People with disabilities face considerable challenges when using touchscreens. The authors of this paper investigate how well touchscreen devices work out of the box, evaluating the extent to which they affect interaction and how disabled users adapt to improve usability. They assembled a YouTube videos dataset for the investigation and analysis based on a search in two categories: medical conditions (60 keywords, such as brain injury, Parkinson’s, and so on) and technology terms (eight keywords, such as touchscreen, tablet, iPad, and so on). For their analysis, they separated the resulting dataset of 187 noncommercial videos into four groups based on video characteristics, device usage in the video, user characteristics, and type of user interaction. The results show that even though these touchscreen devices empower people with physical disabilities in some ways, accessibility challenges are far more significant.
This paper sheds light on some of the important characteristics of touchscreen use by motor-impaired users that could have profound effects on future human-computer interaction research. First, the authors categorize interaction styles: 91 percent of the videos show direct interactions using fingers, hands, or feet, while only eight percent show indirect interaction using an intermediary tool such as a mouthstick. The analysis reveals that people with motor impediments are not able to perform certain tasks required for touch-based apps. When they use hands, fists, knuckles, feet, and nose, they generally touch a broad surface area and may hold the touch for a long enough time that the app disregards the action. These findings can indeed become the basis for the development of new adaptation techniques for physically disabled users.
Second, the paper presents the characteristics of indirect interaction methods using tools such as headsticks, mouthsticks, styluses, arm and leg slings, and user posture. Although these tools serve as efficient intermediaries for interaction, people with severe physical disabilities still face several challenges in managing them. The survey conducted by the authors among the users who uploaded the study videos shows either extremely positive or extremely negative sentiment toward touchscreens. The positive sentiments are mostly driven by the affordability of touchscreen devices such as the iPad and the ability of some children with speech impediments to communicate using apps. Negative sentiments are driven by the difficulty of accessing and using some devices and apps. The survey also reveals problems with nonscreen hardware parts such as buttons, which are either too hard to push or too sensitive to inadvertent contact.
Finally, the authors present an extensive discussion of the improvements needed to adapt touchscreen devices for use by people with minor to severe physical disabilities. Suggestions include developing generic interaction models for the applications and tools targeted at people with various disabilities.
The authors also demonstrate the importance and efficiency of the dataset of YouTube videos and uploader surveys. They contend that their approach is effective for the analysis and characterization of human-computer interaction, especially when it comes to touchscreens and the accessibility issues of the physically disabled. The paper is well written, with extensive analysis. The authors have made an important and valuable contribution to the field of human-computer interaction.