Scaling Up Mobile Accessibility Through Touchscreen Personalization

Scaling Up Mobile Accessibility Through Touchscreen Personalization

By the end of 2013, both Microsoft and Apple predict that touchscreen-based tablets will outsell PCs. With this transition comes the critical need to ensure that touchscreens are accessible for the broadest range of users. For people with motor impairments, however, many basic touchscreen interactions have proven difficult or in some cases impossible. This is a serious concern for the almost 20 million people in the US who have motor impairments that affect their upper body functioning (e.g., low strength, tremor, and rapid fatigue), a number that will only rise with the unprecedented increase in the senior population. This proposal articulates a research agenda to fundamentally advance our understanding of how motor ability impacts touchscreen interaction, and, in turn, how we can personalize these interactions to support each user’s abilities. While a substantial amount of effort has focused on personalization of content, fundamental interactions--the taps, swipes, and clicks that form the basis of all computer use--have received much less attention. The recent shift to touchscreens presents a tremendous opportunity for this type of personalization because the entire interactive surface is software-controlled. The PI has previously demonstrated the potential of adapting touchscreen input by building keyboards that model individual users’ typing patterns and accommodate input errors while walking. For users with motor impairments, the potential benefits are far greater: by accommodating each user’s abilities, personalized input can not only make interaction more efficient; it can enable access for those users who could not otherwise use touchscreens at all. The proposed research consists of two complementary threads. Through large-scale studies, the first thread will address a key limitation of past work: that the vast majority of accessibility studies have been small in scale, which makes it difficult to reliably assess patterns in individual differences across users or to derive general, data-driven approaches to personalizing an interface. The second thread will build on findings from the large-scale studies to derive effective approaches for personalizing touchscreen input.

Duration: 
February 2018 - January 2019
Funder: 
National Science Foundation
Total Award Amount: 
$549,715