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SXSW Interactive 2015

Emerging Tech Empowering Special Needs Users

Consumer products are designed with an assembly-line mentality, with one product for a broad audience. While the interfaces of some devices can be manually customized, for the most part most products and services are fixed. This approach has left behind those with special needs or disabilities that preclude them from using much of what we take for granted, such as completing simple tasks or even the use of touchscreens. Emerging technology and the evolving ability to personalize interfaces in real-time means that services should no longer be designed for just the masses.

Research, validation, and prototypes are critical to understanding users needs and whether a solution will actually work for them. Designers and technologists have been working in integrated teams to brainstorm ideas, prototype, and iterate, but for users with special needs, this process is even more critical as we explore the possibilities that emerging technologies and unique interaction models can open up.

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  1. How is designing for the special needs user different from regular user’s needs?
  2. Which research techniques should be applied in the initial phases of a project?
  3. How do you develop appropriate design principles for special needs users?
  4. Why is prototyping more important with special needs users?
  5. Where do we go from here? How do we continue to advance the special needs user?


  • Peter Burnham, Sr. Interaction Designer, Fjord
  • Dave Snowball, Design Lead, Fjord


Peter Burnham, Sr. Interaction Designer, Year

Meta Information:

  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Dual
  • Track: Diversity and Emerging Markets
  • Track 2
  • Level: Intermediate
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