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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

Abstract

While most aspects of web accessibility are technically easy to solve, providing accessible equivalents of data visualizations for blind users remains a challenging problem. Previous attempts at accessible equivalents focused on sonification of population data. This paper describes the creation of two prototypes for providing real-time weather information in a sonified format for blind users. A structured requirements gathering using interviews and surveys led to the development of the first sonification prototype using both keyboard and touchscreen (with a tactile overlay) access to weather data on a PC and Mac. This prototype was evaluated for usability by five blind users. Based on the feedback from the usability evaluation, a second prototype on a new platform (Android tablet computer) was created. We discuss the development and evaluation process for the sonification prototypes, with a detailed description of the usability evaluations performed in the field. The studies show that when working at the intersection of users with disabilities and new technologies, it’s important to be flexible and adjust quickly to get the most out of field studies.

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