A white person's hand using a Sharpie pen to mark a map

The Lexicon of Experience – representing marginalised voices for more inclusive design

The voices of marginalised people are seldom represented within technical applications. Mapping systems for planning the built environment aren’t always inclusive of their lived experiences. Bias is baked into how data is collected and structured. These are completely preventable design issues that negatively impact people in our communities.

To address these inequities, and the limitations of current data and mapping systems, Open Data Manchester has been developing a project – the Lexicon of Experience. Our three primary goals for this work are:

  1. To develop case studies highlighting the lived experiences of people in our Manchester community and how they navigate the spaces around them.
  2. To create a living language repository and inclusive, conceptual framework for communicating accessibility needs to build a bridge between those with needs and the people who create technical systems, specifically urban planners and those who work with mapping applications.
  3. To produce a working prototype of the language and framework applied to a specific mapping system designed to improve the experiences of those with accessibility needs as they navigate through their local environment.

The Lexicon of Experience will be based on the language used by people with lived experience, such as temporary or permanent disabilities, of navigating streets. Our lexicon is a first and invaluable step toward enabling adoption of more inclusive design into digital mapping systems.

We aim to deepen this work by testing how our methodology can accommodate a wider range of lived experiences, so that all communities can benefit from a more inclusive design framework.

How we’ll ensure greater equity in mapping systems

Our approach is to use the Lexicon of Experience to build a data structure that will enable aspects of identity and experience to be integrated or accommodated into existing route-finding applications and enable the development of new ones.

A Lexicon of Experience is a living digital document and as such, will never be ‘complete’ — experience and language are dynamic and always changing. However, the core data structure will be foundational and enable the following benefits for the public sector:

  • Fostering more inclusive design for the urban built environment
  • Positively impacting health, allowing for greater understanding of challenges faced by people who are currently excluded from our town centres
  • Supporting other practitioners who are working with exclusion issues

If you’d like to get involved or find out more, please get in touch. We look forward to sharing further updates as this work develops!