Aphasia is a common communication impairment that occurs in one-third of individuals after experiencing a stroke (Flowers et al., 2016). It affects an individual’s ability to understand and produce language in written and/or spoken forms, including people’s ability to read and write. Aphasia can be a chronic condition, with effects that can persist for years after the stroke has taken place. Because aphasia can be chronic, a person’s verbal communication and reading comprehension may not return to the level it was before a stroke occurred (Knollman-Porter et al., 2015).
Fortunately, language difficulties and everyday life for people with aphasia can improve with time, rehabilitation, and successful adaptation to their new way of living (Grohn et al., 2014). Many people with aphasia go on to live meaningful lives after their stroke by continuing to live in the community, engaging in social activities, and actively moving forward in their life while living with aphasia and navigating the complexities that go along with it (Grohn et al., 2014).
Despite one-third of the post-stroke population having aphasia, multiple reviews of post-stroke research (Brady et al., 2013; Wray et al., 2018) show that people with aphasia and others with similar communication impairments are being excluded from research. People with communication impairments make up around 60% of the stroke population (Mitchell et al., 2020). This population includes people with aphasia among others. Excluding these people means that research does not accurately reflect the stroke population. These exclusions can lead to generalisations in research findings, care, and rehabilitation for people with communication impairments resulting from having a stroke (Brady et al., 2013; Shepherd, 2020).
This research explored how information design and typographic approaches can help create accessible participant information sheets for people with aphasia to ensure they can be included in research that often excludes them due to perceptions of vulnerability, and being unable to provide informed consent.
Participant information sheets were prototyped using a human-centred design approach by adhering to the information design principles of accessibility and inclusiveness. The prototypes were presented to people with aphasia for feedback to ensure readability, comprehension, and design preferences were appropriate and accessible for them.
The outcome of the research was a refined set of prototype participant information sheets that ensure greater accessibility to research for people with aphasia.This research found that implementing information design and typographic principles to participant information sheets for people with aphasia can help facilitate their inclusion in research through readability. Alongside a set of participant information sheets, a guide for researchers on how to design participant information sheets was created to further aid in the facilitation of accessible information for people with aphasia.
Throughout the research, typographic explorations were produced to explore the concept of accessibility through a provocation zine centred around ethical considerations and by exploring accessible typefaces, their features and usefulness.
Read more about Geena's Masters project here: https://hdl.handle.net/10292/15449
Here's what Geena had to say about the Masters experience:
"Doing my Masters in the design for health space helped me understand how powerful of a communication design can in creating accessible information for particular audiences who may need it the most. It was a fantastic opportunity to engage in a project that had real-world impact on an important and vastly overlooked issue that would not typically be address through design thinking and solutions. Doing my master's and working on this project helped me think more critically about my work and has helped me defend and justify any design decisions with logical and proven evidence and reasoning that a research-based project provides. Doing my Masters has also given me the skills and confidence to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations and work with other like-minded people who want to initiate change from similar or different disciplines.
Working with the Good Health Design team on my masters project was a truly fantastic experience that enabled me to work on a real world project that has the potential enhance the health, wellbeing, and inclusion of people with aphasia in stroke research. Working with Ivana and Cassie from Good Health Design and Felicity from AUT's Centre for Person Centred Research was a dream and none of this would have been possible without them. Interacting with people with aphasia as a designer was a humbling and emotional experience and I hope to include the voices of the people I am designing for in all my future design endeavours. My Masters journey has taught me the value of human-centred design and how valuable this is to create design solutions that truly benefit the target audience.
After doing my Masters, I hope to get a job in the design for health field or pursue a graphic design role where design is used to create impact and improve upon society through accessibility of information and inclusiveness."