Postcards from the Edges | Reason Digital

Postcards from the Edges | Reason Digital

Reason Digital

Our Work

Postcards from the Edges

An innovative web-based creation tool and showcase to enable people with a disability to express themselves through artwork, collages and photography.

www.postcardsfromtheedges.org.uk
A screenshot of our work on Postcards from the Edges

Postcards from the Edges

When United Response came to us with the Postcards from the Edges project, we were excited to get started.

They already had the idea – through artwork, poetry, stories, collages or messages, Postcards from the Edges would encourage people affected by disability to express what is important to them.

“If you are affected by disability, what do you want to tell the world?”

But United Response wanted a way to share these postcards online, let people create them online and upload what they had created offline. Almost a digital postbox, for the world to see.

The Postcards

We wanted to do this project justice and combine the best of design and usability to present these postcards. A number of inspiring postcards had already been created through offline workshops, under several key themes, so we started there.

The Challenges

Enabling people with wide range of mental and physical disabilities to create postcards online is tough to do. We had to ensure we made the site accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

Initially, United Response suggested painting tools as a way of creating the postcards. Our gut feeling was that it might be too complicated, both to build and to use. Many disabled people aren’t be able to use a mouse, for example. And this whole project was about inclusion, not exclusion.

Other options, such as clip art or pre-made text or phrases, would limit creativity and put words into people’s mouths.

And then we still had to fight the preconceptions of accessible websites.

So we stuck our thinking caps on…

Initial Concepts

If you get two accessibility experts in a room, you’ll have two differing opinions. So we needed to do some research to find the right way forward for us.

We started combining the web for research relating to web design and disability; the conclusions were all very different and quite contradictory.

A User Experience talk run by Chris Atherton, a Cognitive Science Expert on designing for children, had several points that were transferable to people with learning disabilities.

This research lead us to drastically reduce the types of controls in our prototypes and we eventually landed on a single clickable button for each customisation option.

The technology that made it happen

The image upload, for the postcards, is done dynamically, using AJAX. So, when you upload an image it dynamically uploads it to the server, and the users see their image in real-time while they edit it. Once submitted, the details that have been inputted are then converted into a script that dynamically creates an image file that can be used however the user wishes. Essentially, it took a simple form process and made it more elegant and more useable, while concealing it in an application.

“Seeing people being able to express themselves and being given a voice with something you’ve been a part of making was brilliant; witnessing daily struggles, fears, hopes and dreams being shared with the world was liberating to see, and also, in a lot of cases, illuminating.” Austin – Lead Developer

The Result

Since the site launched, the project has already attracted celebrity attention. Oscar-winner Emma Thompson, Olympian Sally Gunnell, and Paralympians Hannah Cockroft and Dame Sarah Storey are among those who have supported the project and created postcards.

The project was featured in The Guardian, both online and in print, and an exhibition toured the country culminating in a pop up event at the House of Commons. Both included many postcards created and submitted through the website.

“Postcards from the Edges really helped me. It gave me a voice. It’s good to have a voice. I’ve done 19 cards.”

– A website user

Our work, with United Response, enabled people to be heard.

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