Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Case studies

The difference we make..

Usability: British Gas Hive Active Heating 2

As part of the product’s design process, British Gas worked with Rica to independently test Hive Active Heating 2 and its full range of new heating controls with older and disabled consumers. British Gas Hive Active 2 thermostat control

Rica undertook usability tests of the Hive 2 thermostat using our consumer research panel of older and disabled people testing Hive 2 for accessibility to identify points of pain and pleasure and provide qualitative and quantitative data to support our findings. We were pleased that the interactive heating control’s design now has many suggestions made by our consumer testing panel, including:

  • improved colour contrast on the display
  • tactile textured feedback
  • smoother operation of the selection dial

For more information: see latest news here.

Packaging: ease of openinghands opening a jar

Rica has been commissioned to test packaging with members of our Consumer Panel. Case studies include:

Mobility scooters tested for ease of use

Scooters are growing in popularity, and there’s a lot of variation in design, particularly around the controls.

It’s important that users are able to find a product they can use safely and comfortably.

Rica  carried out research looking at scooter safety and the ease-of-use of controls, including

Testers had a range of visual and dexterity impairments. Some were experienced scooter users, others novices. We tested large scooter models designed for the road as well as pavement and boot scooters.

Our research findings are published online as

Our research was  funded by the Motability Tenth Anniversary Trust.

Smart metering – how easy are in-home displays?

smart meter displaysAll homes in Great Britain will have a smart meter installed by 2019 and be given an in-home display (IHD) to show their energy consumption. Rica believes it’s crucial that these displays are easy forall consumers to use, including those that are older or have a disability.

Working with Consumer Focus (now Consumer Futures) Rica carried out extensive usability testing of prototype IHDs. We published 3 smart metering research reports.

Our work also led to a new requirement in the Government’s technical specification requiring new IHDs to: ‘…enable the information to be easily accessed and presented in a form that is clear and easy to understand including by consumers with impaired: Sight; Memory and learning ability; Perception and attention; or Dexterity.

The Government also specifically referenced the good practice guidelines on inclusive IHD design produced by Rica published by Consumer Focus.

Mystery shopping confirms Age UK Trading good sales practices

It's important to ensure that older people aren't pressurised into buying what they don’t want or need - particularly if you are a major charity like Age UK.

  • Working with Age UK Trading since 2007 Rica has been able to confirm that their stairlifts, mobility scooter, specialist beds and bathing aids trading partners are doing a good job and treating customers well.
  • Using our unique national mystery shopping panel Rica reported back on sales practices. We were also able to benchmark against competitors.
  • Rica’s research had included hundreds of home visit and telephone investigations. Our trained panel members reported on their experiences of contacting the companies, the sales visit, the information provided by the companies and any follow up.

RAC Foundation Seminar - Older drivers

Seminar photo4 million people over 70 years old have a current driving licence.

To help keep older drivers mobile and driving safely for longer Rica has been carrying out new research to understand the issues and identify some solutions.

Our research has included Focus groups with drivers from Rica’s Consumer Panels, as well as  with families. The findings were presented at a Research Seminar at the RAC Foundation in 2013 and in a new consumer guide  Driving safely for life. The project was supported by the RAC Foundation, Department for Transport and Rees Jeffreys road Fund.

'The RAC Foundation has been delighted to support the publication of 'Driving safely for life' which provides much needed consumer advice on driving in older age. Great Britain has an ageing population and it is vitally important that older drivers have easy access to information that provides hints, tips and advice about their current and future driving decisions. This RICA consumer guide is only one of a handful of national resources that provide information direct to older drivers and their families and we commend RICA for taking this important initiative.'
Elizabeth Box, Head of Research, RAC Foundation.

Sky wins design award

  • Rica’s usability testing services helped Sky to win the first AgeOK design award for its inclusive remote controls.
  • Members of our Consumer Panel tested the Sky remote and prototypes designs for the Sky+ Easy Grip Remote Control and reported back on what they liked and disliked.

Last updated: September 2015

See also: Our consumer research panelResearch reports