DESIGNING AND IMPLEMENTING ACCESSIBLE WEARABLE INTERACTIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH MOTOR IMPAIRMENTS
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Emerging wearable technologies like fitness bands, smartwatches, and head-mounted displays (HMDs) are entering the mainstream market. Unlike smartphones and tablets, these wearables, worn on the body or clothing, are always available and have the potential to provide quick access to information . For instance, HMDs can provide relatively hands-free interaction compared to smartphones, and smartwatches and activity trackers can collect continuous health and fitness-related information of their wearer. However, there are over 20 million people in the U.S. with upper body motor impairments , who may not be able to gain from the potential benefits of these wearables. For example, the small interaction spaces of smartwatches may present accessibility challenges. Yet, few studies have explored the potential impacts or evaluated the accessibility of these wearables or investigated ways to design accessible wearable interactions for people with motor impairments.
To inform the design of future wearable technologies, my dissertation investigates three threads of research: (1) assessing the accessibility of wearable technologies like HMDs, smartwatches and fitness trackers; (2) understanding the potential impacts of sharing automatically tracked fitness-related information for people with mobility impairments; and (3) implementing and evaluating accessible interactions for HMDs and smartwatches.
As part of my first research thread, I conducted two formative studies investigating the accessibility of HMDs and fitness trackers and found that people with motor impairments experienced accessibility challenges like problematic form factors, irrelevant data tracking and difficulty with existing input. For my second research thread, I investigated the potential impacts of sharing automatically tracked data from fitness trackers with peers with similar impairments and therapists and presented design opportunities to build tools to support sharing. Towards my third research thread, I addressed the earlier issues identified with HMD accessibility by building custom wearable touchpads to control a commercial HMD. Next, I explored the touchscreen and non-touchscreen areas (bezel, wristband and user’s body) of smartwatches for accessible interaction. And, lastly, I built and compared bezel input with touchscreen input for accessible smartwatch interaction. The techniques implemented and evaluated in this dissertation will enable more equitable and independent use of wearable technologies for people with motor impairments.