The U P A voice
Feb 2004 Contents

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Joint Association Event

Elizabeth Rosenzweig

Co-Director of Outreach, UPA

An exciting event took place on January 13, 2004 at the Wong Auditorium at the MIT Tang Center at the MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Despite subzero temperatures in the Boston area, over 100 people from local chapters of Usability Professional’s Association (UPA), ACM Special Interest Group for Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI) and the New England Chapter of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (NEC-HFES) put on a joint event to kick off a new community service project.

The meeting was fun and energizing. Together, the three groups formed a community, with new connections being made between members, as well as reunions of old friends. The collective community all practiced the same type of work, and is concerned with product development that creates usable products. The energy the group created was what the planners had hoped for, a renewed sense of community, of people with common beliefs and practices, and a warm place to connect and network.

There were two takeaways from the meeting. The first was that the three chapters wanted to raise public to the importance of human factors and usability engineering in developing products. That this important work should not continue to be secondary considerations in product development and in fact, all users should know that their products should be workable and usable for them. In fact, that people should expect products to work that way.

This was demonstrated by the first speaker, Beth Loring of the Design & Usability Testing Center at Bentley College who spoke about a video piece she worked on that aired on ABC 20/20 news magazine on the usability of assembling toys and furniture, for the recent holiday gift giving season. The piece demonstrated how difficult those tasks were, and that companies were in fact, not really concerned about that usability aspect of the products. The piece was a wonderful example of gaining a spotlight and publicity for the issues of human factors and usability.

The second takeaway from the meeting was the community service project, its ability to give the three chapters a project to work together for a common goal. We know that times are still hard, and that now, especially when times are hard, it is important for us to come together, to form communities to help each other and those that have needs that we can help meet

The second speaker, was Richard Pew of BBN Technologies, who spoke about a National Research Council Report that he was working on that explored issues of adaptive aging through technology and the potential of recent technological advances for improving the lives of the elderly.
The community service project was explained as bringing technology to seniors so they can use it as a way to connect and stay in their own community. This idea strikes close to home as many of us have parents or other elderly relatives whom we are working with now, to connect them with computers, email and the internet. Several people I spoke with at the told me stories of getting their parents a computer and how long it is taking to get them to use if comfortably. They were excited to connect with other people in their field who are dealing with the same issues.

This event was the beginning of a larger series of meetings and events that will culminate on May 1, with volunteers from the three organizations working together in teams with senior groups around the Boston area. The specifics of the project are being defined, and I look forward to continuing to connect to the new and energizing community.

  Usability Professionals' Association
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