When Sanjay Batra told me about his plans for this panel, I was thrilled to participate. User Experience pros from Google, IBM, Motorola, and my mélange of affiliations shared our experiences and ideas about accessibility and mobile technology. The dynamic interaction among the panelists and with the audience brought out lots of very interesting issues, challenges, and concerns.
Here are a few of the highlights.
One of the areas where the discussion focused was the diverse set of accessibility challenges that users may face and that need to be considered in the design of mobile technology. This can include sensory limits of vision and hearing, mobility limitations of the arms, legs, and body, speech limitations, emotional issues, cognitive conditions, and many more. It is impossible for designers to be conversant with all of these, so seeking out the help of experts is critical, especially for small businesses.
One interesting dichotomy that was discussed is that there are two somewhat different ways that mobile technology addresses accessibility. Existing services need to be designed so that users with accessibility concerns can use them effectively. This could include customizing screens to comply with web standards and to be compatible with screen readers. It could include incorporating an emotion in the cloud service that uses facial recognition to understand a user’s emotion and modify the interaction load when a user seems confused or frustrated.
The other side of this dichotomy is to create mobile technology that helps users overcome their accessibility issues elsewhere. For example, a mobile device can look for oncoming traffic to help a visually impaired user to cross a street. My favorite example of this was shared by Sanjay, who described the wireless meat thermometer he uses to make sure his meat has cooked to a safe temperature in his slow cooker. He has an app on his phone that will read out the temperature to him so he does not need to read the screen.
The conversation went on for the full 90-minutes and I cannot hope to do it justice here. If you missed the session, you will simply have to attend the conference next year when it will be in Washington DC.
I will post the link to the Proceedings paper when it is available on the HFES website. In the meanwhile feel free to contact me for more information. I am also sure that any of the speakers would be happy to respond as well.
If you were at the session, would you share what you considered a highlight of the discussion? We would all benefit from a refresher. And if you were not there, I strongly recommend reading the proceedings when it is available. It was a fascinating session.
Image Credit: Jil Wright