Inclusive Restaurants

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Creating a Memory-Friendly Restaurant Through Sensory Experience Design 

Outline

My Role

Principal Design Researcher

As part of master's degree at OCAD University I worked as a Design Researcher with a memory clinic called Kawartha Centre. The focus of the project was on experience design to improve the dining experience for individuals with mild dementia and their loved ones. The scope of the project was on the sensory design elements within a restaurant setting.

Timeline

May 2017- June 2018

Advisors

Dr. Jenifer Ingram, Dr. Gayle Nicoll, Job Rutgers

Responsibilities

I ran interviews and diary studies with diverse stakeholders. I planned, recruited, moderated, analyzed, and developed guidelines and tools. I found partners and raised funds for the research.

Problem

The majority of individuals living with mild to moderate stages of dementia live independently in their communities. They are still active, but often do not engage in activities they used to. They are challenged by lack of support to take part in activities they used to do such as dining out. Some key issues in a restaurant setting include lack of appropriate social connection, a difficult-to-navigate environment, the lack of staff training, a visually complex table setting, noisy background, poor signage and difficult to read menus. In addition, individuals with dementia are not aware of places they can go to eat which are dementia-friendly.

Approach | Methods

To allow for contribution of diverse stakeholders in the design process I used design thinking approach and followed its main stages, including discovery (empathize and define), ideation, prototyping, testing, and implementation.

Discovery

Secondary Research  

Review of existing and emerging guidelines and practices

Diary and Ethnographic Study

7 pairs of individuals with memory impairment and a family/friend

Ideation

Interview

3 pairs of individuals with memory impairment and a family/friend,

1 geriatrician, 1 interior designer, 1 restaurant manager

Evidence-Based Design 

3 pairs of individuals with memory impairment and a family/friend

1 geriatrician, 1 interior designer, 1 restaurant manager

Experimentation

Usability Testing

3 pairs of individuals with memory impairment and a family/friend

1 geriatrician, 1 interior designer, 1 restaurant manager

Evidence-Based Design 

3 pairs of individuals with memory impairment and a family/friend

1 geriatrician, 1 interior designer, 1 restaurant manager

 

Discovery

empathize and define

In this phase with people with memory impairment and their families as experts of their own experiences as well as experts of the geriatric field, we framed the problem and defined needs, barriers, and goals. I consulted professionals, including geriatricians and geriatric researchers to better understand the context and to design the research process. The information experts provided informed the  design process and diary questionnaire. Through diary study people with memory impairment and their family defined needs, barriers, and goals in real-life restaurant experience. The diary was designed in a way that participants fill out their questionnaires while they were dining at a restaurant. 

Framing Problem

Although individuals with dementia are still active there is not enough support for them to engage in activities they used to. Poor engagement in social activities can increase their social isolation. The figure below is a causal loops diagram (reinforcing feedback loop) that illustrates this vicious cycle.

  • Individuals with Dementia can lose touch with friends and loved-ones.

  • When individuals with memory impairment do not participate in the community, it results in a lack of awareness of the community about individuals with memory impairment. 

  • It also furthers the lack of awareness about the design of services and activities with awareness of individuals with memory impairment in mind. 

  • It also decreases the diversity of the community.

Problem Area-Vicious Cycle 
Problem Area.png

Diary & Ethnographic Study

Emerged Themes

To explore the dining experience in its natural context (a restaurant) the diary method was chosen.\

This stage of the study asked individuals with mild dementia and their dining companions to complete their questionnaires while they were dining at the restaurant. 

Participants were asked to go to a restaurant with their dining companion who would assist with the following:

  1. The diary questionnaire, to be filled out at the restaurant;

  2. The researcher observed the participants experience in the restaurant. At the end of the restaurant experience, the researcher had a short informal chat (10-15 minutes) with participants to see if they had any insights or feedback about their experience.

 

  • Note: Participants’ meals were covered by a grant from the Geriatric Health Inc.

Diary guide questions were designed to cover various touchpoints and interactions that one might have during the restaurant journey with design elements as well as the wait staff.

The diary did not include paying the bill step because the research funding covered that and there was an arrangement for the payments by the researcher.

Restaurant Journey Steps 

Open coding and thematic analysis of Diary data revealed five main themes including:

  • Welcoming and Friendly

  • Familiarity

  • Simplicity 

  • Inclusivity & Flexibility

  • Comfort & Safety

Touchpoints.png

Interview Finding

Two different groups of stakeholders were engaged in interview sessions.

 

  1. Individuals with mild dementia and their family as experts in their own dining experience (in pairs)

  2. Experts of the field including a geriatrician, an interior designer, and a restaurant manager (individually)

Main Points of Convergence

Theme -1 Social Support & Connection

Theme -2 Create Zones to allow for Privacy & Acoustic Control in the Environment

Theme -3 Clear and Intuitive Space Elements & Features

Areas of Focus
  1. Important factors in a restaurant;

  2. Memory-related concerns in a restaurant;  

  3. The impact of the sensory design elements as well as the wait staff on their dining experience;

  4. Feedback on the initial prototype for a memory-friendly restaurant based on principles gathered from the literature review;

 

Diary study and interview results informed the main design principles and the next iteration of the guideline. 

Graphic Designed by: Rezvan Boostani | Icons from: thenounproject.com

Key design elements as well as social support in the environment that can impact independence and quality of experience for individuals with dementia
Design Guidelines Initial Prototype

Ideation

In ideation I used the original data produced by participants from diary as well as the gathered data from the literature scan of dementia-friendly design to develop the first prototype  of restaurant design guidelines. Five main themes that emerged from diary and interviews thematic analysis informed the first prototype of design guidelines. Five main principles emerged from the research:

  • Welcoming and friendly

  • Simplicity

  • Familiarity

  • Inclusivity and flexibility

  • Comfort and safety

 

The very first prototype was designed very simple. Each principle was on a single page with two to three strategies, example of strategies and a visual icon for each strategy. Two Figures below illustrates the layout and wireframe of the initial ideation of the design guidelines. 

Graphic Designed by: Rezvan Boostani | Icons from: thenounproject.com

Experimentation  

Prototyping (Usability Testing)

I shared the early prototype in sessions with people with memory impairment and their family (in pairs), as well as experts of the field (individually) to gather feedback. After each session the guidelines were refined based on the participant’s feedbacks. First prototype was used in the first interviews with individuals with mild dementia and their family to receive their feedback and they. In interview with experts, the emphasis was on defining current practices, strategies and solutions to address the defined needs, barriers and goals.

Feedbacks & Application

Participants found the initial prototype very vague and generic and they provided detailed information. Gathered data informed next prototypes. These two images presents the iterative design cycle of guidelines prototype which was parallel with interviews. In this phase I added an introduction to the design guidelines prototype and each design principle was presented on a spread sheet. In response to the gathered feedback and data the guideline prototype was refined to include principle definition, key strategies, example for each strategy and tips for the offered strategies

Guidelines Second Prototype 

Graphic Designed by: Rezvan Boostani | Icons from: thenounproject.com

Implementation

The feedback from all the participants revealed that the refined guidelines prototype as the outcome of the research project it is not clear enough to stand alone. Additionally, strategies and tips lack details and explanation. Also, some mentioned there needs to be more clarity about why these strategies are offered.  I refined the prototype based on the feedbacks from all the participants and advisors of the project. I added the final touches to the guideline prototype. I expanded the introduction of the guideline to include:

  • memory-related context,

  • application of memory-friendly design strategies,

  • Key design elements,

  • how to use the guideline, and 

  • future steps. 

Design Guidelines Final Prototype 
Memory-Friendly Restaurant- Rezvan Boost
Memory-Friendly Restaurant- Rezvan Boost
Memory-Friendly Restaurant- Rezvan Boost
Memory-Friendly Restaurant- Rezvan Boost

Designed by: Rezvan Boostani | Icons from: thenounproject.com

In this phase each guideline where presented in four pages to include:

  • memory-related context,

  • principle and strategies definitions,

  • action plans for each strategy,

  • Icon-based design elements, 

  • photo examples, 

  • signs on photos, 

  • description of photo examples.

Memory-related context is used as rational to offered strategies to provide deeper understanding as to why each strategy is offered. Action plans are relevant to sensory design elements as well as social connection in the restaurant environment. Icons that are common and widely understood are used in addition to words for design elements as well as social connection. Photo examples are used to provide vivid examples in the restaurant environment for the proposed action plans. each photo has either a red cross mark or green check mark that indicates to avoid or to use respectively.

The final prototype of the guidelines is the product of multiple iterations of accumulated knowledge, participants input, and review. This set of design guidelines is based on evidence-based practices and best practices in dementia-friendly design. Additionally, it is validated by different groups of stakeholders including individuals with memory impairment and their families as experts on their own experiences. Other experts in this field, including a geriatrician, an interior designer and a restaurateur were all consulted. Design guidelines which include the memory related context provides deeper understanding for individuals who are interested in attracting individuals with memory impairment to their establishment.

This guideline document is at an entry level to open discussion in this area; therefore, further research and refinement of the guidelines is anticipated.

This guideline is shared as a resource on BIG IDeA website available here:

https://bigidea.one/goods-and-services/

Publications

Introduction of the project is available on Restaurants Canada website:

https://blog.restaurantscanada.org/index.php/2018/07/05/creating-inclusive-restaurants-sensory-experience-design/

 

Full report of the project and guidelines are available at: http://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/2301/1/Boostani_Rezvan_2018_MDes_INCD_MRP.pdf 

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