AREA 23’s Franklin Williams joins MM+M to discuss health technology and inclusivity

In the latest from MM+M, Franklin Williams, Director of Experience Design at AREA 23, shares his perspective on the role health technologists play in the industry’s efforts towards inclusivity.  

“It’s about sharing the feelings of another person or group or community,” Franklin said. “Too many people want to start with the solution. But technology is just the secondary step, after empathy.” 

Franklin discussed how the team at AREA 23 put this into practice through the development of “Eyedar,” an app that allows blind people to visualize their surroundings. To establish the correct speed for the voice on the echolocation app, developers worked closely with Nick Gomberg, a UX expert born without eyes. Franklin said this was “an important way to open ourselves up to the realities of blind people's experience.”   

“Nick kept saying, ‘That’s too slow,’” Franklin said. “He told us, ‘You have to realize that the entire world comes in through my ears. I process information way faster than you do.’” 

Franklin noted it’s important that health technology provides benefits to not just one, but multiple community members, and that empathy and deeper listening is crucial. 

“Patient advocacy populations can tell if technology is for their community or if it’s from a company trying to make money — and the moment they sense that, they’ll shut you down,” Franklin said. “If they sense sincere efforts to make experiences more equitable, they’ll move heaven and earth to make sure that the community gets access to what you’ve got.”