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User participation when users have mental and cognitive disabilities

Stefan Johansson, Jan Gulliksen and Ann Lantz

The 17th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS 2015)
Lisbon, Portugal, October 26-28, 2015


Persons with cognitive or mental disabilities have difficulties participating in or are excluded from IT development and assessments exercises due to the problems finding good ways to efficiently collaborate on equal terms. In this paper we describe how we worked closely together with persons that have mental and cognitive disabilities in order to test and develop methods for participation in assessments and in processes for developing, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products and services. More than 100 persons with mental and cognitive disabilities participated in the study, people with diagnoses such as depression, anxiety disorder, bipolarity, and schizophrenia. To explore the conditions for a more equal and fair participation we have developed and elaborated a set of methods, tools and approaches. By combining scientific research methods with well-established methods for empowerment and participation we have developed methods that are cost effective and that easily can be incorporated in existing processes. We believe that our approach have taken steps to implement possibilities for persons with mental and cognitive disabilities to take part where user participation is needed in order not to discriminate or exclude but also to improve the overall quality of the end result. The results clearly show that it is possible to include persons with mental and cognitive disabilities. A mixed method – mixed tool approach can increase the possibility for participation. The results also show that the quality of the analysis phase increases if the collaborative approach is extended to also embrace the data analysis phase.

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