ACCESSIBILITY IN CONTEXT: UNDERSTANDING THE TRULY MOBILE EXPERIENCE OF USERS WITH MOTOR IMPAIRMENTS
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Touchscreen smartphones are becoming broadly adopted by the US population. Ensuring that these devices are accessible for people with disabilities is critical for equal access. For people with motor impairments, the vast majority of studies on touchscreen mobile accessibility have taken place in the laboratory. These studies show that while touchscreen input offers advantages, such as requiring less strength than physical buttons, it also presents accessibility challenges, such as the difficulty of tapping on small targets or making multitouch gestures. However, because of the focus on controlled lab settings, past work does not provide an understanding of contextual factors that impact smartphone use in everyday life, and the activities these devices enable for people with motor impairments. To investigate these issues, this thesis research includes two studies, first, an in-person study with four participants with motor impairments that included diary entries and an observational session, and, secondarily, an online survey with nine respondents. Using case study analysis for the in-person participants, we found that mobile devices have the potential to help motor-impaired users reduce the physical effort required for everyday tasks (e.g., turning on a TV, checking transit accessibility in advance), that challenges in touchscreen input still exist, and that the impact of situational impairments to this population can be impeding. The online survey results confirm these findings, for example, highlighting the difficulty of text input, particularly when users are out and mobile rather than at home. Based on these findings, future research should focus on the enhancement of current touchscreen input, exploring the potential of wearable devices for mobile accessibility, and designing more applications and services to improve access to physical world.