– Connecting Disability with Employment Support

The 3 stages of Human-centred design: Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation and how they change (diverge/converge) over tine

The Brief

  • How might we reduce stigma towards and increase employment opportunities for people living with disabilities (PWDs) using Human-centred design (HCD)?
  • The course for human-centred design is an intensive, hands-on learning experience that will challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and into the real world to talk to people and test your ideas.
  • If you haven’t already you should download a copy of The Field Guide to HCD, now. It will equip you with everything you need to know about HCD to create an impact in the social sector.

Stage 1: Inspiration

  • Creating a research plan and discussion guide (questions)
  • Conducting interviews to learn from people- including subject experts, friends or professionals that work with the end-user (people living with disabilities)
  • Gaining a deep understanding of people using tools that keep people at the centre of research

In-context immersion location for research: local community resource centre

Real life inspiration – stories of people living with disabilities fighting against the stigma at work

Market research on existing solutions. Career Ear is a app for young people to ask questions related to employment and get informed advice.

‘Brain-dumping’ all the research findings (insights, quotes) on post-its

Stage 2: Ideation

  • Making sense of what we’ve learned from the research by synthesising findings into insight statements and ‘How might we?’ (HMW) questions,

e.g. Insight 1:

Collaborations between local/regional charities, organisations, communities and PWD have proven to be successful.

How might we encourage employers to create partnerships with local charities/orgs with the aim of giving PWD more access to work opportunities?

  • Turning learnings into an opportunities for design
  • Making a prototype to test with users
  • Demonstrate that the solution  you want to build is technically possible
  • Define how to know if the idea is working (KPIs and feedback)

Initial idea brainstorm for solutions – Quantity over quality

Sorting the gems from the ideas as a team

Group vote of ideas, ranked by innovation, excitement and practicality

Turning an Idea into a Chosen Solution:

Find a way to help PWDs get tailored job advice by connecting them with industry mentors and a support community online

We developed a persona for our end-user “Charlene”, a bubbly university student with Down syndrome who wants to become a lawyer and needs some advice on how to go about it.

Cartoon strip storyboard (part of a series) to set the scene of how the product will be used

Getting from A to B – Defining an early user flow and sketches for our solution ‘Hidden Stars’ (working title)


  • Finding the problems with the design and decide how you’ll solve them
  • Identifying the biggest risks for the beta stage, as early as possible

Prototyping involves mocking up a solution to see users react to it as an early concept. After the first round of testing with users, we analysed feedback, sorting them into either actionable changes or roadmap developments later down the line.  We prioritised the improvements to the second prototype, which was created in higher fidelity to test again.

Early hand drawn prototype

Early prototype – the dashboard ‘homepage’ shows the main functions of the app

New screens added to Sketch prototype based on user feedback – requesting ‘onboarding’ screens

An introductory video was a user requested feature added as part of the onboarding process in the iterated prototype

Stage 3: Implementation

  • Planning what’s next (ongoing)
  • Making the concept real
  • Assess if the solution is working (collect feedback and gather analytics)

Next Steps:

  • Do more research (back to inspiration phase) to consolidate insights more rigorously – is the existing idea still valid?
  • Get more user feedback and edit prototype (add correct copy, apply branding and design styling)
  • Develop beta prototypes with functionality to be able to handle real interaction at scale.
  • Create an action plan, including a pitch document and how to do a pilot

Early ideas of implementation planning (these need to be fleshed out)

Business model canvas – part of the launch action plan

Early ideas of possible partnerships

Lessons Learned

  • Implementation is the hardest stage of HCD. Although this was a crash course and the end goal wasn’t meant to be solution (the learning of the HCD processes was far more valuable), our idea was a long way from pilot.
  •  The idea we chose needed a lot more research to understand the user in depth and prove its need (especially on current PWD job searching habits), which we didn’t get to do unfortunately. We found it difficult to find PWDs and charities we could directly speak to. It might have been worth speaking to PWD influencers on social media who tend to be more proactive and outspoken.
  • Ideation was rushed, we should have taken more time on it before deciding an app was the best solution – a valid point that arose from user testing was that PWDs may need assistance from another person (a friend/family member) to use the app for them, rendering it less useful.
  • We needed to be more strategic and realistic in terms of what we could achieve, aka. few things do well. For example, pair up to do interviews and getting team members to commit to a minimum workload.