MapQuest, now part of Verizon Wireless, is a wayfinding and mapping organization that had been outpaced in their field by competitors. MapQuest wanted to redefine their image and product suite by building a new offering that would allow disabled people and caretakers to better navigate their environments.
MapQuest conducted some initial research, but needed a third-party product company to validate their findings and begin work on an actual product.
Validate research findings in a way that leads to a high-level product concept
Determine business strategy for product success
Situate MapQuest in a competitor landscape in order to understand how MapQuest can diversify
Determine the target audience as well as their pain points, priorities, and purchasing habits
Researcher, UI Lead
January 2018 - March 2018
User research, competitive analysis, landscape analysis
Design thinking, UX/UI Design
Pen & paper, Post-Its
Before embarking on our research quest, we hunkered down in an effort to understand the history of disability rights and laws on a national and local level. We focused specifically on the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and various other local laws that applied specifically to our research jurisdictions.
We also took time to understand how we could relate best to our interviewees. Everyone on the team is able-bodied and we wanted to ensure that our interviewees felt as though they were co-creating with us, not that we were merely designing for me. To do so, we took the time to understand how to use language that was not ableist. We also researched how to use our design methodology in a way that was as universal as possible.
To validate MapQuest’s findings, we had to capture the greatest breadth of experience as possible. This meant speaking to people who were physically disabled and people who were sensorially disabled, and we had to talk to them in a variety of contexts.
We spoke with with 39 people within three weeks in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. This included surrounding suburban and rural areas. We also spoke to several in-home and family caretakers as well as physical therapists and camp counsellors.
MapQuest was specifically looking for information around navigation, but we as consultants felt as though their scope was too narrow. Though we mostly focused on travel-related issues, we wanted to open up the dialogue to our interviewers to ask about overall experiences once they arrived at their destination. We wanted to know all of their concerns and worries, and we also wanted to hear about their victories.
To accomplish this, we kept our outlined questions at a limit in an effort to make the dialogue as organic as possible.
Downloading these interviews was quite the task, especially with our team being split up week by week in order to travel for the interviews.
Once we shared each interviewer’s story, we clustered the stories into overarching themes. This allowed us to take those themes and zoom out even further, making connections between them that would in turn be our insights.
Our discoveries shattered the way I thought about disability, ability, and accessibility. There were quite a few, so I will only share the three that I felt were the most poignant. They are as follows:
Planning for both new and old destinations takes a lot of planning. There’s a protocol to finding and validating a space, and that protocol involves making a plan B, D, E, and F in cause anything goes wrong. Part of this protocol includes calling their destinations to ensure that their needs will be met, which is often futile.
Information makes people feel safe. We suss out details for new trips in order to not feel lost. However, accessibility information is not readily available on popular information platforms (i.e. Yelp, Google reviews) which ultimately creates an inequality of information for disabled people.
Accessibility stickers are not valid signifiers that the location is in fact accessible. These stickers normally mean that doors are wide enough, there is a ramp, and the bathrooms can accommodate a wheelchair. But true accessibility lies in the little things like table heights, ramp slopes, and where the accessible entrance actually is (normally it’s through the back door, which is only accessible through filthy and unpaved alleys).
Presentation & Storytelling
Our presentation deck was crucial to communicate our finding to MapQuest. To do so, we used a diptic format to frame and compare our assumptions and findings. We then dove into our analysis and supporting stories to arrive at a flushed out insight. We completed each finding with a “How Might We” statement, which helps us to frame our synthesis and dive into brainstorming.
To finalize our findings, we began some high level concept work.
The application focused on the biggest problem at hand with accessibility — able bodied people not being aware of accessibility issues beyond ramps and bathrooms. It would prompt the user to document these issues in everyday location as a way to aggregate public information. These issues would relate to restaurant and other public space specifications, sidewalk damage, public service worker attitudes, etc. Capturing this information would use gamification in an effort to entice the user to continue their quest to make all spaces as accessible as possible.