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Usability Evaluation of Email Applications by Blind Users

Brian Wentz and Jonathan Lazar

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 6, Issue 2, February 2011, pp. 75 - 89

Article Contents


The following sections discuss demographics, overall trends, desktop (stand-alone) email applications, and web-based email applications.


The participants in our study ranged in age from 22 to 60, with the mean age being 37.6, and most of the participants were female (13 out of 15). Fourteen out of 15 participants were college graduates or had completed some college. The average number of years that participants reported using email was 10.7, and the amount of time spent using email weekly was an average of 21.1 hours. Because the unemployment of blind individuals in the United States is between 70-75%, this data is probably not representative of the larger population of blind individuals, but because all the recruited participants were required to have used email for work purposes, this study is probably somewhat representative of blind users who are or were employed. Because the average blind individual might have less experience with email applications than the participants in this study, it is likely that they might have far more difficulty with email applications than the study participants did.

Some of the participants had previous experience with one or more of the email applications that they tested. To account for previous application experience, we calculated the impact previous experience had upon the average completion rate and time spent on successful tasks and included it in Table 2. The exception to this was for Mozilla Thunderbird/Sunbird and Outlook Web Access 2007 Light (because no users had previous experience with those applications). For the most of applications, task completion rate and task completion time both improved when a user had previous experience with an application.

Table 2. Previous Experience and Mean Completion Rate/Time for Successful Tasks

Table 2

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