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Development and Evaluation of Two Prototypes for Providing Weather Map Data to Blind Users Through Sonification

Jonathan Lazar, Suranjan Chakraborty, Dustin Carroll, Robert Weir, Bryan Sizemore, and Haley Henderson

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 8, Issue 4, August 2013, pp. 93 - 110

Article Contents

Design of the Second Prototype

We used the feedback from the usability test to develop a second prototype. We made two important changes. First, touch-based navigation would form the core of the interaction. Second, we moved the platform for the application from a PC environment to a tablet device. While the first decision was directly predicated from the usability evaluation, the second one provided us with an advantage in terms of the environment. The tablet provided a multi-sensory interface giving feedback to all users in a consistent manner. Between the development of the first prototype and the second, multi-touch tablet computers became far more prevalent in the blindness community. By using a combination of touch input, text, tones, text-to-speech, graphics, and haptic feedback, we were potentially able to create an equivalent representation for the blind. At the time of writing this paper, we have finished the first phase of implementation and are preparing for the multi-touch tablet usability evaluation. Below we briefly describe the system design of the new prototype. A more detailed description of the design approach and the system architecture can be found in Carroll, Chakraborty, and Lazar (2013, July).

We designed the newer version of the iSonic weather map from scratch, using a layered architecture approach. The Android operating system represents the lowest layer. The basic navigation uses the base accessibility mode offered by the most recent Android OS. In this mode, blind users touch the screen and receive appropriate text-to-speech auditory feedback. The interface also enables a user to perform a select operation by double-tapping a choice. The UI for this application functions similarly. A user can drag his or her finger around the map to hear the state names when crossing the state boundaries. If a user double-taps on a location, the application zooms into the state to get a closer look at an area of interest. This allows a user the flexibility of getting information of both national and state level weather.

The only buttons that are standard across Android devices are the volume rockers and the volume up and down buttons. The application takes advantage of these common buttons by overloading their function. The volume rockers are now used to switch the map modes. The using of a physical key constrains a user from accidentally exiting the application.

Another aspect of the application is that it includes all states, not just Maryland. Figure 5 below provides an illustrative example of the new interface.

Figure 5

Figure 5. Prototype of the iSonic map interface


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