Analyzing the Accessibility of Technology

The Role of Sensory Changes in Everyday Technology use by People with Mild to Moderate Dementia

Research to date has focused primarily on the effects of cognitive changes due to dementia on technology use. Yet, there is clinical research and dementia activism that recognizes that people with dementia also experience unique sensory changes beyond what might be expected for normal aging. To understand how the sensory changes people with dementia experiences affect technology use, I reanalyzed 11 interviews with people with dementia from my previous work and conducted an additional 19 interviews with practitioners who work primarily with people with dementia. Through this analysis we uncovered three strategies participants utilized to accommodate changing sensory experiences in everyday life: 1) stimulating at a desired level, 2) adjusting technologies using built-in settings, and 3) switching devices [Dixon, 2020]. When these strategies were inadequate, this led to people with dementia ceasing to use certain devices. This work resulted in new directions for the design of technologies for people with dementia, including intentional sensory stimulation to facilitate comprehension, as well as opportunities to leverage advances in technology design for people with other disabilities for those living with dementia. This paper received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding iSchool Doctoral Paper and a Best Paper Nominee at ASSETS’20.

Understanding How Sensory Changes Experienced by Individuals with a Range of Age-Related Cognitive Changes can Effect Technology Use

I further delved into the sensory changes experienced by individuals across the spectrum of age-related cognitive changes by conducting additional interviews with individuals with subjective cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment. This extended version of our original paper, takes a step towards bridging the emerging clinical research concerning the different sensory changes people with age-related cognitive changes experience and the body of research aiming to design cognitively accessible technologies [Dixon, Anderson, and Lazar, 2022].

Auto-personalization for People Living with Dementia

We conducted a remote summative usability study (our methods are reported in [Wood et. al, 2021]) to evaluate the impact of surfacing embedded accessibility features such as color contrast, screen magnification, and read-aloud features. The usability study, involving 10 participants with dementia, included participants completing the same four tasks using both Morphic and the traditional Windows operating system. The results of the usability study indicate Morphic facilitated faster task time, greater task completion, and less help-seeking behavior than Windows’ built-in features. Further, participants noted the usefulness of accessibility features surfaced by Morphic which accommodated their sensory changes, such as having text read aloud, highlighting text to focus on a single line at a time and using existing Word Immersive Reading Tools. These findings contribute to the literature by demonstrating one way to support more widespread discovery and use of accessibility and ease of use features for users with dementia.

Barriers to Online Dementia Information and Mitigation

In this work, I investigate solutions individuals with dementia have already employed to inform the design of future technical approaches to address accessibility concerns. Through a constructivist grounded theory analysis of previously collected data from 16 contextual inquiry sessions with people with dementia, we uncovered four barriers to online health information and a variety of mitigation strategies participants’ employed for each. These findings and our discussion contribute to the literature by providing cognitive accessibility researchers with opportunities to design future technical interventions to make online health information more accessible and credible to neurodiverse populations. This work was published in the Proceedings of the 2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems [Dixon et al., 2022].

Supporting Purposeful Activities for People Living with Dementia

In my work as a UX Research Consultant for Eperture LLC, on Project RememberStuff, I conducted remote usability testing with 8 participants with dementia to understand the perceptions of people with dementia concerning the purposefulness of certain activities provided by RememberStuff, as well as the general usability of the system. We found that RememberStuff currently provides activities that people with MCI and Mild to Moderate Dementia found enjoyable and purposeful. Based on these findings, we recommended iterations to the design of system to make it more usable by people with dementia as well as future considerations for more enjoyable and purposeful activities.

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