need it – they’re the experts. We make sure it’s sustainable and for good. And when it’s embedded we measure the impact.

I urge you to think about what you care about and use that as a starting point to make a difference. There are huge challenges for people all over the world that need our creativity, motivation and determination to solve. Do you care about loneliness, obesity, inequality, or the ageing population?

And if you need inspiration, this is a good place to start.

Lucy Richards

Founder of StudioLR

 

* Social Enterprise UK, State of Social Enterprise Survey 2017

A far-off land for people with illness

Nominated in the Publication category of the Scottish Design Awards,  ‘a far-off land’ by Alec Finlay for Macmillan Cancer Support explores the memory of landscapes as a fond illness-companion.

A far-off land is a book of photography by Hannah Devereux poems by Alec Finlay exploring place-names and their meanings – commissioned for the new Macmillan Cancer Support Day Unit in Arbroath.

The photography remembers childhood illness, where bedding becomes an imaginative landscape – with scenes suggestive of the glens of Angus.

The book is based on the thought that the memory of the landscape remains fond and healing, even when it cannot easily be accessed, whether through illness or people coming to the end of life.


To find out more about the award-winning work we do at StudioLR, please get in touch.

Finding your way around Scotland’s first dementia-friendly park

At StudioLR, We’ve been designing wayfinding signage to help people living with dementia live more independently.

[7 Minute Read]

With features such as dementia-friendly signs, handrails and benches, Kings Park in Stirling recently launched as Scotland’s first dementia-friendly park. Led by National walking charity, Paths for All, we were asked to design signs which would help people living with dementia navigate the park more easily on their own.


“This project was an important step for us in working towards our aim of driving improvements in the quality of life, well-being, empowerment and inclusion of people living with dementia in Scotland.”

– Dr Corinne Greasley Adams, development officer for Paths for All


Paths for All came to us after hearing about our successful initiative to design signs that will help people with dementia find their way around care homes.

Aligning with our company belief that great design improves people’s everyday lives, we wanted to make a difference to people living with dementia through empowering signage design.

Working with our academic partners (Edinburgh University and Stirling University) we challenged the signage typically used in care environments. Using an academic approach gave us confidence that our assessment was accurate. And our recommendations would have the intended level of positive impact.

Easy wayfinding would improve the wellbeing of people with dementia (potentially extending their life) and also reduce the strain and cost on their families and on societal care resources.

We realised our findings could easily be transferred to other public spaces, like Kings Park, providing an even greater opportunity for extended independent living.

Read more about the dementia-friendly Kings Park project in the Scotsman article here.


To find out more about what we’re doing at StudioLR to make the world an easier place to find your way around then read about our latest Inclusive Symbols project.

Inclusive symbols concept design and testing feedback

Following on from the concept workshops, we’ve been busy developing the design for each symbol including a number of options which were tested with groups of people living with dementia.


Concept design phase

Getting into the design we quickly realised there were many different route to explore. After a series of iterations, we developed four options for each symbol to test various factors that could make the symbols more easily understood by people with dementia i.e. showing perspective, including people/figures ‘doing’ the action, shaded flooring.

We considered the styling of the ‘symbol people’ – if they should be ‘morph like’, if they should have necks, or if they should be more human in feature, showing details like clothing and hair. We varied their level of movement, the number of people interacting with each environment, and their activity in each context.

Environments were explored in perspective as well as elevation/straight on, and shading on floors and on objects like toilet seats were visualised to gauge people’s understanding. And we changed the scale on some symbols to see how much information is needed, on close up items like a hand on a door as well as entire rooms and the whole shape of an escalator.

The testing stimulus was prepared as A3 sheets with four options for each symbol alongside the relevant current symbol, and a ‘wash up sheet’ of alternative existing options to help stimulate the discussion. Facilitated by Steve Milton, Director of Innovations in Dementia, these sheets were used to evaluate the legibility and understanding of each of the concepts with groups of people living with dementia across a number of locations. The sessions were recorded and subsequently transcribed.


Testing and feedback

The symbol concepts were tested with 39 people of varying ages and stages of dementia. 33 of these were across five groups and there were six 1-2-1 interviews. Groups were consulted in Shrewsbury, Liverpool, Glasgow, Canterbury and Salisbury. Five interviews took place face-to-face in Stockwell and one via teleconferencing in Salford.

There was an overall enthusiasm from participants to feedback their views on something ‘practical’ rather than policy based that will impact positively on people’s everyday life.

Key learnings:

People

Feedback overview:

‘Morph’ figure (on the left) was generally preferred as people found it clearer/simpler.

Male / Female / Accessible Toilet

Feedback overview:

Everyone recognised this as a toilet.

Symbol ‘B’ in perspective with shaded flooring was unanimously preferred and the white figure on black background was least preferred.

Escalator

Feedback overview:

Although ‘C’ got the highest number of votes, there was a preference for whole shape
of escalator handrail to differentiate it from stairs. The rounded shape also implies movement which is helpful. The two people interacting with the escalator in ‘A’ and ‘C’ was well liked. Maybe we could develop ‘A’ in 3D with perspective. Many liked the idea of adding an arrow going up, or down for a different version of the symbol, to emphasise the indication of movement.

Exit

Feedback overview:

There was a clear preference for ‘C’ showing perspective noting that the person should be clearly stepping from one space to another, rather than walking past the door. The tree and cloud were identified as representing the ‘outside’ and this was liked, as if moving from one environment to another. The floor shading could be understood better if lower down, so less like the person is in water.

Lift

Feedback overview:

There was a clear preference for ‘D’ showing perspective, doors and shading within lift.  There was absolute consensus that the people interacting are important to the understanding of this symbol. There were comments about the button increasing in size!

Stairs

Feedback overview:

Everyone recognized the options as stairs. Although ‘B’ got the highest number of votes, there was a preference for whole shape of the staircase as shown in ‘A’. Everyone agreed that the handrail helped them feel reassured.

Parking

Feedback overview:

Almost everyone recognised this as parking and there was a unanimous preference for  the simplicity of ‘C’. Some of the options i.e. ‘B’ showed too much information and detail which was confusing for people.

Information

Feedback overview:

None of the options shown were popular. Concensus was for the original ‘i’ symbol to be retained.

Tickets

Feedback overview:

Much discussion was had about whether the symbols represent buying or or showing the ticket. In the end ‘A’ was agreed the most popular.

Priority Seating

Feedback overview:

Symbol ‘C’ was preferred and most people identified this as a seat for people who
need it. It was pointed out that, for example on buses, there is a space reserved for wheelchair users so we don’t need to include the wheelchair access symbol. We need careful development of the wording to support understanding of this symbol.

Waiting Area

Feedback overview:

Symbol ‘C’ was the clear preference because of its simplicity and perspective. The doorway through to another room wasn’t necessary. Everyone found the seated people helpful to the meaning, though they should look less rigid and more active. The clock (with no time shown) could be included as it was popular with most participants.

Fire Escape

Feedback overview:

The perspective of symbol ‘C’ was preferred, with the fire from symbols ‘A/B’. It would make sense to include the outside elements from the previous Exit symbol, as well as movement of the person from one space to another.

Wheelchair Access

Feedback overview:

Everyone correctly identified this and ‘A’ gained the majority of votes. Some pointed out that the person was controlling their own chair rather than being pushed as in the existing symbol. Some felt an attachment to the existing symbol and questioned whether we need to update the design of the symbol at all.

Hidden Disability

Feedback overview:

Most weren’t able to identify any of the options shown but for those who recognised some sort of need, symbol ‘D’ was preferred. Adding colour (red) to the cross at the next design phase may be helpful to the understanding around ‘health’. Careful consideration of the words that support this symbol is needed to aid understanding.


Next Steps

Our next step is to look at the user testing feedback in detail to develop and refine the design of each symbol.

We’ll consider the impact for the user of language and colour – which words that accompany symbols are most easily understood i.e. toilet / restroom / ladies /  WC / public convenience.

The trickiest words to consider and resolve will be ‘Priority Seating’ and ‘Hidden Disability’ and we will be working with language strategist Ben Afia https://www.benafia.com to develop some options for testing at the next phase.

We will also consider colour i.e. does a green exit symbol or a blue parking symbol effect its communication?

The design development will lead into the next phase of testing with new groups of people in July.

Tackling big issues: needs to learn

[4 minute read]

As designers we’re ambitious to tackle society’s big challenges – that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. So when we were asked to design an accessible website aimed at 12-15 year old children with additional support needs, we jumped at the chance to work on a project that will really make a difference.

Living with additional support needs means that school can be a real struggle for children without the proper support. These children and their parents or carers may be feeling worried, frustrated or confused about getting the right education to suit their needs. They’re looking for help, and there’s a chance that they have felt let down before and have come to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal as a last resort.

Our aim was to develop a communication channel that would instill a sense of empowerment for its audience and feel like a helping hand. Something that is welcoming, informally informative, and is easily understood. And something that helps in getting all children the education they are entitled to.


The design of the site was led by the people that would be using the site. The colours, fonts and layout were all chosen based on research and knowledge of accessibility for web, for people with support needs, and in particular children with Autism. The site was then user tested and assessed for ease of use and general understanding.”

– Kimberly Carpenter, Senior Digital Designer


We started off by considering a new, original name for the service to replace Additional Support Needs as part of the Health and Education Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland – which we didn’t feel was accessible!

So, we developed the name needs to learn to capture both ASN [needs] and education [to learn].

The name works well when we talk about putting children at the heart of the judiciary service: All children in Scotland should benefit from a school education. When this isn’t happening we look at each child’s individual circumstances and their unique needs to learn.

 And also when we talk about the child:

We look at Jamie’s unique and individual needs to learn to make sure that he benefits from school education.

To build on the power of needs to learn, we developed a new visual language to help with signposting the user to navigate through the information provided. We created a carefully considered colour palette, soft shapes, an engaging illustration style that would appeal to the age group, accessible language and a font that was highly legible on screen. The content was edited down to short blocks of text and bullets points so that information could be easily read and digested by the viewer. There’s also a section on the site titled ‘word meanings’ to explain the meanings of tricky words, especially legal terms that are hard for all of us to make sense of.

As we developed the website design we wanted to ensure the navigation was simple and clear, and it provided plenty of reassurance. The landing page asks:

Are you in the right place?

If you’re 12 to 15, have additional support needs and want to make a change to your school education, then yes you are.

We created a prototype, using Invision, and conducted user testing with a group of 12-15 year olds with additional support needs. We observed their interaction with the site, including ease of use, and asked them what they generally thought of the site. Their feedback played an important role in the final development stages of the website.

Since the site launched, feedback from users is very positive. All children are entitled to, and deserve an education, and if needs to learn helps their education needs to be met then we’re proud to have played a small part to achieve that.


Unsurprisingly children with additional support needs need additional support. That includes the way we communicate with them, not just visually but also understanding that their cognitive functions work differently. The design thinking and execution had to take all this into account when creating something of real value to them.” 

– Mark Wheeler, Design Director


 

Let’s talk about bad language

[2 minute read]

Something’s been bothering me for some time. I call it Bad Language and I see it a lot. Especially in public places and services.

I voiced my frustration last November at the OneTeamGov Scotland un-conference https://www.oneteamgov.uk/scotland. I realise the irony of doing this at an ‘un-conference’, but I hoped we might start something together to make things better.

A revolution to make complex communication simple, and human.

My provocation: let’s debunk and reinvent the confusing language used in public services

Bewildering examples are everywhere, you don’t need to look too hard…

On trains we’re told to ‘alight here’ for Falkirk or Croy.

In hospitals we see signs directing us to ‘Ambulatory Care’.

Children in the care of the state are described as ‘service users’, and the services responsible for meeting their needs are called their ‘corporate parents’.

Out there, in the everyday world, we don’t need to use language that de-humanises and trips people up. Let’s not set the train alight… let’s just get off at the right stop!

Please share your examples #letstalkbadlanguage

Lucy appointed to the Education Design Council’s Expert Panel

In January 2018 Lucy was appointed by SBID (The Society of British and International Design) to the Education Design Council expert panel.

The Society of British and International Design is the UK-based standard bearer organisation for the accreditation of professional interior designers, product suppliers and educational institutions. 

The Education Design Council seeks to put effective design at the core of the learning process and show how evidence-based design decisions can transform the learning experience for everyone. The council consists of experts across the sector of the industry.

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