Masuma is in her late thirties and lives in east London. She works in the not-for-profit sector, and has a visual impairment, resulting in her needing to use screen reading software on her phone and computer.
She joined the RiDC Consumer Panel in 2020. Initially, she saw an ad for RiDC on social media but it was only after a friend also recommended the panel to her, that she sought out more information and signed herself up.
Masuma had been interested in product testing previously but found the company websites to sign up weren’t accessible with her screen reader and so prevented her from being able to take part. Unfortunate for them, she says, as they then miss out on the whole section of people to test their products that can’t get past the website.
“These companies running product testing and claiming to do all this good work but are actually missing out the ones who are probably going to give the best feedback. I always say that any product you design with disabled people in mind is going to work for the majority. If you do it the other way around its not going to work for the majority.’
One of the first projects Masuma took part in involved testing designs of different shampoo bottles, which she really enjoyed, and she has been involved with many other surveys and projects since then. She says:
“I like the idea of being able to make a difference. Having the voice heard of disabled users, as a consumer or customer, whatever shape or form. It’s something that I actually enjoy and find quite rewarding - knowing that I have an input. Telling an organisation how to be improved for example. It’s a positive experience - you get to offer the solution. If you encounter a problem, speak to the disabled person themselves, they will most likely have the solution to offer you. We’re not expecting the company to find the solution, we are here and able to provide it ourselves.”
“It's a really simple thing, just to ask. Even on trains or the tube. For example, if there’s more than one disabled person at the tube station that needs assistance, the staff can sometimes panic about what they’re going to do, and get themselves into a fluster. But if we just tell them what we need (and it’s usually quite simple) it can all go smoothly and it makes it easier for everyone. I want to say don’t be afraid to ask instead of going into a panic. I’ve had some amazing experiences on public transport and some really shocking ones too!”
Masuma really likes that with RiDC’s research projects, the results and outcomes are fed-back to panel members and you get to see the progression of each project.
“Sometimes you see a lot of research and it’s just filling in a survey. You know it’s not going to result in anything. I’m less likely to fill in that survey as I don’t know what’s coming out of it. Is it going to result in anything meaningful? In contrast I like the little reports that we receive afterwards from RiDC – it makes it real. I’m not a researcher but I enjoy looking at those stats and the snapshots we get.
“I get to see the whole journey, even if it’s not a project I have participated in personally. Accessible transport for example, which is a big topic at the moment. It started off with a survey, and now a whole centre for accessible transport has opened which RIDC is a part of. You can see the journey, the follow-through that’s taken place.”
“All the research projects are accessible also, and you can do them on the device you are most comfortable with, or even over the phone. And it can fit in around work or other commitments.”
“I would say to anyone reading this, thinking about becoming a panel member: take a look. You have nothing to lose. For me, it’s key that as panel members you’re never asked to share any personal information that you aren’t comfortable with, and never have to give your bank details out – it’s the other way around in fact! If you see an ad – look into it. It’s definitely a worthwhile thing to do and you can always walk away from it if it’s not for you.”