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Usability Issues for People with Special Needs

Objective

The objective of this project is to increase awareness in the RACE community of the potential benefits that IBC services can provide through the integration of elderly and disabled people into society and hence the enhancement of their daily lives.
The project addressed the usability engineering issues for elderly and disabled persons through collection of a database consolidated information on user needs and techno-economic evaluations of relevant integrated broadband communications (IBC) capabilities.

An analysis of the attitudes of elderly and disabled people to telecommunications was conducted. A minitrial was done in which 15 mentally impaired persons participated. A further long term trial used 20 still picture telephones for mentally retarded adults and children staying at daycare centres. 2 books were produced these 2 books provided for the first time detailed demographic data:
a market sector analysis in terms of general European Community (EC) household spending by people on telecatics products;
the principal concerns of elderly people and the ways in which they occupy their time;
the characteristics of elderly and disabled people that are required by designers.

The TUDOR baseline reference databse (TBARD) was produced. This contains information relating to people with spcial needs in the areas of:
demography;
market sectors;
human factors;
organisations offering advice (216 records);
telematics hardware (237 records);
telematic software (148 records);
reference literature (1046 records).
The database allows designers to find out about the type and extent of disability relating to usage in their product area, the potential market this represents and the items currently available.

The results from the survey of attitudes of elderly and disabled people found that current interest in technology is a much better predictor of the perceived usefulness of future technology than demongraphic variables such as age, sex and so on. Little evidence was found of a positive relationship between age/disability and lack of interest in technology. Those people who are currently comfortable using technology tend to express enthusiasm for, and interest in, technologies of the future, particularly th ose which will make their lives easier and more pleasurable.

The result from the experiment with young mentally impaired adults shows that both patients and staff accepted very easily the use of the videophones. Only a few people showed any signs of tension or inhibition when using the videophone. For parents, the video phone allowed them to participate in their childrens' learning process, increasing understanding of their needs. For the professional, the videophone supports consultations with clients who live far away from the institution.

The results of the experiment using still picture videotelephony show that social contacts of the adult participants have been enlarged and their general use of telecommunication technology made easier. Communication impaired participants were able to use the telephone as a graphical communication aid and staff were able to give support information, at a distance, to some of their patients.
Technical Approach

The project addressed the usability engineering issues for elderly and disabled persons through collection of a database, consolidated information on user-needs, and techno-economic evaluations of relevant IBC capabilities. This provided a design check-list, indicating the potential uses of IBC for elderly and disabled people. The likely impact of regulations on IBC was also considered.

An analysis of the attitudes of elderly and disabled people to telecommunications was conducted. 6019 usable response sets were returned (45%). The usage of terminals by elderly users was reviewed together with the design of 'help' systems and documentation support intended for such people. An experiment on simultaneous extraction of text, voice and picture information by elderly people was run. Finally a study was designed to investigate the strategies which older people use in transferring between different software packages and styles of system interaction.

A mini-trial was done in which 15 mentally impaired persons participated. A further long-term trial, used 20 still picture telephones for mentally retarded adults and children staying at daycare centres.

Project members participate in COST 219; ETSI Technical Committee Human Factors, RACE Sub-Technical Group 5.2 and Group V Usability Engineering meetings.

Key Issues
For 60 million elderly people and approximately 40 million disabled citizens of the EC, the provision of new facilities and services via IBC offers either: potential benefits; or: further isolation. The key issue is appropriate usability design.

Achievements
. The production of two books: Age and Design by Collins and Rabbitt and Demography and Market Sectors Analysis of People with Special Needs in Thirteen European Countries by Sanhu and Wood. These two books provided for the first time detailed demographic data, a market sector analysis in terms of general EC household and spending by people on telematics products, the principal concerns of elderly people and the ways in which they occupy their time, and the characteristics of elderly and disabled people that are required by designers.
. The production fo the TUDOR baseline reference database (TBARD) which contain information relating to people with special needs in the areas of: demography, market sectors, human factors, organisations offering advice (216 records), telematic hardware (237 records), telematic software (148 records), and reference literature (1046 records). The database allows designers to find out about the type and extent of disability relating to usage in their product area, the potential market this represents and the items currently available.
. The results form the survey of attitudes of elderly and disabled people found that current interest in technology is a much better predictor of the perceived usefulness of future technology, than demographic variables such as age, sex and so on. Little evidence was found of a positive relationship between age / disability and lack of interest in technology. Those people who are currently comfortable using technology tend to express enthusiasm for, and interest in technologies of the future, particularly those which will make their lives easier and more pleasurable.
. An action plan for information dissemination with the proposed aim to raise awareness of the issues within RACE an to encourage RACE participants concerned with usage to consider elderly and disabled people as users and potential users of all 'ordinary' telecommunication services.
. A check-list for RACE designers and others as a quick reference guide to the needs of the disabled.
. The result from the experiment with young mentally impaired adults shows that both patients and staff accepted very easily the use of the videophones. Only a few people showed any signs of tension or inhibition when using the videophone. For parents, the videophone allowed them to participate in their childrens' learning process, increasing their understanding their needs. For the professional, the videophone supports consultations with clients who live far away from the institution. However it can prove more difficult to intervene when the client is distracted: it is not possible to establish physical contact with the client which may be very important in certain situations.
. The results of the experiment using still picture videotelephony show that social contacts of the adult participants have been enlarged, and their general use of telecommunication technology made easier. Communication impaired participants were able to use the telephone as a graphical communication aid and staff were able to give support information at a distance, to some of their patients.

Expected Impact
All project activities have raised awareness of the need to consider disabled and elderly persons within the telecommunications environment. Other impact includes:

. IBC services that help overcome the present communications handicap experienced by some users,
. a decrease in the number of people that could become relatively more handicapped in an IBC society,
. better designed systems and services for the population as a whole.
. better informed RACE designers re the needs of the elderly and disabled users,
. better coverage by the common functional specifications and ETSI standards of elderly and disabled users needs,
. destruction of the myths of poverty, techno-fear and smallness of this major group of people in the EC.

Coordinator

ALCATEL SEL AG
Address
Lorenzstrasse 10
70435 Stuttgart
Germany

Participants (5)

FMH - Universidade Tecnica de Lisboa
Portugal
PTT Netherlands Research
Netherlands
Swedish Telecom & Swedish Handicap Institute
Sweden
University of Manchester
United Kingdom
Address
Oxford Road
M13 9PL Manchester
University of Northumbria at Newcastle
United Kingdom
Address
Coach Lane Campus
NE7 7TW Newcastle Upon Tyne