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Filed under: Development 2.0 Human rights Social inclusion Social innovation

So the challenge is set: to redesign the experience of the public transport system in Bratislava for people with limited mobility.

And the team: composed of people with disabilities, officials from Bratislava municipality’s transport department, students and lecturers of design and architecture from the Slovak Technical University and a few UNDP employees with an interest in shaking up public policy.

Get out of the office!

From the off, we are on the streets, trying to understand the experiences and emotional needs of users. Observe, engage and immerse yourself – easy to say, very uncomfortable to do at first.

Two men trying wheelchairs

We put ourselves in people with disabilities’ shoes and experienced their everyday challenges.

Then back to the office to capture and distill the insights gained, as well as brainstorm on potential solutions.

A mosaic of images showing people working on ideas written on sticky notes on a board

Can we think of 50 solutions in the next 20 minutes… go!

A prototype is worth a thousand conversations

Use your hands, build in low resolution, experiment with users. Most of these concepts are alien to the public sector, but they supercharge your learning and bring you closer to a well-fit solution.

That is why, having built the first iterations of our solutions, we immediately test them with some of the potential users. We receive their feedback, introduce changes and test again.

A mosaic of images showing people with limited mobility discussing with UNDP employees and Slovak partners

Testing the prototypes – passengers with disabilities and bus drivers

Fail early and fail often

Failure is inevitable, so do it when all you have spent is 14 hours of your time, a few sticky notes and a couple of pieces of paper…. This way, you are less invested in the product or service, so it is easier for you to accept even radical modifications and most importantly, you empower the user from the very beginning and throughout the design process.

Pieces of paper showing the drawings of the prototyped user interface for the mobile application project

The first prototype – fail, then scale

The results

The team designed and tested four prototypes:

  1. An app for enhanced communication between drivers and passengers with disabilities (before, during and after the bus journey)

  2. A redesign of the public space within the bus

  3. A “taxi-like” service for passengers with special needs

  4. A web-based route planner

The prototype app will be developed and tested again, and again, and again. After that, it is likely to be integrated into the transport system in Bratislava.

The new bus design will be prototyped and tested in higher resolution, then included in the next procurement round of buses.

And finally, the learning – over to the participants for this:

Andrea Madunova, Head of the Organisation of Muscular Dystrophy in the Slovak Republic:

“I really appreciated that the project included experts from various fields, each one with a unique view of the problem. Each shared their specific knowledge and experience, and we could feel that everybody is truly interested in the opinion of people with disabilities and their views are also accepted.

At the same time, it was essential that idea creators were personally willing to try out the situations and feelings the people with disabilities experience when travelling, in order to understand their needs better.”

  • Tanya

    Amazing read – thanks for sharing George. Amazing example of prototyping with the end user.