Making Fashion Accessible to People Who
Type of Project: Pre-Design
This type of project is exploratory and focuses on understanding the needs of a user group to inform the design of a new assistive technology (AT) or application. This could include interviews with the target population, observation of behaviors or participatory design sessions. The ideal outcome of this project was the ideation of a potential AT product/service and accompanying implications for design.
Choosing clothing to buy or wear is a challenging process for people who are blind or visually impaired. In this study, we sought to understand the user needs for a technology-based product or service aimed at improving the accessibility of fashion for people who are blind.
One of four UX designers/researchers who designed this study, carried out user interviews, and synthesized and summarized the findings and results of this study for a graduate accessibility course.
- Four participants
- 61-72 years old
- Visually impaired
- Interested in fashion
We conducted interviews to uncover problems which will result in implications for the design of an assistive technology solution that enables people who are blind to express their personal style. We seek to explore and understand from these interviews how visually impaired people identify:
- Texture of garments
- Pattern of garments
- Color of garments
- Style of garments
- Fit of garments
- Coordination of garments
Our goal was to answer the following research questions through our interviews:
- How can a technology-based product help people who are blind choose outfits that express their personal style?
- What user needs would such a technology-based product need to address?
- What factors are important when purchasing clothes?
- What factors are important when choosing an outfit?
- How do people who are blind currently express their personal style through clothing?
We recruited four people for our study with the help of our instructor, Cynthia Putnam. Before participating in our study, participants confirmed they were (1) at least 18 years of age, (2) interested in fashion, and (3) visually impaired.
We recorded each interview session for transcription purposes Prior to each interview, we emailed participants a link to an accessible web page outlining our informed consent policy. We began each interview by obtaining verbal informed consent from each participant.
Then, we asked the participants questions from a prewritten interview script. We asked about the role fashion plays in their lives, how they go about choosing items of clothing to purchase and wear, and what issues or obstacles they face along the way.
Finally, we concluded each interview by asking a few demographic questions.
- Individually transcribed each interview
- Individually inductively coded each interview using Atlas.ti
- As a team, grouped codes into common themes
- As a team, created affinity diagram using Miro
- As a team, created new codes based on themes
- Individually re-coded interviews
- As a team, created affinity diagram using interview quotes
Affinity diagramming, exploratory interviews, inductive coding, user interviews, user research
Atlas.ti, Miro, Zoom
We organized our findings into four themes:
- Participants considered a variety of practical, personal, and social factors when choosing clothing.
- Participants used labels, digital tools, and wardrobe organization systems to overcome challenges in identifying and coordinating clothing.
- Participants faced different obstacles shopping in-person versus online.
- Participants relied on sighted helpers for assistance in many aspects of the fashion process.
Implications for Design
Our technology should:
- Recommend outfit pairings
- Include robust text descriptions of clothing
- Ensure compatibility with existing Assistive technology
- Include ways to connect and build trust with sighted helpers
Our study was limited by a small and demographically similar sample of four women ages 69-72. As such, our findings may not generalize to a larger population. Findings may differ when our study is conducted with a broader range of participants. Additionally, our research was limited to interviews conducted over Zoom only. We did not conduct any in-person or virtual observations.
Future research should include interviewing and surveying a larger, more demographically diverse participant pool, and conducting in-person and virtual observations of online and in-store shopping.