Tool to assess usability of smartphones

A black smartphone being held landscape with a blank white screenSmartphones could almost be considered “wearables” given that most people carry one at all times and refer to it often. Whether it is to socialise, get information, shop, or watch entertainment, they are a prominent part of many lives. Having easy to access content is now essential. It is therefore a growing area of universal design. Researchers in South Korea have tested and piloted a Checklist for Assessing Blind Users Usability of Educational Smartphone Applications.  Their paper is a chapter in a SpringerLink publication and requires institutional access for a free read, or it can be purchased. The abstract provides a good overview of the method and the results.

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to develop a checklist which specifically evaluates blind users’ usability of educational smartphone applications. To carry out this task, researchers developed checklist items based on the previous usability literature, evaluation tools, and research on e-learning and Web accessibility for users with/without blindness. As a result, a checklist with 29 items covering three levels of interface design (structure, behavior, presentation) was developed. In order to accomplish this, usability principles were first categorized into these three levels and then transformed to become relevant to the blind user. The initial version of the usability checklist items was reviewed and evaluated for their representativeness and comprehensibility by interface design experts and teachers of blind learners. Content validity index (CVI) and Cronbach αα values were calculated to check the validity and reliability of the tool. The revised second version was reviewed in the same way by a group of blind users, and CVI and Cronbach αα values were calculated as well. The final version was implemented by the blind user group for evaluating two learning applications. Reviewers’ comments were reflected in the second and final version as well. Evaluation results indicated low usability for both applications even when accessibility requirements were met.

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UD and the Internet of Things

Close up of Todd Stabelfeldt with yellow text over The QuadfatherThe development of digital technology has made made possible many things that were impossible. A cliché to some, but for many people with disability it has real meaning. What is a convenience for some becomes independence for others. The IBM blog features what looks like an extended advertisement for Apple iPhones, but a closer look at Innovating for people with disabilities: Why companies should invest in universal design, discusses how the Internet of Things has changed the world and is now designing for diversity. Tracey Lindeman says that embracing the principles of universal design makes financial sense in the log run as retrofitting can be costly. It may also uncover unintended client bases – a device for people with low vision can help a fire fighter in a smoke filled building. The article contains some nice videos explaining how technology has opened up life and created new opportunities to participate and to retain dignity and independence. Nicely written piece.

 

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Inclusive video gaming

A young woman avatar with yellow hair and a white dress with yellow flowers holds out her arm that is a black prosthesisA recent article in The Guardian explains how video game developers are designing avatar elements to be more representative of population diversity. There is a growing realisation that choice of skin tone, gender, ethnicity or physical ability for a character is important to players for the “looks like me” appeal. Games are a key element of childhood and teenage life, so it is important to have avatars that represent them. Xbox now have avatars that allow players to depict themselves as wheelchair users or having prosthetic limbs, as well as other atributes such as body shape and skin colour. The article includes a section on gender non-conforming players using gaming as a means for helping them with their coming out process. Games are also a way for children to share time with others when they might not be able to communicate verbally. The article nicely counters arguments about diversity being a fad or holding back creativity:

“When people dismiss representation as a political fad, as an imposition on the creative process, as a means of ticking off lists, they are almost always doing this from a position of privilege. The argument that it’s not the gender, ethnicity or physical abilities of a character that are important, but whether they’re written well and fun to play, is easier to make if you’re already being comfortably represented. It is easy to assume your experience is universal. But it isn’t.” 

A young male and young female are depicted as wheelchair usersA very readable article covering the diversity spectrum in gaming. Short explanatory videos are included.

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Inclusive Digital Access: An inclusive training method

A blackboard with the words, I want to learn more about information science and technologyWalking the walk and talking the talk in training sessions is an important factor in adult learning. So when running a course on digital access, the course designer and facilitator needs to think about both their learners as well as the learners of those taking the course. The way to do this was the subject of an interesting Masters study in Canada using ethnographic techniques. The conclusion lists some useful points that every course designer and trainer should think about regardless of the topic.

In her introduction, Keshia Goodwin makes some pertinent points, “The result of a design is dependent on the outlook of the designer, and the design process they use. In very general terms, standard designs follow the standard design iteration process: define the problem, collect information, brainstorm and analyse, develop, test, revise, repeat. The designer continues this process until the design performs as expected. There may, or there may not be feedback from the potential user of the design while the designer tests for solutions.”
“While developing my design I learned that not only did the learners need to be aware of what an end user may need; I, the instructor, needed to be conscious of, and accommodate learning barriers to my end users. I needed to be inclusive in my instructional approach, and, be accommodating to what my audience may need when I delivered training. The design, at that point, had come full circle, being inclusive and accessible to learners, and to the learner’s future audience”

The title of the study is, Inclusive Access: An Inclusive Design Approach to Digital Accessibility Skills Training

 

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Empathetic understanding using virtual reality

Against a dark starry background a young woman in a dark top looks upwards through transparent gogglesRemarkable website has posted an article titled, Building the Ultimate Learning Engine for Empathetic Understanding. It all sounds interesting especially as attitudes to people with disability and older people are ingrained and hard to shift. Perhaps this virtual reality tool will help. The website says, “Equal Reality’s interactive VR app teaches you to recognise unconscious bias by putting you in a scenario where you are on the receiving end unconscious bias. Immersed in the scenario, you’re required to signal when you think you’re receiving this bias. The whole experience is designed to trigger empathy, then reflect on your experience.”

There is a demo app available

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Advances in design for inclusion – book

Front cover of the book: yellow background with dark blue text.This book is practice-orientated and covers many fields of design.The overview of this publication states, “This book focuses on a range of topics in design, such as universal design, design for all, digital inclusion, universal usability, and accessibility of technologies independently of people’s age, economic situation, education, geographic location, culture and language. … Based on the AHFE 2016 International Conference on Design for Inclusion, held on July 27-31, 2016, in Walt Disney World®, Florida, USA, this book discusses new design technologies, highlighting various requirements of individuals within a community. Thanks to its multidisciplinary approach, the book represents a useful resource for readers with different kinds of backgrounds and provides them with a timely, practice-oriented guide to design for inclusion.” You can download the promotional flyer or go to the link allows you to download the Table of Contents.

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Designing for Diversity

Design UK Week's career and salary survey (2016) found that over half of the designers are men and nearly 90% are whiteInherent in their role, UX, or user experience designers are required to design the overall experience of a person using the product. But, how do we design for the full-spectrum of user experience, if the designers themselves do not present a variety of experience and perspectives?

Fabricio Teixeira and Caio Braga have created a series to consider the topic of Diversity and Design through the belief that diversity generates diversity. Touching on topics such as diversity in the design industry, inclusion, equality & equity and gender, this series explores design from within the industry in order to to explore the impact that designers have on people’s lives.

Go to the series, Design is diversity: it’s time to talk about our role as designers.

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Digital Inclusion: Lessons from Australia

shows corner of a laptop and a smartphone on a deskProfessor Gerard Goggin’s latest publication about internet accessibility covers some history of digital inclusion in Australia as well as related social policy. He and his co-authors discuss how the legal action taken against the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games set a new standard in providing information in accessible formats. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) cites this case as how not to do web accessibility in “A Cautionary Tale of Inaccessibility: Sydney Olympics Website” (W3C, 2009).

However, little progress has been made since the Olympic Games in 2000 as any reporting on web accessibility compliance within the Australian government appears absent. In the United States, legislation is pushing the boundaries, but no such legislation exists in Australia. The article, Internet accessibility and disability policy: lessons for digital inclusion and equality from Australia, also discusses the nexus with the National Broadband Network, the NDIS, and other aspects of social policy. The article concludes, “As the Australian case shows, all these broader social aspects are important coordinates, when it comes to internet policy for digital inclusion to people with disabilities”.

Professor Goggin was a Keynote speaker at the 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference in 2016. You can download an edited transcript.

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Now listen carefully

young girl in a classroom setting looking at an iPadListen closely. To some people, these are words are of little help. No matter how carefully they attend, some of the words go missing. The result is reduced listening comprehension. Hearing aids, FM hearing augmentation systems, and cochlear implants do not provide the speech clarity required to understand every word that is said. This is where captioning comes to the rescue. Research into captioning in learning situations is showing how much students of any age can benefit. This is regardless whether they have good hearing or not.

Anyone who has clicked a YouTube video for Google automated captioning knows it is useless, albeit sometimes funny. Automated captioning programs have improved a lot lately. For example, Interact-AS is designed for school children from about age 7 upwards. The teacher wears a microphone and the in less than two seconds words appear on the student’s computer or tablet. The before and after results show both children and teachers just how much comprehension is being is being lost. 

You can read more about this technology and the benefits to students who didn’t realise how much they were missing. Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are usually diagnosed before they reach the age of 7. Low levels of hearing loss is not always apparent in children who, for example, might have experienced many ear infections. As a consequence they would miss out on the benefits of this technology. Perhaps this further research will reveal the need for routine hearing tests for all school age children. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and how soon it will become mainstream for all students as an aid to staying focused and learning from both listening and reading. You can read more about the value of captioning in higher education settings for all students.

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Closed captions help all students

YouTube logo and Closed Captions logoWith tertiary education institutions turning to online learning and creating videos of lectures, the need to caption these videos could be more important for all students than first realised. The findings of this study show the need for more work in this area, but early results show that captioning benefits most students, with or without disability. This finding could transfer to the general community. 

“When queried whether captions were helpful, 99% of students reported they were helpful (5% slightly, 10% moderately, 35% very, 49% extremely). We were unable to determine differences among students with and without disabilities, as we did not track individual survey responses.” Interestingly, in this study 13% of respondents indicated having a disability, but only 6% were registered as such.

young female at a desk with laptop, coffee cup and notebookVarious reasons were given for the benefits of closed captioning – noise in their listening environment, unclear speech in the video, spelling of new or unfamiliar words, and being able to take notes just by stopping the video and not needing to rewind to listen again. Students with English as a second language also benefitted. Although these results show the need for more research, they found there was a 7% increase in student results compared to the previous year’s students who did not have captioning. The article also discusses the cost of captioning and other options, such as speech recognition. The title of the article is, Closed Captioning Matters: Examining the Value of Closed Captions for All Students, and is published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 2016.

Editor’s note: Anyone who has seen the results of “automatic” online Google captioning will know that the results are very haphazard. It is good to see how captioning is now being seen within the scope of universal design and could be more widely applied.

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