Accessibility Strategies for Smart Devices

Challenges

As digital technologies become ubiquitous in almost all aspects of daily life, individuals with unique needs and limitations stemming from age, culture, ability, and socio-economic status often encounter barriers to usability and understanding of services and products. Accessibility and Inclusivity have therefore become important terms for manufacturers, developers, and designers who want their products to have depth, impact, and appeal for the widest audience possible. Changes in regulation such as the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, also offer clear motivations for ensuring a robust accessibility framework is in place to direct the design process. Our client, a global consumer electronics company, has made accessibility a priority across their entire product ecosystem and asked MEME help them understand the landscape of accessibility and technology in the US and to develop inclusive design strategies for three key products-smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

Our Work

Human-centered research was a critical part of this project. We interviewed individuals with a wide spectrum of functional limitation, from blind and low-vision individuals, to deaf individuals and those with limited-hearing, to individuals with limits on their motor functions, to seniors who experience a range of issues, and finally to those individuals experiencing cognitive limitations that impact their technology use. We focused on understanding barriers to technology use, emergent and innovative behaviors, and opportunity areas for inclusive solutions that could address a spectrum of user needs. Building upon insights gained from users, we spoke to a number of leading experts (academics, designers, researchers) to learn about current strategies being developed to manage diverse user needs within mainstream platforms, as well as to determine the impact new and future regulations will have on accessibility standards in the digital realm. Building on this body of research, our strategy and design team formulated a set of platform-level UX guidelines focusing in particular on overarching solutions for personalization and customization. We also developed a series of device-specific UI solutions focusing on themes of flexible mobility, smarter unboxing, multi-screen ecosystems, and easier multi-modal switching.