Activities in practice
Through our process, we learned that an activity should be easy to understand and not require an extensive learning process. In our initial co-design session, we used a “Journey Mapping” activity, which was new and confusing to most of the participants. Some people required more instruction while others felt constrained by its structure. Learning from this experience, we started using conventional worksheets. Most participants found this format to be simple and engaging, however, those with vision loss, physical or learning disabilities were unable to participate in note taking.
Conflicting needs of participants was a challenge for some groups. For example, participants with vision loss were unable to physically interact with materials and had difficulty participating in prototyping and following discussions that involved visual description of ideas. Also, some of the tools used (e.g. sticky notes/flip charts) were inaccessible for those who could not write (e.g. blind, paralyzed) while they were necessary means of communication for some others, such as deaf participants.
Collaborating with partner organizations helped us to better incorporate participant needs in the activities. Our partners at the Deaf Culture Centre reminded us that some of their members primarily communicate using American Sign Language, and suggested checklists to minimize writing. During this activity, we grouped hearing and deaf participants together to enable note taking and provided ASL interpretation to facilitate communication. We tried to minimize barriers to participation, by sharing the written/visual materials with participants in advance, and providing activities in multiple modalities.
- When developing activities, reach out to different groups, communities, individuals or any other resources to acquire knowledge about the needs and capabilities of your participants to help you tailor the activity.
- Provide multi-modal representations of the activity so they are accessible for all participants.
- Modify any activity that is solely based on one mode of interaction, such as writing, hearing, seeing, touching, listening to include other modalities.
- Minimizing conflicts within groups by encouraging participants to work together and include others in their group (e.g. sighted individuals should learn to describe visual materials for members of the team who are blind, and to use patience when a member of the team needs more time articulating their thoughts)
- Encourage volunteers/facilitators/staff to join different groups to provide assistance with physical tasks.