Design Guidelines for Web Interfaces of Home Automation Systems Accessible via Screen Reader

  • Marina Buzzi IIT–CNR, Pisa, Italy
  • Barbara Leporini ISTI–CNR, Pisa, Italy
  • Clara Meattini ISTI–CNR, Pisa, Italy
Keywords: Smart homes, home automation, accessible interfaces, blind users

Abstract

Home Automation Systems (HAS) – also referred to as smart homes – exploit multiple components such as sensors, RFID readers, wireless devices, and remote control systems to enable easy interaction with smart appliances and devices, and to automate performing sequences of tasks to make human-device interaction simpler and life more comfortable. For people with vision impairment, especially those who are unable to see at all, smart homes can be a powerful tool for enhancing personal autonomy, provided that the system offers suitable device integration and accessible interfaces with a simple interaction via keyboard, assistive technology and other modalities such as voice and gestures.

This paper investigates the accessibility of web interfaces when interacting with HAS components via screen reader assistive technology, in order to propose potential suggestions to developers. Web interfaces are particularly considered in this study in order to support screen reader users who are not yet skilled in using touch-screen devices. Specifically, based on collected accessibility and usability issues, as well as users’ expectations and preferences, a Web-based prototype has been designed and optimized especially for interaction via screen reader. After describing an evaluation conducted with a small group of skilled screen reader users, several guidelines are suggested for designers of HAS interfaces.

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Author Biographies

Marina Buzzi, IIT–CNR, Pisa, Italy

Marina Buzzi, technologist at the Italian National Research Council (CNR), leads the Web Accessibility and Usability group @ the Institute for Informatics and Telematics (IIT-CNR). She received her M.Sc. degree in Computer Science from the University of Pisa in 1991. Expert in networking design, Internet Services Management, and Web applications, in 2004 she shifted her research focus to accessible and participative design techniques to create usable applications for users with special needs. Since 2010 she has investigated how to exploit IoT and RFID systems to improve people’s lives. She has coordinated technological and research projects, designing accessible games, training and rehabilitation systems for people with cognitive impairment and web apps for teaching children with autism. She is coauthor of more than one hundred papers.

Barbara Leporini, ISTI–CNR, Pisa, Italy

Barbara Leporini earned her PhD in Computer Science at University of Pisa in 2003 with a dissertation on accessibility and usability subject related to websites. She is now a researcher in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at the CNR in Pisa (ISTI). Barbara investigates techniques and methods to make user interfaces accessible and usable to users with special needs. She is the author of numerous publications and participates in many projects in the field. In addition to research, Barbara has been teaching computer science classes and participating in boards and groups working on accessibility applied to various areas. In particular, she has been collaborating with the working group for the requirements defined by Italian law on accessibility. She is also the director of the Institute for Research, Training and Rehabilitation (I.Ri.Fo.R.) for the visually-impaired of the Region of Tuscany.

Clara Meattini, ISTI–CNR, Pisa, Italy

Clara Meattini earned her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Digital Humanities from the University of Pisa, with a thesis focusing on accessible publishing and assistive technologies. She has acquired solid experience in smart programming solutions and a thorough knowledge of accessibility standards. Clara is passionate about ICTs and their application in human and social fields. She developed this work during her curricular stage at the ISTI-CNR.

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