Traveling with Food Allergies: A Participatory Design Project
Design and research project for accessibility & inclusive design course
Skills: teamwork, qualitative research, participatory design, prototyping, testing, presentation, report writing
How might we co-design an interactive product that promotes a more inclusive world for people with food allergies?
Engage a participant co-design in order to promote inclusive design
Create and interactive prototype
Key Tasks for the solution to address
Medium fidelity prototype
Solution & Process
The Solution - AVERT
An app with community support for finding a safe place to eat, paired w/allergen tester
My Role - User Research
Planned & facilitated co-design sessions
Analyzed qualitative data & prioritized findings
Drafted problem statement to align team
Identified design requirements & key tasks for solution to address
3 HCDE Master's students
A participant with severe food allergies
Research & Problem Definition Through Co-design
Semi Structured Interview
Participant uses workarounds to accommodate allergies
Knowledge & cultural awareness is a barrier when traveling abroad with food allergies
Participant doesn't like drawing too much attention to allergy needs when eating with others
After the interview, we scoped the problem space to eating out at restaurants while traveling internationally, because:
It is an interesting problem
The solution might be useful in many different contexts
Pink stickies =
concerns & barriers along the way
We used the results to align on a problem statement.
Journey Mapping Co-design Activity
We worked with our participant to map the journey of ordering food in an international setting and flagged potential pain points.
Journey purpose & goal
Blue stickies = steps taken on the journey to the goal
We believe some people with food allergies are frustrated by international travel because potential communication barriers might lead to eating dangerous foods.
Our team used findings from the co-design session to create design requirements and key tasks for our solution to address.
The solution must...
Translate between many languages
Communicate allergies to restaurant staff
Convey the severity of allergies
Ensure the meal is safe to eat
Task 1: Find a restaurant to eat at by viewing the menu ahead of time
Task 2: Communicate food allergies to non-English speaking staff and order a modified food item
Task 3: Confirm that the meal is safe
We brainstormed many solution ideas including AR glasses, an interactive keychain, and an allergen tester
Two of our ideas best served our design requirements & key tasks:
A robot with an allergen detection feature
A phone app
check-list of requirements
We storyboarded the Robot and App ideas by task type individually on sticky notes. Then we came together to combine our ideas.
Iteration Through Co-design
We presented our ideas to our participant and asked them to provide feedback by adding in sticky notes to the story boards.
Restaurant context is important: Our participant removed the step-by-step guided ordering feature. They felt the server may be too busy to engage with the app for a long period of time.
Value in allergen detector: Our participant loved the allergen detector aspect of our robot idea. They suggested making something that could detect allergens both on and offline.
Additional Design Requirements
Must allow for flexible communication between the user and the restaurant staff
Must work on a mobile phone, as our participant always has a phone while on the go
Essential aspects must be able to function off-line in case of limited wifi access
Updated Solution - AVERT an app for researching restaurants and communicating with staff, paired with an allergen detector that can be used without wifi.
We created a low-fi prototype in powerpoint, and 3-D printed the pop-socket allergen tester.
The app assists users with finding a restaurant, menu translation and ordering.
The pop-socket phone attachment acts as an allergen tester and informs the user if the meal is safe for them to eat (technology still in development).
Customize account to list food allergens by severity
View uploaded menus and crowd sourced reviews of restaurants to help find a restaurant that will accommodate specific allergies. The app's camera translate feature can be used to instantly translate menus to help determine if a restaurant is a good fit.
Test food with the pop socket phone attachment and view the results on the app.
Customize account to list food allergens by severity
We showed our participant the final prototype and got this feedback to consider:
Allow the user to customize the severity rating language - not all allergies are the same!
Encourage restaurant Collaboration - restaurant owners can provide accurate menu details & tips
Participatory Design Learnings
Break down power dynamics: There was a noticeable power dynamic in our co-design sessions. In the future, I will take care to dedicate time to ice breaker activities
Balance participant burden with method execution: We did this by having quick check-ins with our participant throughout the process participant's time
Overall, it was exciting to see how empowering inclusive design can be.
Our participant noted that the prototype “would provide such security … I could relax and eat. [Now] whenever I go out, I can’t relax.”