Using Icons to Overcome Communication Barriers During Emergencies: a case study of the Show Me interactive tools
AbstractThis case study reviews the development of three icon-based tools designed to help workers and volunteers during an emergency communicate with people who have communication challenges, such as limited English proficiency, deafness or hearing impairments, and cognitive delays. Using the classic human figure icons designed by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) as a basis, we developed over 250 new icons for the tools, a dry erase booklet and two mobile applications for Apple and Android devices. We outline the challenges we faced researching, testing, and developing the icons. We also explore interactivity, animation, and the grouping of icons and suggest ways to push icon design in new directions. This project was a partnership between CommunicateHealth, a health communication company in Northampton, MA, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management.