Welcome to Mohammed Alshahrani who joins us to start his PhD on examining multimodal and crossmodal interaction to improve the accessibility and usability of mobile technology for the elderly population.
Accessibility and usability are major issues that could stand in the way of the elderly population benefiting from smartphone technology. Memory and cognitive decline in general, together with motor skill and vision problems may cause problems for older persons when using mobile phones. Ziefles and Bay assert that “since we live in societies characterised by a growing aging population, it is highly important to learn in detail the needs and the demands of the man-machine interface in older adults”.
Advances in multimodal interfaces and crossmodal perceptual research – which explore and exploit the full range of the human senses to facilitate and support interaction with and through digital technology – provide a potential for addressing accessibility and usability issues that are specific to the elderly population.
The aim of Mohammed’s PhD project is to combine participatory design techniques with technology development and controlled studies of multimodal and crossmodal interaction in order to examine issues of mobile phone accessibility and usability experienced by the elderly population.
Much work has been undertaken on hardware modifications – bigger screens or buttons, for example. The proposed research, will examine the potential of multimodal and crossmodal technology in overcoming accessibility and usability issues while ensuring that developed technology addresses actual end users needs by involving them in the design process. Whilst work has also been undertaken in this area, the pace of technology and the exponential growth of different and wide-ranging “apps” (some, such as the “Fade” fall detector, specifically designed for older or vulnerable users) suggest that there is still a huge need to revisit usability and to establish usability principles for mobile devices for this and other cohorts.