Audio-only interfaces, facilitated through text-to-speech screen reading software, have been the primary mode of computer interaction for blind and low-vision computer users for more than four decades. During this time, the advances that have made visual interfaces faster and easier to use, from direct manipulation to skeuomorphic design, have not been paralleled in nonvisual computing environments. The screen reader–dependent community is left with no alternatives to engage with our rapidly advancing technological infrastructure. In this article, we describe our efforts to understand the problems that exist with audio-only interfaces. Based on observing screen reader use for 4 months at a computer training school for blind and low-vision adults, we identify three problem areas within audio-only interfaces: ephemerality, linear interaction, and unidirectional communication. We then evaluated a multimodal approach to computer interaction called the Tangible Desktop that addresses these problems by moving semantic information from the auditory to the tactile channel. Our evaluation demonstrated that among novice screen reader users, Tangible Desktop improved task completion times by an average of 6 minutes when compared to traditional audio-only computer systems.
Average task completion time comparison between the participant system and experimental system grouped by technology
Task completion time comparison between the participant system and experimental system for screen reader users. Study system is faster in all cases. Completion times are total elapsed time, so we have not included error bars.
The physical icons used in the Tangible Desktop. Each icon is a small cube that has an RFID tag embedded inside and a tactilely distinct rubber crown.
A picture of the Tangible Desktop in its standard arrangement. The Tangible Taskbar sits to the left of the laptop while a user engages with the thumb of the Tangible Scrollbar.
Examples of the different hand positions used by study participants.
Perry-Hill, J., Shi, P., Mankoff, J. & Ashbrook, D. Understanding Volunteer AT Fabricators: Opportunities and Challenges in DIY-AT for Others in e-NABLE. Accepted to CHI 2017
We present the results of a study of e-NABLE, a distributed, collaborative volunteer effort to design and fabricate upper-limb assistive technology devices for limb-different users. Informed by interviews with 14 stakeholders in e-NABLE, including volunteers and clinicians, we discuss differences and synergies among each group with respect to motivations, skills, and perceptions of risks inherent in the project. We found that both groups are motivated to be involved in e-NABLE by the ability to use their skills to help others, and that their skill sets are complementary, but that their different perceptions of risk may result in uneven outcomes or missed expectations for end users. We offer four opportunities for design and technology to enhance the stakeholders’ abilities to work together.
A variety of 3D-printed upper-limb assistive technology devices designed and produced by volunteers in the e-NABLE community. Photos were taken by the fourth author in the e-NABLE lab on RIT’s campus.
Anhong Guo, Jeeeun Kim, Xiang ‘Anthony’ Chen, Tom Yeh, Scott E. Hudson, Jennifer Mankoff, & Jeffrey P. Bigham, Facade: Auto-generating Tactile Interfaces to Appliances, In Proceedings of the 35th Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’17), Denver, CO (To appear)
Common appliances have shifted toward flat interface panels, making them inaccessible to blind people. Although blind people can label appliances with Braille stickers, doing so generally requires sighted assistance to identify the original functions and apply the labels. We introduce Facade – a crowdsourced fabrication pipeline to help blind people independently make physical interfaces accessible by adding a 3D printed augmentation of tactile buttons overlaying the original panel. Facade users capture a photo of the appliance with a readily available fiducial marker (a dollar bill) for recovering size information. This image is sent to multiple crowd workers, who work in parallel to quickly label and describe elements of the interface. Facade then generates a 3D model for a layer of tactile and pressable buttons that fits over the original controls. Finally, a home 3D printer or commercial service fabricates the layer, which is then aligned and attached to the interface by the blind person. We demonstrate the viability of Facade in a study with 11 blind participants.
Reprise: A Design Tool for Specifying, Generating, and Customizing 3D Printable Adaptations on Everyday Objects
Reprise is a tool for creating custom adaptive 3D printable designs for making it easier to manipulate everything from tools to zipper pulls. Reprise’s library is based on a survey of about 3,000 assistive technology and life hacks drawn from textbooks on the topic as well as Thingiverse. Using Reprise, it is possible to specify a type of action (such as grasp or pull), indicate the direction of action on a 3D model of the object being adapted, parameterize the action in a simple GUI, specify an attachment method, and produce a 3D model that is ready to print.
Xiang ‘Anthony’ Chen, Jeeeun Kim, Jennifer Mankoff, Tovi Grossman, Stelian Coros, Scott Hudson (2016). Reprise: A Design Tool for Specifying, Generating, and Customizing 3D Printable Adaptations on Everyday Objects. Proceedings of the 29th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST 2016) (pdf)
Hospitalized children on continuous oxygen monitors generate >40,000 data points per patient each day. These data do not show context or reveal trends over time, techniques proven to improve comprehension and use. Management of oxygen in hospitalized patients is suboptimal—premature infants spend >40% of each day outside of evidence-based oxygen saturation ranges and weaning oxygen is delayed in infants with bronchiolitis who are physiologically ready. Data visualizations may improve user knowledge of data trends and inform better decisions in managing supplemental oxygen delivery.
First, we studied the workflows and breakdowns for nurses and respiratory therapists (RTs) in the supplemental oxygen delivery of infants with respiratory disease. Secondly, using end-user design we developed a data display that informed decision-making in this context. Our ultimate goal is to improve the overall work process using a combination of visualization and machine learning.