personal assessments Sara might have
developed on each workaround, showing her distaste for very inconvenient
workarounds, such as getting a friend
to help. Often these unsatisfactory
workarounds were avoided, generally
indicating the task was also avoided.
When Sara was required to type in the
letters shown in a picture to gain access
to a Web site, her frustration with the
workarounds (call tech support or get
sighted help) led her to drop any Web
site that required such actions. Items
or actions that held little personal significance were easier to pass up if the
physical interaction was too time-consuming or made her uncomfortable.
Our focus on usability and socially
situated meaning generated several
insights based on Sara’s workarounds
into what motivates her use of an artifact. The following sections provide
a general classification of the issues
Sara faced when interacting with artifacts and technology. Specific, personal preferences included her motivation
to seamlessly engage with her environment, a world often contextualized for
sighted people. Facets of design included those areas of interaction that
caused her frustration, such as lack of
control, or that created or eliminated
barriers to content, such as tactile
Socialization within a predominant-
ly sighted community. Several of Sara’s
decisions reflect her desire to be included in her community of sighted
friends and family and to include others in her life as smoothly as possible.
Some choices she makes include using a tactile watch and prominently
displaying a bulletin board of print-labeled photographs on her wall.
Asked why she had these labeled photographs, she said it was as a conversation piece for when sighted friends
visit. She also said “I’m the only blind
person on campus and I don’t know,
I just try to integrate myself into the
world and in that sense, you know, as
much as possible.” It is important to
consider design ideas supporting cohesive socialization with the people
within Sara’s social sphere. Showing
off her BrailleNote, she said she prefers reading Braille, as opposed to listening to talking software, because it
She also said that carrying around
her awkwardly shaped labeler makes
her feel self-conscious and expressed
frustration when she is not acknowledged in casual social situations due
to her blindness. A concrete design
modification she suggested is to allow
a Braille labeler to make print labels.
A dual print labeler would allow her to
create labels so she could better share
mixed CDs she makes for friends.
Independence. Sara is independent
and tackles issues from multiple sides
until she reaches a solution. Object design should support her ability to be
independent and not require sighted
help. Sara’s independence was highlighted when she talked about taking
a cab when needed, rather than relying
on friends and relatives for transportation. She relishes the freedom her cellphone gives her, providing easy access
to others only if in need.
Control. For Sara to be able to maintain her independence, she must be
able to control significant factors that
ultimately help her accomplish her
tasks. Design should grant the user full
control of as many functions as possible and allow switching between interaction modes in different contexts. Evidence of Sara’s desire to be in control
came from her tendency to stick with
tasks and objects she finds comfortable, avoiding things she can’t do, such
as going to Web sites with special accessibility pages. In working with JAWS
software, she showed tenacity in trying
all possible options before asking for
Efficiency. Compensating for sight is
often time-consuming; for example, if
Sara does not remember where she has
placed a CD, she must carry out a linear
search—pulling out a single disc case
from its position on her CD shelf, reading the Braille label on the case, replacing the CD, and moving on to the next.
For enhanced usability, efficiency is an
important factor to consider in an object’s design. Sara’s accurate memory
and learned procedures help her use
certain items quickly. This efficiency
allows her to focus on the enjoyment
of certain items and tasks, such as using her CD player, rather than on the
mechanics of carrying out the tasks.
Conversely, inefficiency increased her
frustration and time to completion,
such as when she had to reorient herself while using JAWS.
Portability. Sara’s strong ties to her
cellphone can be attributed, in part,
to its small, easy-to-carry size. In contrast, she expressed annoyance toward
objects that were not as easily portable, such as her large and awkwardly
shaped Braille labeler. Object portability increases efficiency, supports
independence, and eases integration
within Sara’s social world.