Human-Computer Interaction: Accessibility – Improving Dining Out for Individuals Living with Severe Allergies

Food allergies affect more than 32 million Americans each year [1]. Reactions to food allergies can range in severity, and the number of individuals with a severe food allergy is on the rise [1]. For those who have severe reactions to allergen exposure, eating out is not just a social experience, it’s a serious medical risk. “Each year in the U.S., 200,000 people require emergency medical care for allergic reactions to food” [1]. Even with growing consideration in the food industry to consider dietary restrictions such as gluten-free and vegan options, there is still a significant hurdle for those with severe allergies to overcome when eating in an uncontrolled environment. Our project focuses on this community of individuals who suffer from severe food allergies and aims to find a solution that lowers the barrier preventing members of this group from feeling safe in daily interactions.

Inclusive Design

In a recent talk, Kat Holmes discusses how it is the responsibility of designers to minimize mismatches between a person’s body and the designed interface/technology [2]. The current restaurant search process creates a significant mismatch between the needs of individuals with allergies and the current available technologies. Our solution aims to use inclusive design principles; in particular, by collaborating at each iteration step with a co-designer who has a severe allergy to create a solution that addresses this mismatch.

Design Book