The inclusive employment technical unit at Humanity & Inclusion loves a good challenge. In 2017, when the Amplify program at IDEO.org challenged the world to create something new that accelerates disability inclusion globally, our team took this opportunity to daydream. What ideas could disrupt the cycle of exclusion within the current employment system?
Our winning idea grew from a simple issue identified: bridging the knowledge gap on reasonable accommodation in low- and middle-income countries. While there are some great resources in North America and Europe that guide employers on how to adapt their workplaces to be inclusive, there are no comprehensive resources tailored to the differing needs and livelihood contexts of economic development stakeholders, e.g. non-governmental organizations, employers and entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries. To put it another way, information on reasonable accommodation in an urban office in the U.S. or the United Kingdom wasn’t going to help people with disabilities working in rural agricultural fields in Kenya.
Therefore, HI decided to pool resources and try to make the first digital toolbox of reasonable accommodation solutions in low- and middle-income countries. We hope this idea will help non-experts realize that accommodation can be easy, and increase the ability of INGOs and employers to work with people with disabilities around the world. For example, in Afghanistan HI created low-cost prosthetic arms with farming tools attached. The toolbox will share this adaptation with other farmers, INGOs, and employers in developing countries so farmers with similar disabilities can obtain specialised prosthetics and continue to work.
HI is thrilled to work in partnership with IDEO.org under the DFID-funded Amplify Program on our journey to develop this product. Although HI is only mid-way through our Amplify journey, we can definitely identify some major learnings and mindset shifts that resulted from our journey into the human-centered design world.
Using human-centered design research methodologies—designing from the perspective of the people who will use this toolbox—has helped HI put people at the center of this project. Learning HCD methodologies has helped HI be more objective and empathetic in all of our participatory research. The methodology has reminded us that good research doesn’t need to be statistically representative, and that you can put people at the center of all project development. But perhaps the most important practice that HI has learned and adopted in our work as a result of this partnership is to test all assumptions as much as possible throughout the development and implementation of a project, and has given us the tools needed to do so.
Many thanks to Amplify for supporting our innovative idea!
Amplify is a series of innovation challenges bringing increased collaboration and a human-centered design approach to early stage solutions addressing some of the world’s toughest problems. Amplify is a joint initiative of OpenIDEO, IDEO.org and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). It is made possible through DFID funding.
Photo caption: Deymar, 21, who has a physical disability, participated in HI’s socioeconomic training in Bolivia, giving him the independence he needs to support himself.