Voice-Enabled Services

Impact: Designing for Underserved Groups#

Key Concepts: Empathy, Coordinated Entry, Meeting people where they are, Conversational User Interfaces, Government Technology, Agile Development

Tools: Voiceflow, Amazon Alexa, Facebook Messenger API, Figma, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Premiere, Zoom

Roles: Scrum Master, Client Manager, Design Researcher, User Experience Designer, Web Developer, Video Editor

Duration: 7 months

Team Members: Laura Beth Fulton, Tommy Byler, Simran Jobanputra, and Judy Chun

Getting public assistance can be prohibitively hard, especially for people affected by disability and discrimination. Existing advocacy groups have tried to overcome this by being clear and vocal communicators about how the programs can help, and by fighting the stigmas that can often come with the bureaucratic and discouraging application processes. However, the local and volunteer nature of many of these groups means that expertise and experience are not uniformly shared between advocates, which can make a standardized, informed response to questions a less certain proposition for many seeking help.

In collaboration with a Government Technology startup, our capstone team developed an ecosystem to help Pennsylvanians understand their eligibility for public assistance programs like SNAP (food stamps), LIHEAP, CHIP, WIC, and reduced-price school lunches. This ecosystem leveraged a variety of technologies that have seen widespread adoption in recent years, including smart speakers (like Amazon Alexa) and SMS-capable mobile phones. Supporting these multiple channels of interaction are two forks of a conversational user interface, designed to quickly an accurately ascertain if someone might be eligible for assistance, provide them with a dollar amount estimate, and encourage them to apply for the programs.

We found that our designs improved on several major flaws in the existing benefits screening and application process, encouraging more users to trust the process and make more informed decisions about their applications as a result.

Read about VESPA on Medium