Braille 21 is an umbrella term for a series of research projects that aim to bring Braille to the 21st century. Our goal is to facilitate access to Braille in the new digital era.
In this project, we are creating the tools to characterize user performance in the wild and improve current everyday devices and interfaces.
This research leverages mobile and wearable technologies to improve classroom accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing college students.
Although text-entry is an inherently visually demanding task, we are creating novel non-visual input methods to multiple form-factors: from tablets to smartwatches.
As touchscreens have evolved to provide multitouch capabilities, we are exploring new multi-point feedback solutions.
In this research work, we are investigating novel interactive applications that leverage the use of concurrent speech to improve users' experiences.
This project investigates how accurate tracking systems and engaging activities can be leveraged to provide effective evaluation procedures in physical rehabilitation.
We aim to understand the overlap of problems faced by health and situational impaired users when using their mobile devices and design solutions for both user groups.
Our goal is to thoroughly study mobile touchscreen interfaces, their characteristics and parameterizations, thus providing the tools for informed interface design.
Braille input enables fast nonvisual entry speeds on mobile touchscreen devices. Yet, the lack of tactile cues commonly results in typing errors, which are hard to correct. We propose Hybrid-Brailler, an input solution that combines physical and gestural interaction to provide fast and accurate Braille input. We use the back of the device for physical chorded input while freeing the touchscreen for gestural interaction. Gestures are used in editing operations, such as caret movement, text selection, and clipboard control, enhancing the overall text entry experience. We conducted two user studies to assess both input and editing performance. Results show that Hybrid-Brailler supports fast entry rates as its virtual counterpart, while significantly increasing input accuracy. Regarding editing performance, when compared with the mainstream technique, Hybrid-Brailler shows performance benefits of 21% in speed and increased editing accuracy. We finish with lessons learned for designing future nonvisual input and editing techniques.
Deaf and hard of hearing students must constantly switch between several visual sources to gather all necessary information during a classroom lecture (e.g., instructor, slides, sign language interpreter or captioning). Using smart glasses, this research tested a potential means to reduce the effects of visual field switches, proposing that consolidating sources into a single display may improve lecture comprehension. Results showed no statistically significant comprehension improvements with the glasses, but interviews indicated that participants found it easier to follow the lecture with glasses and saw the potential for them in the classroom. Future work highlights priorities for smart glasses consideration and new research directions.
Over the last decade there have been numerous studies on touchscreen typing by blind people. However, there are no reports about blind users’ everyday typing performance and how it relates to laboratory settings. We conducted a longitudinal study involving five participants to investigate how blind users truly type on their smartphones. For twelve weeks, we collected field data, coupled with eight weekly laboratory sessions. This paper provides a thorough analysis of everyday typing data and its relationship with controlled laboratory assessments. We improve state-of-the-art techniques to obtain intent from field data, and provide insights on real-world performance. Our findings show that users improve over time, even though it is at a slow rate. Substitutions are the most common type of error and have a significant impact on entry rates in both field and laboratory settings. Results show that participants are 1.3-2 times faster when typing during everyday tasks. On the other hand, they are less accurate. We finished by deriving some implications that should inform the design of future virtual keyboard for non-visual input. Moreover, findings should be of interest to keyboard designers and researchers looking to conduct field studies to understand everyday input performance.
Blind people face many barriers using smartphones. Still, previous research has been mostly restricted to non-visual gestural interaction, paying little attention to the deeper daily challenges of blind users. To bridge this gap, we conducted a series of workshops with 42 blind participants, uncovering application challenges across all levels of expertise, most of which could only be surpassed through a support network. We propose Hint Me!, a human-powered service that allows blind users to get in-app assistance by posing questions or browsing previously answered questions on a shared knowledge-base. We evaluated the perceived usefulness and acceptance of this approach with six blind people. Participants valued the ability to learn independently and anticipated a series of usages: labeling, layout and feature descriptions, bug workarounds, and learning to accomplish tasks. Creating or browsing questions depends on aspects like privacy, knowledge of respondents and response time, revealing the benefits of a hybrid approach.
Following multimedia lectures in mainstream classrooms is challenging for deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students, even when provided with accessibility services. Due to multiple visual sources of information (e.g. teacher, slides, interpreter), these students struggle to divide their attention among several simultaneous sources, which may result in missing important parts of the lecture; as a result, access to information is limited in comparison to their hearing peers, having a negative effect in their academic achievements. In this paper we propose a novel approach to improve classroom accessibility, which focuses on improving the delivery of multimedia lectures. We introduce SlidePacer, a tool that promotes coordination between instructors and sign language interpreters, creating a single instructional unit and synchronizing verbal and visual information sources. We conducted a user study with 60 participants on the effects of SlidePacer in terms of learning performance and gaze behaviors. Results show that SlidePacer is effective in providing increased access to multimedia information; however, we did not find significant improvements in learning performance. We finish by discussing our results and limitations of our user study, and suggest future research avenues that build on these insights.