Posted by: chablis | June 22, 2009

Usable – Useful – Desirable

Useful to the driver of the motorcycle – yes.  Usable to a wheelchair user in a ramp van – no.  Desirable to risk having your motorcycle towed because you have violated the law and parked in the hash marks – you answer.

Seven months after waking on a stretcher in a trauma recovery unit I sat in a standard rental wheelchair at lunch with my in-laws.  We were on our way to an appointment with my surgeon.  I was anxious for a favorable visit; and permission to drive again.  As we ate lunch; I watched a fit, smart, ex-military paraplegic and envied her wheelchair.  Later I watched as she and her partner left the restaurant and went to load up into their ramp van and leave.  There was another car parked in the hash marks; so the ramp van could not extend it’s wheelchair ramp.  The partner had to back out the van into the drive and then extend the ramp for the quite capable young woman [who rolled herself frontwards up the ramp].  I mused over what I would do if I was out by myself and this happened.  By myself, I would not be able to get into the van to back it out so I could load myself up, what would I do?  Those hash marks for wheelchair van’s are very desirable and useful to wheelchair users.  They are also usable and at times abusable by others.

I took this photo yesterday, a few hours after reading the vitriol in many of the comments to this post at Ablegamers.com.  As I was reading the strikingly derogatory remarks from many of the Halo players, I could not help but to remember a similar outpouring of negativity when this very parking lot was featured in an extensive news article concerning the shortage of handicapped parking spots in the community and the proposed rule changes.  One commenter posted “if you are so disabled that you must have a handicap parking spot then you should not be leaving your home

Excuse me? As I read this, after 8 months of being stuck home-bound; and just starting to drive in the community; I thought of my few trips to this very shopping plaza where I had driven in looking for a parking spot, then gone on to the older, smaller grocery store.  If I could not park in a spot where I could unload my wheelchair, there were no usable parking spots for me.  I liked going to the grocery store, it is desirable to me to get out and about and be active; it’s useful to hubby for me to do what I can for the household.

In my forties, I quickly learned to appreciate the history of ADA and the benefit I was now enjoying. I can go out and about and do so much more than a similar accident victim of say; 30 years ago.

Our community has a sizable retirement population and I watch with mostly amusement as the seniors find many of the accommodations made for the disabled to be useful, usable and desirable.  Just think of the millions of baby boomers as they reach their seventy’s; with life expectancy extended from gains in modern medical practices they will be able to more enjoy their extended life due to changes and improvements brought about by the disability movement.  The concepts of Universal Design are reaching into every facet of daily activity.

My neuro-surgeon is in a group practice with a newer building.  Their parking lot design extols everything that is beneficial about usable, useful and desirable.  There is a covered, flat, curb free loading-unloading zone.  The closest parking spots to the door are regular spots; but, all of the regular parking spots are wider than typically found in commercial shopping plazas.  Wider striped parking spots are desirable to folks who are unloading babies, toddlers, strollers, groceries, mobility aids, and/or passengers needing assistance.  Towards the street side of the parking lot are spaces for motorcycles,  scooters, bicycles and golf carts; towards the back of the parking lot are the wheelchair van accessible spots.  Running along the front of these parking spots is a wide flat curb free sidewalk continuing up to the front door.  Folks who desire or need to walk short distances do not use these parking spots, they prefer [desire] the spots closest to the door.  The spots close to the door are desirable and, due to being a bit wider than the norm, usable for people needing a bit more room to maneuver.  Meanwhile, most wheelchair users don’t mind a bit of distance, they need usable parking spots; with space for unloading wheelchairs,  and find it desirable to be able roll along below the vision of drivers out of the way of the moving vehicles on the building side sidewalk.

Allow me to spell out that last little portion – I about lost my painfully saved life the day I was wheeling along the parking lot heading for the front door of the grocery store and a driver nearly backed me over.  You see, the very same shopping plaza as picture above has no method for wheelchair users, baby buggy pushers, toddlers, seniors with canes or bicycle users to get from one end of the parked cars to the other without moving behind parked cars.  Same said parked cars who may without notice begin backing up into [to them] un-seen-able people.

Thinking about, creating, planning for Universal Design is usable, useful and desirable.  The more something is usable, useful and desirable the more it will have widespread market acceptance and penetration.

Lets take a look at the Nintendo Wii shall we?

As news broke about the design of the new Nintendo gaming console, many gamers wondered if it would be a hit.  Nintendo certainly went out on a limb so far as innovation with the controller; the wiimote, and with innovative new games such as the Wii Fit.  Nintendo has suceeded where Microsoft fails to attract new and diverse users.  As the two linked article examples illustrate; the Wii Fit is useful in physical therapy because it is fun!  Increased market share and user base is always a very good thing.  Leads to more and better platforms and games.  Gamers usually like new games, and spend money on them – which leads to profits for the game developer to continue developing new games that gamers enjoy.  Attracting new users and customers helps speed this process.  It is very desirable for profitability.

And don’t think this is just your grandmother.  Although, I know quite a few grandparents who enjoy playing online games both in genaral groups as well as with their kids and grand kids.  Think about all those baby boomers who grew up on pinball and video games;  gaming is desirable, with a high entertainment factor.

We have the most absolute fantastic game room.  Multi TVs, surround sound; ceiling mounted rear channel speakers, comfortable seating; black out blinds.  Great visibility on a 52″ wide screen HDTV and awesome acoustics.  xBox360, Halo and Oblivion were just fantastic.P6220007

We have 2 xBox; 2 xBox 360 and a Playstation 2.  We play PS2 games quite a bit; and I play xBox 360 with my nephew when he visits.  Otherwise, not so much xBox 360 or the Halo I so loved.

The neuro muscular damage in my hands?  Just doesn’t cut it with the xBox controller.  L2Play – well I can’t, not well.

Now we have added another laptop the the game room; and a chair side table and I play World of Warcraft.

And I want a Wii Fit – physical therapy and working out is so very boring; riding a stationary bike has to be the worst.  Oh please, game systems make it better.

Listen up Microsoft – you have the opportunity to be game console pioneers; you know, sort of like you did with DOS.  Step on up to the plate and give us a home run please.  Halo 4, Project Natal – will I really be able to truly play Halo again?  Or not?  Please Microsoft think about the extended market place as you design and test Usable and Useful.  Include all the demographics of your potential market in your sample set usability testing.

Entertainment by way of video games, gaming consoles – fabulous.  Desirable.

PS – I started this a few months back and then failed to finish and post; so here ’tis.  Still timely me thinks.

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