New program hopes to make technology-enabled services more inclusive and accessible

IncluCity Calgary attempting to diversify the underrepresented voices in the development of technology

By Krista Sylvester | April 22, 2022 |5:00 am

The IncluCity team from left to right: Luis Berumen, director; Uriel Karerwa, project coordinator; Stephen Yuen; secretary and treasurer; Sydney Harder, summer intern; Susannah Tawse, director; and Geoff Zakaib. president.

Photo: Submitted

Perhaps it’s facial recognition technology that doesn’t recognize darker skin tones or it’s digital apps that don’t work for people with vision impairment. 

These are examples of technology-enabled solutions, services, and processes that are too often created without the input from the diverse groups of people who use them. 

That’s why IncluCity Calgary is launching a new program to improve the usability of technology for anyone and everyone by listening to often under-represented Calgarians through usability testing. 

“We want to help to have the diverse and multicultural voices and perspectives that all Calgarians have to be represented in the development lifecycle of websites and applications,” IncluCity communications lead Stephen Yuen says. 

A team with a mission 

IncluCity is a team of technologists, designers, public employees, community organizers, entrepreneurs, policy analysts, and other engaged citizens. 

They’re on a mission to plan, design, and run testing sessions with an inclusive and representative group of Calgarians to improve the usability of services and solutions for teams in public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Yuen says an example of that would be that during COVID, more people turned to buying their groceries online but a lot of the tech infrastructure wasn’t created with elderly people or those with visual impairments in mind. 

“We’re just trying to bridge this gap,” he says. 

The seed that planted the ideas about inclusivity 

Yuen says they saw the need for this type of program and are running with it. 

“A lot of it is that we are just not seeing a lot of diverse local people test these applications and services,” Yuen explains. 

“Calgary is very multicultural, very diverse, and there’s a lot of different communities. It would make sense that these products are being tested on the community they’re looking to serve but also the communities that are being underrepresented.  

There are several ways the group hopes to do that, starting with building trusted relationships with testers and community organizations; improving the usability of solutions, services, and processes for clients; and recruiting a diverse and inclusive cross-section of Calgarians as testers. 

Inclusion and diversity 

IncluCity Calgary’s new project coordinator Uriel Karerwa will be managing usability tests, heading community outreach initiatives, and helping the organization grow its testing and volunteer groups. 

“I see the potential for IncluCity to be the driving force for inclusion in the Alberta tech ecosystem,” Karerwa says. 

“We need to consider inclusion, accessibility, and diversity more than ever, especially those with the ability to improve lives with novel technologies.”

Uriel has a background in neuroscience and has worked with several neurodiverse groups in Lethbridge while contributing to several volunteer initiatives in planning and promoting events.

“Inclusivity is a great driving force for all of these great values and we are now thinking about a society with inclusion, accessibility, diversity, and equity,” he says. “We are trying to be the glue between the general community and these technologists that are trying to make solutions. 

Positive feedback 

IncluCity Calgary worked with Calgary-founded technology company Buoyancy Works, a job-seeking service that applies behavioural science and technology, to build accessible career transition tools for those out of work and searching.

“The IncluCity team was consultative in their approach to designing the process and structured the project to meet our desired outcomes,” Jon MacConnell, founder of Buoyancy Works, says. 

And it’s this feedback that fuels the team behind this new program. 

“We want to help bring these voices to the table,” Yuen adds. 

 Click here if you want to test with IncluCity. 

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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