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Investigation of Accessibility Issues for Visually Impaired People When Using Washing Machines

  • Joong Hee Lee
  • NaKyoung You
  • JiHwan Lee
  • Kyoung-Jun Lee
  • Myung Hwan Yun
  • JeongSu Han
  • Young-Ju Jeong
  • HoJin Lee
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 824)

Abstract

In the era of numerous consumer products with advanced technologies, there are unexpectedly large number of population being discriminated – although unintentional – from benefits of such products, namely people with disabilities. To prevent such discrimination, many countries and organization have published design guidelines for manufactures to accommodate such population by their products. Despite of such effort, such documents focus on people with physical accessibility issues like people on wheelchair, but not on people with informational accessibility issues like people with visual impairments. In this study, 12 visually impaired people were recruited for survey and interview to investigate their frustration and needs on using consumer products in terms of accessibility. This study specified the consumer product as washing machine, since it is reported as one of the most difficult consumer products to use for visually impaired people by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in Korea. Moreover, their frustration and needs were structuralized by applying task analysis technique to specify them. This study is expected to contribute to manufacturers to comprehend the accessibility issues of visually impaired people when using washing machine and may also propose that the task analysis technique, especially therbligs, may be utilized as an accessibility evaluation tool.

Keywords

Accessibility Visual impairment Washing machine 

1 Background and Objectives

Out of various consumer products, home appliances fulfill the core needs of human lives. However, unsuspectedly large number of population is alienated in easy use of such products; People with older ages or disabilities find such core products difficult to use. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability, of whom nearly 200 million experience considerable difficulties in functioning [1]. In the United States, approximately 18.7% of Americans are with a disability and 12.6% are with severe disabilities [2]. To assure the equal use of products regardless of age or disabilities, universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design [3]. The Center of Universal Design in NC State University provides the principles of universal design like equitable use [4]. Publication of the Americans with Disabilities Act (here-after, ADA) by U.S. government was published to grant such principles of Universal Design [5].

The U.S. Department of Justice published the 2010 ADA standards for accessible design to provide standardized guideline for designing environment and products more accessible [6]. In terms of design focus, it rather provides guidelines for environmental designs than for product designs – especially for wheel-chair mobility. Product-wise, it also focuses on wheel-chaired people such as individuals with spinal cord injuries and yet the specifications it provides are meager to directly apply for product designs. Hence, the most of ADA standard provides design guidelines for physical accessibility only and is not applicable to design an accessible product for people with information accessibility such as visually impaired people. For example, in case of washing machine, ADA provides maximum height for operable parts to be below 48 “maximum low forward reach for 15” – especially for front-loading wash-ing machines. Most of ADA compliant manufacturers like GE follows these guides but yet, guidelines relevant to information accessibility for visually impaired people can be found nowhere in the document.

Moreover, in 2014, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in Korea reported that people with visual impairment and lower limb impairment commonly struggle when using washing machines [7]. This report also represents the needs of informational accessibility in consumer products along with physical accessibility, thus it is required to provide more specified guidelines for both physical and information accessibilities to successfully achieve universal design.

Thereby, this study conducted interviews and task analysis to investigate what kind of accessibility-related issues the visually impaired people usually face when using consumer products like washing machine and specify their frustration and needs, so that consumer electronics manufacturers may take such issues in their consideration when designing their products.

2 Methods

2.1 User Observation and Interview

In this study, total of 12 visually impaired people were interviewed and observed in order to specify their needs and frustrations when using washing machines. 6 of participants were blind while the other 6 were low-visioned. Three of them had innate visual impairment while the rest of 9 acquired the impairment.

After the survey on demographics and general usage behaviors, 2 h of inter-view session including observation was conducted. The interview asked their barriers in first learning, frustrations, own solution to the frustrations when using washing machines, and their thoughts on well-designed accessible devices to benchmark. During the interview session, all participants were to try out three different types of washing machines: top-loading, front-loading, and hybrid (both top-loading and front loading). Their usage behaviors on three washing machines were observed and recorded under their agreement. The behaviors were the basis of structuralizing the hierarchy of task analysis.

2.2 Task Analysis

Based on the investigated user behaviors via interview, hierarchical task analysis was conducted with therbligs notation in order to specify difficult tasks for visually impaired people in micro scale. In accordance to the interview results in timely manner, total of 6 contexts were configured: pre-usage, detergent input, control, monitoring during operation, post-usage, and maintenance. The task analysis is conducted in order to visualize the troublesome tasks; it is not for time studies.

Since the principles of task analysis is to investigate micro tasks which hinders the usage and to enhance or to remove the task, each therblig notation and their corresponding tasks in washing machine usage defined is given in Table 1.
Table 1.

Therblig notations and corresponding washing machine usage tasks

Therbligs

Washing machine usage task example

Therblig effectiveness

Informational or Physical

Search

Perceiving (searching for) actionables

Ineffective

Informational

Find

Recognizing and distinguishing perceived actionables

Ineffective

Informational

Select

Choosing actionable desired to control/maneuver

Ineffective

Informational

Inspect

Inspecting the present status or receiving feedbacks on performed action

Ineffective

Informational

Plan

Planning next step task (especially in error resolution)

Ineffective

Informational

Pre-position

Leaving door opened (to load laundries or detergent)

Effective

Physical

Position

Positioning fingers on actionables desired to control, positioning detergent at correct input openings

Ineffective

Informational

Grasp

Grasping handles of door, detergents, or laundries

Effective

Physical

Hold

Holding detergents while pouring into detergent input openings

Ineffective

Physical

Transport Loaded

Approaching to washing machine with laundry basket, pulling doors, etc. (any tasks involving a movement of arm with loaded hand)

Effective

Physical

Release Load

Unloading laundries

Effective

Physical

Transport Empty

Reaching out to actionables (any reaching task with empty hand to operate)

Effective

Physical

Assemble

Re-assembling disassembled seperables (e.g. filters)

Effective

Physical

Disassemble

Disassembling/detaching seperables (e.g. filters)

Effective

Physical

Use

Operating controls on control panels

Effective

Physical

Rest

Resting (however, not utilized in this study)

Ineffective

Avoidable Delay

Struggling to search, find, select, or inspect actionables (however, not utilized in this study)

Ineffective

Unavoidable Delay

Washing machine operating duration (however, not utilized in this study)

Ineffective

3 Results

3.1 Task Analysis

Task Structure.

The observed and interviewed usage behaviors of visually impaired people were structuralized by hierarchical task analysis in basis of 6 context-of-use: pre-usage, detergent input, control, monitoring during operation, post-usage, and maintenance. The context of detergent input may be combined with pre-usage context, however, the interacting product parts (hereafter actionables) are different in both contexts thus separated. The hierarchy trees of tasks with corresponding therblig notations for each context are given in Fig. 1. Difficult tasks for visually impaired people investigated by both interview and observation were remarked in red square.
Fig. 1a.

Task structure of ‘pre-usage’ context

Fig. 1b.

Task structure of ‘detergent input’ context

Fig. 1c.

Task structure of ‘control’ context

Fig. 1d.

Task structure of ‘monitoring during operation’ context

Fig. 1e.

Task structure of ‘post-usage’ context

Fig. 1f.

Task structure of ‘maintenance’ context

Tasks Causing Accessibility Issues.

The task analysis provides what the visually impaired people can perform and not, and the result is given in Table 2. As shown in Table 2, all of the problematic tasks were informational tasks and ineffective therbligs.
Table 2.

Easy tasks and difficult tasks for visually impaired people

Difficulty

Therbligs

Washing machine usage task

Therblig effectiveness

Informational or Physical

Easy

Transport Empty

Reaching

Effective

Physical

Transport Load

Transporting Laundries, Door opening

Effective

Physical

Release Load

Unloading Laundries

Effective

Physical

Grasp

Grabbing handle, detergent, laundries

Effective

Physical

Hold

Holding detergent

Ineffective

Physical

Preposition

Keeping door opened

Effective

Physical

Assemble

Assembling filter

Effective

Physical

Disassemble

Disassembling filter

Effective

Physical

Use

Activating controls

Effective

Physical

Search

Finding actionables (door)

Ineffective

Informational

Difficult

Search

Finding actionables (controls)

Ineffective

Informational

Find

Recognizing/distinguishing perceived actionables

Ineffective

Informational

Inspect

Status quo acquisition

Ineffective

Informational

Select

Choosing desired control

Ineffective

Informational

Position

Placing finger on desired control

Ineffective

Informational

Plan

Planning next step tasks (error resolution)

Ineffective

Informational

4 Discussion and Conclusion

This study conducted survey, interview, and task analysis to investigate the frustration and needs of visually impaired people when using washing machines. As a result of task analysis, the problematic tasks – in other words, tasks causing accessibility issues – were summarized in Table 2. In the table, it re-ensures that the visually impaired people faces problems when a product lacks informational accessibility. One interesting finding was that the search therblig – which is informational task - was both easy and difficult. Searching for actionables like doors was considered easy while searching for actionables like controls was difficult. This was due to the provision of adequate cue to find actionables; doors have tactile cues of different shapes while controls did not have any cues because they were touch controls.

Another interesting finding was about the find therblig. In the find therblig – recognizing perceived actionables, the lack of cue induced accessibility issue in the same manner with search therblig. In modern therbligs studies, they tend to emerge find therblig under search therblig because the find therblig occurs at the end of search therblig. However, such assumption can be applied only to visually abled people because visually impaired people needs additional cue to recognize the perceived actionable after the search therblig, thus the find therblig must be considered individually apart from the search therblig when evaluating accessibility of a product by therbligs. Such findings also correspond to the accessibility test procedure provided in IEC 63008 – Household and similar electrical appliances – accessibility of control elements, doors, lids, drawers, and handles [8]. The document categorizes the interaction of disabled users when using households and appliances in five actions: perceive, recognize, reach, operate, and monitor. The search therblig corresponds to the action of perceive, while the find therlig does to the action of recognize. Therefore, find therblig must remain individual for accessibility evaluation.

Overall, this study applied therbligs technique to investigate the problematic tasks of visually impaired people when using a consumer product – specifically, a washing machine as it is considered the most difficult consumer product for visually impaired people to operate. The advantage of therbligs allows manufacturers and researchers to clarify what problematic tasks cause accessibility issues in microscale so that they can strategize their improvement toward a specific task enhancement. At the same time, the therbligs technique also categorizes all therbligs whether they are effective or ineffective, and provides recommendable enhancement solution for each tasks; effective therbligs cannot be removed and should be enhanced if problematic, while ineffective shall be removed or enhanced. This will allow designers to specify their idea for accessible solutions, thus this study propose the technique of therbligs as one of the accessibility evaluation tool.

References

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    WHO (2011) The world report on disability. World Health Organization, Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joong Hee Lee
    • 1
  • NaKyoung You
    • 1
  • JiHwan Lee
    • 1
  • Kyoung-Jun Lee
    • 1
  • Myung Hwan Yun
    • 1
  • JeongSu Han
    • 2
  • Young-Ju Jeong
    • 2
  • HoJin Lee
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Industrial EngineeringSeoul National UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Samsung Electronics, Digital Appliance BusinessSuwonRepublic of Korea

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