Sociability

How can you find out how accessible a venue is, before you get there?

  • Client: Sociability Ventures
  • Services:

    Product Consultancy

    UX Design

    Accessible UI Design

    App for iOS & Android

  • Funded by:

    Sociability

    The Initiative Fund

  • Awards:

    2019 Skoll Venture Awards, winning £25,000

    2020 Toyota Inclusive Mobility Startup Champion, winning €25,000

Sociability is an innovation project that has arisen out of the need for better accessibility information for social venues across Oxford, and beyond. Google provides an enormous amount of detail on all public venues; opening times, menus, customer reviews, and busiest periods for example, but it cannot tell you whether you will be able to fit through the entrance door in a wheelchair. By crowd sourcing information, Sociability aims to tackle this issue on a local, and national level.

Winner: £25k Skoll Venture Award

Winner: €25k Toyota Inclusive Mobility Startup

As seen on the BBC and ITV

Sociability case study

The challenge

People with physical disabilities often have at best, this icon to tell them if they can access a venue. Although it is now a legal requirement that all UK businesses make their buildings accessible to wheelchair users, the reality on site may be quite unpredictable, especially as there are many types and severities of physical disability. Discovering you can't get around inside a building when you get there can be isolating and undignified; the fear of which can limit peoples' activities.

THINGS YOU CAN'T GOOGLE:
the challenge
  • Number of stairs to an entrance
  • Height of tables
  • Ground surface, e.g. cobbles
  • Width of doors
  • Space inside

The solution

SociAbility is an app to help users with any given physical disability filter venues by their personal accessibility needs. To achieve the level of data granularity required, it also allows the collection of dimensional and physical information by members of the public. At times this employs smartphone augmented reality tools, mapping, and powerful search features.

CROWD SOURCING ACCESSIBILITY INFORMATION FOR VENUES:
The solution
  • “3 stairs at entrance”
  • “table height: very high”
  • “cobbled pathway”
  • “power assisted door, very wide”
  • “cluttered seating area”

Realising a vision

When Matt Pierri applied to study at the University of Oxford, it was to set in motion the ideation of a novel and much needed innovation. The University is collegiate, meaning that you apply to a college rather than the institution itself. In so doing, Matt couldn't find any accessibility information about the college buildings, so didn't know which would be most suited to his wheelchair. When he arrived, in order to help other prospective students in his situation, he formed a group to create evaluations of the college buildings and then compiled it into a database for others to use.
Meeting

From an idea to execution

Matt came to us with an idea for an app. It had all started when he applied to the University of Oxford, and couldn’t find any accessibility information about the college buildings, so didn’t know which would be most suited to his wheelchair. To help other prospective students in his situation, when Matt got to Oxford he formed a group to create evaluations of the college buildings, and then compiled it all into a database for others to use.

This was enormously successful, and Matt soon realised it needed to be taken further. Using this format of crowdsourcing evaluations of venues, he could compile a database of accessibility information of venues nationwide, so people with accessibility issues could find out everything they needed to know about a venue in advance. This information is empowering. Not knowing whether you’ll be able to make it through an entrance door means that many people with disabilities will simply choose not to visit a venue, or choose to not go out at all. He now had the idea, and after raising some funding, he came to us to help turn that idea into a functioning product.
Matt at desk
Would you even try and visit a venue, if there was no guarentee you could make it to the entrance door?
It’s hard for venues to understand how much business they are missing out on by not making their venue accessible, because people with accessibility issues will simply not go there at all.
Going away from the door
Our process

Ratifying the concept

Coincidentally, Global Initiative had worked on a business plan to capture highly granular data from local outlets several years earlier, so we immediately understood he principles, values and requirements for putting it into practice.
Ratifying the concept

Brainstorming in the user story mapping session

There are so many features and novel tools we could include in an app of this kind, part of our remit was to isolate the most important journeys for each user type and iterate them down to their simplest forms.
Brainstorming in the user story mapping session

Prioritising the features

We employ the Agile Method when creating, which requires solving the prioritization problem in the most optimal way. Ranking features in order of importance means understanding those parts that do not just contribute value but without which, would render the tool ineffective. For this, we use the MoSCoW method.
Prioritising the features

Wire-framing to test the concept

Quick prototyping with low-fidelity clickable wireframes saves an enormous amount of project time (and so, money) discovering intuitive user experiences through testing. Unusually, there is one part of this app which cannot be tested in a wireframe: the augmented reality (although we were able to test all the functionality either side of this).
Wire-framing to test the concept

Designing the user interface

The visual identity was developed elsewhere as we were wireframing. It gave us a strong direction for palette and form when building the visual overlay, which was also influenced by the app's underlying concept; it's colourblind friendly as well.
Designing the user interface

Developing the app feature by feature

Then began several rounds of two-week development sprints as we raced to turn all that prototyping into real world Minimum Viable Product.
Developing the app feature by feature

Testing and iterating the development

As always, it's important to test with users and reflect on things we've learned in the previous two weeks at each sprint release. Our aim is always to reduce wasted effort to zero, so even if users feed back with unexpected suggestions, we're able to react quickly without product-wide implications.
Testing and iterating the development

The impact

The app officially launched on June 11th 2019 in Oxford. We are conducting real-world user research over the following months to refine both the usage and data-collection parts of the software to keep it always at peak performance. Our hope is that it opens up new realms to as many people with access needs as possible.
legoland

From the client

There are more than 1.5 billion people worldwide with an access need of some kind – whether disabled, elderly or pushing a pram. Yet, in the UK, they only find enough accessibility information around 14 per cent of the time. Similarly, UK social venues and shops miss out on some £12 billion a year in potential revenue because of poor accessibility.
Matt, Founder of the Oxford Accessibility Project
From the client
Dash line

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