Low cost, high impact user research with people with disabilities


Presented at 11:15am in Plaza Court 1 on Thursday, November 18, 2021.



  • David Sloan, Principal Accessibility Engineer, Research and Strategy Lead, TPGi

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Effective user research with people with disabilities helps move digital resource design from a focus on technical compliance to ensuring the resource successfully addresses genuine needs of people with disabilities. Learn ways of reducing effort and cost of user research with people with disabilities, while still gathering high impact input that helps create more accessible and usable digital resources and products.


When accessibility strategy relies on a focus on compliance with technical accessibility guidelines, we risk creating a technically accessible solution that is of limited practical use to people with disabilities. That’s why it’s so valuable to involve people with disabilities throughout the process of defining, designing and developing digital resources and applications.

User research plays an important role in understanding current state, helping us to define the problems a digital resource should address, and come up with solutions. User research also helps us evaluate solutions through assessing how well a proposed design helps solve these problems. Involving people with disabilities in user research helps ensure that disability and accessibility considerations influence decision-making.

But traditional high-cost, complex research methods are difficult to apply in many situations. So, as we move to a more agile approach to digital resource design, and also deal with constraints on what we can do, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to become more creative in how we do user research. Constraints bring interesting opportunities to involve people with disabilities in lower-cost, high-impact user research activities.

In this session, we’ll:

  • look at ways in which we can effectively work with people with disabilities throughout the process of creating digital resources.
  • discuss how to adapt common user research activities to effectively involve people with disabilities, taking into account constraints on time, resources and finance.
  • explore how to apply these methods to gather reliable data, and use it to make informed decisions on what to create and how.

Attendees will learn flexible and effective methods for participant recruitment, activity design and data analysis. At the end of the session, attendees will identify effective ways to apply user research methods with people with disabilities, and enhance the inclusive design process.


  1. User research with people with disabilities helps make more inclusive digital products
  2. User research methods can be complex and costly to apply
  3. Adapting methods to deal with constraints can help ensure user research yields reliable, useful data

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Faculty Development & Support, Research, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

David Sloan

David Sloan is Research and Strategy Lead for TPGi. He’s spent over 20 years as an accessibility and inclusive design researcher, educator and consultant, helping people to create and provide great digital products and services that can be used by as many people as possible, regardless of disability. He joined TPGi in 2013, having previously worked at the University of Dundee’s School of Computing, one of the world’s largest academic research groups investigating disability, ageing, and inclusive technology design.