Research and Interventions on Design for Accessibility

Project Brief

More than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability, of whom nearly 200 million experience considerable difficulties in functioning. This was an year long research project that was carried out at Embedded Interaction Lab, IIT Guwahati in collaboration with Samsung R&D Bangalore with the aim to design solutions to enhance smartphone usage amongst motor, speech, hearing, geriatric as well as conditions of limited accessibility for normal human beings.

The comprehensive research was done which involved comparative evaluation of over 200 native and third part mobile applications. This was followed by user study which included semi-structured interviews with four experts from Swabalambi, a cross-disability organization located around 35 kms from Guwahati. and four focus group studies were conducted among participants with different kinds and degrees of disabilities.

In the next phase, multiple concepts(over 30) were generated and three of then were taken ahead for prototyping and evaluation. Formative evaluation was conducted in a lab based setting, and think-aloud protocol along with eye-tracking and semi structured interviews was conducted to validate the design.

Glance at Initial Research

The project kicked off by mainly by understanding the research domain and related research work that have been done in this area. This involved analysing the key statistics of disability around the world and reading through research papers and patents. Over 200 native and third party apps were analyzed to understand the current state of art.

Key findings from initial literature research about each of the disabilities e.i Motor, Speech and Hearing
Current accessibility features available in various smartphones mapped to native applications

User Research at Swabalambi

Expert Interviews

Semi-structured interviews were followed as a method for expert interviews. Four experts from Swabalambi were interviewed. Swabalambi is a cross-disability organization located around 35 kms from Guwahati. The experts included trainers, field officers and a caretaker. The interviews were conducted with the objective to understand general problems faced by users and with respect to their mobile phone usage. Duration of each interview was 15–20 minutes. Videos were recorded for further analysis

Expert Interviews being conducted by one of the team mates in local language, Assamese with the instructors at Swabalambi

Focus Groups

Four focus group studies were conducted among participants with different kinds and degrees of disabili- ties. These included the following focus groups:

Motor Impaired Users
Participants: 7 (4 males and 3 females)
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Different disabilities: No Fingers/fused fingers, cerebral palsy, numbness, deformation or shaking in one of the hands, loco-motor disability- one leg is absent

Hearing and Speech Impaired Users
Participants: 7 (4 males and 3 females)
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Different disabilities: Hearing and speech impairment, non-severe speech disability, complete hearing loss and epilepsy.

Geriatric Users
Participants: 7 (4 males and 3 females)
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Different disabilities: Continuous body pain, forgetfulfness, less cognitive Ability, shaking in hands, numbness

Task Analysis

After the focus group was completed, same group of participants were engaged in various tasks that were designed such as to understand the usage pattern of various native applications of a smartphone under various circumstances. Tasks for each of the group was designed differently.

Participants performing various tasks on smartphone.

An Interesting Case of Single Hand Usage of Smartphones

One of the major problems with motor disabled users and normal people in situation of limited accessibility wherein the mobile needs to be operated with single hand is that it is very difficult to perform activity such as using a camera. During the study we came across various situations wherein users faced difficulty in reaching out to the top buttons of the interface on large phones while single handedly operating the phone.

Designing for Samsung Ecosystem

The project collaboration intended to focus on solution that were designed keeping in mind the current Samsung device ecosystem broady involving the smartphone an smartwatch.

Enhancing movie video watching experience for hearing impaired

One of the solutions that we designed for hearing impaired users to improve their experience was to create more accessible captions with the use of colors. Here is a demonstrative video for the same.