How do you find willing participants for a design workshop to develop a mobile application for people who stammer? You crash their national conference, of course.
While putting the user at the centre of the design process is a great way to ensure that the end product will actually be something which interests them, this becomes a whole lot more difficult when willing participants can’t be found. Undertaking design workshops with people who stammer can be tricky if people do not want to contribute.
The nature of stammering is such that many people do not wish to disclose or discuss their stammer. Stammering is characterised by dysfluencies in speech, alongside possible secondary behaviours such as facial grimacing and social avoidance. Our attempts to find participants within Newcastle yielded only a few names. However, when the British Stammering Association (BSA) heard of our search, they offered us the opportunity to attend their national conference being held in Manchester in early September.
The BSA is the national charity for people who stammer in the UK, advocating for and raising awareness of stammering. Every two years the BSA hold their national conference, bringing the stammering community together from across the country (and beyond). While research and therapy also features, the primary attendees of these events are people who stammer themselves, ready to socialise, share their experiences and learn from their peers.
And, with a conference full of people who stammer who are willing to engage in discussions related to their stammer, what better place to find participants for our design workshop?
Working the workshop
We piloted our workshop in Newcastle with two participants and received their feedback on the activities with the view to adapting them to suit a potentially larger group in Manchester. Then we took the show on the road and secured a room for the Friday evening of the conference. Despite being a late addition to the programme, our event was added to the official schedule, advertised as the first workshop of the conference, and we were given a whole lecture theatre to run it in. We had 15 participants across three tables who were asked to complete discussion-generating tasks, before coming together as a larger group to share ideas.
In attending the conference, we were able to reach people who are open to talking about their stammer and sharing their experiences. Conversation flowed at all of the group tables and loads of great ideas came out of the workshop. Now, their input can be used to develop a mobile application which will hopefully aid an even broader range of people who stammer.