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Motional Uses dscout to Drive Insights from Users with Access Needs

Motional’s Senior UX Researcher, Felice Ling, walks us through how her team used dscout to explore transportation accessibility in the mobility space.

When Felice Ling, senior UX researcher at Motional, joined the team as the first UXR, insight gathering was owned by designers, whose research included remote simulation sessions, tactical prototyping work, and foundational work.

On top of continuing this evaluative practice, Felice and her team are tasked with buffering that foundational work, to deeply investigate the context around autonomous mobility.

One of her first projects utilizing dscout was exploring the role of accessibility and disability in the mobility space. Understanding how people with disabilities manage, negotiate, and ultimately make use of transportation, from ride sharing to public transit. These insights would help support Motional's mission to make driverless vehicles safe, reliable, and accessible.

Approach: Conducting a remote “ride-along”

Felice first asked participants to inventory some of their favorite accessibility tools. This data was designed to get a sense of the characteristics, features, and functionalities that people with disabilities find useful, for a range of tasks and behaviors. The exercise also helped participants feel more comfortable with Felice and the remote research modality.

After the inventory, Felice asked participants to show moments along their typical transportation journey, including pre-planning, during their journey, and arriving at their destination. Along the way, participants captured highs and lows, describing what was important to them at each step, and what solutions—if any—existed to smooth that experience.

Of particular importance to Felice was the perspective, the POV—that will lead to useful insights for Motional’s product development. Button placement, reachability, the twisting, contorting, and ease of motion generally were all themes Felice pulled from the data; all while capturing moments along the journey.

In addition to learning about specific mobility pain points when taking a variety of travel options, Felice captured critical information about the stages of the journey, which helps the Motional team focus on user experience solutions.

At the end of the study, she asked participants to reflect on the potential importance of new mobility technology. Because participants' own travel and mobility perceptions were top of mind, Felice was able to collect sharp, descriptive feedback from participants. The broad and diverse sample offered a window into different kinds of disability, both physical and cognitive.

"...this research exemplified the many transportation challenges people with disabilities face - and what it means to create truly accessible mobility. You start to understand that accessibility isn't just about being wheelchair friendly."

Sharing the results

Felice spent most of her analysis time digging into the open-end and video data, which offered the most context for meaning-making within the transportation moments. Specifically, she tagged various access needs and aligned those with initiatives at Motional. Ultimately, her surfacing of needs led to a framework of design principles for accessibility which Motional can leverage as part of its ongoing product development.

“Video is helpful in driving home and bringing to life the design principles. Our team is able to see as the participant did, in the moments they felt were important to share. Together this created a compelling and actionable package for my insights.”

Overall, Felice is excited by the progress across UX generally in the areas of accessibility and disability experience, and believes remote video approaches can help support research and innovation. The data offered rich, personal information about a sensitive but critical aspect of folks' lives: their disabilities and mobility needs.

“It was exciting because the concepts that we came up with for accessibility limitations very clearly were concepts participants were excited about...even those without accessibility limitations. And this makes sense conceptually, theoretically: Designing for accessibility and designing for edge cases means innovating for everyone.”

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