Designing for vulnerable groups: A tech for refugees case study

Christoph Hassler

When technologists create products for vulnerable groups, they have to take special precautions when it comes to their needs. But how do we define vulnerability and what should be our first steps? This is a primer on inclusive design and the responsible use of technology, illustrated with the case study of a refugee-help-oriented project.

The refugee camp Kakuma in Kenya houses around 200k people, most of them fleeing the tensions in South Sudan. Around 15k of them are unaccompanied minors. In 2016, a team of technologists tried to create a solution for this problem. This is a story about how inclusive design is paramount when designing for vulnerable groups, but also how this methodology can help everybody.

Creators of digital products need to be aware that whatever they are creating, there is always the risk of excluding and marginalizing people, either because they haven't been considered as users or unintentionally putting them into harm's way.

This talk aims to raise awareness about concepts of vulnerability, the philosophy of inclusive design, and how accessibility fits into all of this, so that more technologists start considering vulnerability as a priority when creating digital products.

The picture shows a light skinned black man, with close cropped hair and beard. He has broad shoulders and wears a white T-Shirt. He stands infront of a wall.
DEI Consultant and Inclusive Designer