Putting Ourselves In Other Shoes. Literally.


As the video above shows, and as we have already seen, design thinking is all about empathy with our user. Sometimes is hard to put ourselves in the shoes of others, so sometimes you need to really, literally, put yourself in the shoes of your potential user. With a funny approach, this video shows exactly that. To solve a problem we first need to see the problem from their eyes.

During one of our classes recently we were given the task of empathising with a disabled student that would come to the university and had to leave class to use the bathroom. We worked in groups. One of the members would have to sit in a rolling chair and go to the nearest bathroom. The rest would take notes and see what we could change.

First, it was very difficult leaving the class, since the doors are very heavy to open and they close automatically so it was hard to keep it open for the chair to pass. When we did the experiment the halls were empty, but if it was like lunch time or morning it would be hard to move around people.

We finally found the bathroom but to get there we had to open another door. Which was also, surprisingly, quite heavy and would close automatically, making it quite hard to go through by yourself. The bathroom door was heavy but at least it kept open to go inside. Once inside the space was very limited and some of the handles were loose, creating a problem and even a dangerous situation. On the way out of the bathroom the chair kicked the trash bin, proving there was not enough space to move.

This was eye opening for all of us. We had a very long debate of how could we make some changes in order to accommodate everyone.

First, the doors need to have a way to open automatically. Some of them have but not all of them, so there needs to be a way to make it more practical or at least that they can stay open for the wheelchair to pass through. Or use sliding automatic doors.

Once inside the bathroom we came up with a couple of solutions. First, there needs to be more space to move around. Some wheelchairs are actually bigger, so it needs to accommodate everyone. We thought the handrails could be on both sides of the toilet and they could be movable for more convenience but without forgetting stability. We also thought that for some people it would be better to have some kind of rope system hanging from the ceiling so they could position themselves better.

We came up with different solutions and options for the disabled by empathising with them and putting ourselves in their shoes. The other groups focus on other problems, but overall we saw that there needs to be a more oriented mind when building something and making it an inclusive environment for all.

As for me, I would definitely keep empathy as a priority when creating any kind of business.