We are pleased to publish this special issue of the journal. As the guest editors explain in their introduction, the papers were first presented, in shortened form, at The Cambridge Workshop on Universal Access and Assistive Technology (CWUAAT) held in 2012. The papers focus on early stage development of new technologies to assist the disabled and include them in product designs.
For user experience practitioners, this issue highlights the barriers the authors faced and overcame in collecting empirical data to assess the effectiveness of the technologies. It typically is a challenge in all empirical studies to recruit target users and set up a procedure to answer the relevant questions. As you will see, with technologies for the disabled there are additional issues and unexpected challenges to face.
While there are technical challenges to including the disabled, there are even larger motivational issues. We frequently profess a commitment to increased accessibility. But most of the organizations we work for seldom consider expanding the relevant audience for products to the disabled. There was a time when we had minimal influence in our organization’s decisions about the scope of the audiences for products. More recently, we often have been present when those important decisions are debated. It is time to put our advocacy into action.