0LAUK0 PRE2018 3 Group 13 User Research
This page contains the user research performed by group 13 for the course Project Robots Everywhere (0LAUK0). Here we summarize the results of our own surveys as well as those that are available online. Using this information, we determine the desired functionality and set corresponding user requirements which can be found at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1D0T3C2wYtNyWK7ZE4wtTIpXq9gRA280T4eBAQZk00WI/edit?usp=sharing.
Using the screen reader survey results , we can see that 95% of the correspondents suffer from blindness or visual impairment. A large majority of these correspondents also indicate to be using Windows, therefore it is crucial to have our software support this platform. Future expansion into the Apple ecosystem can also be obtained to allow a reach to a larger audience.
Many found that reading braille on a braille display was slower than reading hard-copy braille for reasons such as start up time, the reading surface and the need to constantly refresh the display [5.6]. As of such, we need a braille mechanism that can quickly activate braille dots and don’t require much time to start up due to the simplicity of the device software. The reading surface can be improved on by testing different materials on braille dots to see what users would prefer and what can read with. Refreshing braille displays can become an automated task, however the option should still remain to manually refresh the next line for those who would rather prefer to do it themselves.
Another disadvantage is the single line nature of most displays, it feels easier to understand the layout, context and spatial information in hard-copy brailles. Looking at a survey aimed at the use of screen readers, most of the frustration is caused due to unexpected visual changes [3.3]. It would be safe to assume that the users expect to interact with a process that works predictable and has no sudden changes. There are also complaints on some braille displays being overcomplicated, as they require different setup procedures and have many different interactions which confuses the users. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity and universal standard along with having a compact design, we will keep this single line design.
Some have reported that they even prefer refreshable braille over hard-copy braille, as slower inexperienced readers might have issues with reading when there are multiple lines. It could be hard to keep their finger at the same line, as the gap between the lines are quite small [5.2]. By having a single line on braille displays they can’t go wrong with reading and it improves on simplicity.
Most braille displays are known to be quite bulky and heavy, which makes it difficult to use whilst travelling, such as on a shaky train. Some might only view it as a work tool and would not consider to use it for leisure reading, as braille books can be treated care-free and don’t associate their thoughts with work [5.6]. They are also generally very expensive and they don’t seem to be aimed at the individual home users, as most respondents don’t purchase their own braille display and most of them only get them funded through work [5.4]. To expand on this, there can always be some concerns of the reliability with the dots. If some dots start to fail, then it is very annoying to notice and remember which one it was [5.8]. It also has to be sent in for repair, which is often very expensive and during the reparation time you are left with nothing. Ideally, a modular braille display design would allow for easier and cheaper replacement of defective parts.
With such a large variety in braille display and use cases, there are complaints on some that are not well designed ergonomically [5.8]. Some display shapes and sizes lead to unnatural reading positions and had poor button positioning that led to strain after longer periods of use. An example is where users have to hold their wrists up when reading, so they can’t put their wrists flat which will be uncomfortable after long use. One of the respondents often makes use of multiple different braille displays. She said it is not preferred to have buttons on the front of the display, as it requires her to bend her wrists each time to make use of it [5.3]. Therefore, we need to allow the user to have some wrist support while reading and avoid placing the button on the front.
There are many reasons why blind people prefer reading braille over using audio books. Situations in such as presenting and taking part of meetings require them to focus their listening besides on the audio book, which is quite difficult. Others might need to keep their ears open to be more aware of their surrounding, like when they are travelling. Some would simply prefer the peace and quiet and the ability to read silently for privacy or to avoid disturbing others. Another advantage is to have immediate active access to the text, instead of relying on someone’s interpretation and voice.
An older survey analysis from 1983  shows that most of the subjects are younger than 34 at that time and the vast majority claimed to be good or excellent at reading braille. Most of them would rather read in braille than using audio, but we have to keep the conditions in mind they had back then.
Generally, paper braille books provide quality braille dots that have no complaints about them [4.7]. When compared to plastic materials, slight more than half of the responses would say that they rather prefer paper materials instead [4.8]. However, if they were to choose to only have braille books produced on paper at the cost of considerably less braille titles, a majority would not want that [4.9]. So it is safe to say that they do not strongly dislike plastic compared to paper, it’s merely that paper would feel slightly better in their opinion. Nowadays, it is more common for blind people to have interacted with braille dots made of plastic and this makes them more familiar with its feel. We assume that the use of plastic dots is widely accepted and won’t form an obstacle to the users.
Braille display functionality
Most respondents commented on the design of braille displays they are familiar with, there were varying views on whether bigger or smaller displays were preferable. Large ones are pleasant to use, as you don’t have to constantly click to move on to the next line while smaller displays are portable [5.7]. To get the best of both worlds, we opt for a smaller display with automatic refreshing so it is both portable and the annoyance of manually refreshing is taken care of.
There are mixed opinions on what controls the users want, some would fancy the use of scrolling wheels whereas others would find it odd and will rather go with a straightforward button interface. It is overall agreeable that buttons should be easily found, provide a good tactile feedback and don’t require too much actuation force. The existing Cherry MX Brown  key switches would represent the ideal button feel, as they have a a soft pressure point and the key strokes offer a soft tactile contact feedback.
Depending on the weight and ground surface of the braille displays, they can unintentionally be moved by the user while reading [5.9]. In order to simply avoid this issue, we need some material at the bottom of the display that provides much friction such as rubber.
Portability in general is a desirable feature for braille displays, a universal focus on this is to make it very light while still having a long lasting battery life and a strong casing. This would require research in terms of structural casing along with material strength and durability which is out of scope for our project. We will however assume some target values that similar existing braille displays have and set those as constraints.
The UI will be based on survey results we have conducted along with iterative improvements made to this over time as we constantly update this according to the feedback we receive. Here we discuss the idea behind each interface while omitting the actual implementation.
'Automatic display refresh [R_003]'
Using refreshable braille displays for reading books is uncommon, as the experience is not very pleasant due to slow refreshing and the tedious work of manually refreshing the display. Books with more pages naturally require even more manual refreshing, which can take the user out of his/her reading flow. By including a sensor that detects whether the user has finished reading the last braille letter in the display and then consequently refreshing the letters such that it shows the next sentence we greatly improve on user friendliness. However, it can be crucial to decide whether we refresh by letter or the entire display as well as if the user is actually done with reading the sentence.
'Refresh per letter'
Once the user has read a braille letter x and is for example 4 letters further, we can assume that the user will no longer notice nor feel the presence of letter x. Therefore we will update this letter x according to its next sentence and since we have 20 letters, it is safe to assume that the letter has been updated before the user reaches it again. We will however require sensors that track the current reading position of the user.
'Full display refresh'
Due to the possibility of users that re-read certain letters in a sentence, we don’t want refresh per letter in that case so we will only refresh the entire display once the user has reached the very last 20th letter. Depending on the actual refreshing speed, this could potentially cause the user to wait instead of seamlessly allowing the user to continue reading. However, it is more robust and people are used to this method from manually pressing a button to advance to the next sentence.
This process should only be executed when the Autonomous toggle is enabled [R_002] and we have overlap in functionality due to the manual Advance button [R_001]. So we have two options for how we handle this overlap: Advance button becomes disabled; the user can only make use of the automatic refresh and are purely dependent on it. Advance button overwrites automatic refresh; when the Advance button is pressed it performs its function and the automatic refresh gets disabled until the advance process has been completed in order to avoid double refresh.
'UI layout [R_001, R_002]'
Due to the functional simplicity of only acting as a e-book braille reading device, we won’t be needing many functional operations for our users. The most important one is to advance to the next braille sentence through either manual or automatic operation. So we will be having the following buttons:
Autonomous mode toggle
As both buttons are provide the same functional operation in different ways, we do not want the user to accidentally overlap with interacting to either button. Therefore we shall be placing the toggle on the side of the device, which has a small surface of searching for the toggle. And due to its position, the user will have no risk of accidentally turning the toggle while reading.
As of the Advance button, it should be placed such that it conforms to the use of either left/right hand users as well as those who use both of their hands to reach. In all of those cases, the button generally can be reached easiest with the thumb. However, as mentioned in the survey results such a position is uncomfortable in long reading sessions. Therefore it would be better to place it at the end of the braille sentence, where the user's fingers will always reach while reading.
The following survey results are taken out of the reference source and only contains information relevant to our case. As of such, in order to view the entire full survey, we recommend you to look at the corresponding references section.
3. Screen Reader User Survey looked into the preferences of screen reader users. They have received 1792 valid responses and it was a follow-up to six previous surveys conducted between January 2009 and July 2015.
3.1 Over 95% of the responses indicate that they suffer from blindness or visual-impairment. As of such, their opinions are relevant to us.
3.2 A strong majority shows that they primarily use the Windows operating system and a lot use the Apple's OS. Only a very small percentage use lesser common systems like Linux or others.
3.3 The survey asked respondents to select their most, second most and third most problematic items from a list. In giving each selected item a weighting, the following chart shows the overall rating of difficulty and frustration for each item.
Most of these items are either simply constraints to blind people or cause unexpected visual changes. Either way they relies on visual perception and create an understanding problem to blind users.
4. Braille Reader Survey Analysis 1983 by Government Studies & Systems Philadelphia is an old survey, but we mainly look at the results of reading braille on paper and their opinions which can still be applicable nowadays. There is a total of 240 responses and we summarized the result count in percentages.
4.1 Are you:
- 40% Male
- 60% Female
4.2 Age in years at your last birthday:
- 1% < 15
- 7% 15 - 24
- 38% 25-39
- 39% 40-64
- 15% > 65
4.3 Would you describe your ability to read braille as:
- 58% Excellent
- 33% Good
- 8% Fair
- 1% Poor
4.4 At what age did you begin to read braille?
- 82% < 18
- 9% 19 - 34
- 6% 35-54
- 3% > 55
4.5 In which way do you read most frequently?
- 52% Braille
- 42% Audio
4.6 If all reading material could be in the format of your choice, in which way would you prefer to read?
- 68% Braille
- 32% Audio
4.7 Do you think the quality of braille dots in press braille books is:
- 39% Excellent
- 50% Good
- 11% Satisfactory
- 0% Poor
4.8 "Thermoformed materials" are single-sided plastic copies of hand-transcribed paper masters. "Paper materials" may be single- or double-sided paper copies of braille materials. Do you find thermoformed reading materials:
- 27% Same as paper materials
- 54% Less pleasant to use than paper
- 7% More pleasant to use than paper
- 12% Have never used thermoformed materials
4.9 Some braille books are now produced on paper and some on thermoform plastic. Would you be willing to accept considerably fewer braille titles in order to have books produced only on paper?
- 16% Yes
- 64% No
- 20% It does not matter
5. Use of braille display survey asks several blind people about their life and experiences with different braille displays. Their names have been changed to protect privacy.
5.1 Steve – Work user
- Steve, aged 31-45, has been using braille displays for 10 years. He currently uses an 80-cell braille display attached to his work computer. This display is funded through Access to Work
- Steve prefers to use his braille display to read long documents as he finds he sometimes loses concentration listening to the speech on his computer.
- Steve uses his braille display alongside a JAWS screen reader to help him in his job as an administrator. He thinks using both tools together makes him more efficient:
"I don't use it constantly […] I use it as a checking and orientation device […] It’s a mixture of using the voice and the braille display together to speed things up. So I'm looking at the braille display with one hand, listening and flicking keys with the other […] Keyboard and braille display and JAWS reading together helps you do things a lot faster."
- Steve considers his braille display as a work tool, and would not like to use it for leisure reading:
"I like to relax with a book, so I want to be sat slumped or on a train, I wouldn't want to have a piece of hardware on my knee. I don't mind sitting with a book because I can fall asleep and if it falls on the floor and I'm not chucking a thousand pounds on the floor!"
- Despite finding his braille display very useful in his job, Steve would not buy one for himself.
"The prices are phenomenally high and I don't understand why they have to be […] they don't seem to be aimed at the home user, the individual. I'd spend my money on a good holiday before I ever thought about getting a braille display. I'm quite happy to work without one at home."
5.2 Roger - Leisure user
- Roger, aged 65-74, uses two braille displays, both of which he owns
- Roger uses a note taker device with a 32-cell braille display. This is a portable device, which Roger uses for his diary, addresses and database.
"I carry it around, take it away with me. It's got all the information that I need to hand with speech and braille."
- Braille is not Roger's preferred format, but he sees the braille display as offering backup to speech software. He also finds refreshable braille easier to read than hard-copy braille:
"I am partially deaf, and so I use my braille display if I need to use the computer as a support to speech… I didn't learn braille until later in life, so I'm very slow […]. It took me a long time to learn braille and one of the biggest problems […] was keeping your finger in the same line when there was hardly a gap between the lines. [When] you've just got a line you've got nothing above it nothing below, it makes life much easier."
5.3 Karen – work and leisure user
- Karen, aged 31-45, is deaf blind. Karen has been using a braille display for 16 years. She uses 3 braille displays, two of which she owns, and the other is funded through Access to Work. Her braille displays include a display which can be attached to a computer or mobile phone and a note taker device.
- Each of Karen's braille displays has 40 cells. The devices differ in their size and weight and the comfort of using them:
"The dots are maybe a fraction smaller, which I prefer. Also the position of the buttons is preferable. […] I find having [the buttons] on the front means I have to keep bending my wrists a tiny bit which can make them a bit sore if I do it too much without a break."
- Braille is Karen's preferred reading format, although she prefers using hard-copy. Using the braille display is the only way Karen accesses her computer:
"I generally prefer having things in hard-copy braille, especially if it is something I'm reading for leisure. But most of the time I don't have that luxury, so my braille display is essential for anything I don't have in hard-copy. I can't use speech at all."
5.4 Ownership of braille displays Respondents were asked whether they owned the braille displays that they used. Just four (out of 13) respondents reported having purchased their own braille displays. The vast majority were funded through Access to Work, with nine respondents reporting having used this scheme. Two respondents reported their displays were owned by their employer, and one was on loan from a technology company (note: some respondents used more than one display, for example owning one themselves and having another funded through Access to Work). A number of respondents commented that the cost of braille displays was prohibitive, and that they would not have one without the help of the Access to Work scheme.
5.5 Braille as reading format advantages Many benefits of braille displays related to braille as a reading format, particularly in comparison to audio. Some respondents mentioned situations in which they would prefer not to use audio, such as when presenting or taking part in a meeting where they need to listen to what else is going on:
"Two audio streams – listening to a PC and listening to a conversation – I find incredibly hard, so I use braille in those contexts."
Others mentioned the need to keep their ears free to know what was going on around them (for example when travelling). Some respondents also liked the ability to read silently, either for privacy or to avoid disturbing other people.
Some respondents felt speech – particularly synthetic speech as used by screen readers – could be monotonous or stressful to listen to.
A key benefit of braille over speech was the sense of having immediate, active access to the text, rather than relying on someone else's interpretation:
"The benefits are you actually know what the words are. It's in your own head rather than someone else's reading voice, and a synthesizer voice is not always the best at times."
This sense of braille allowing active reading also made some respondents feel they could understand or retain information better when they had read it in braille, compared to audio:
"I find I retain information better if I've actually read it on a braille display. If I listen to it in speech it just goes in one ear and out the other, literally!"
5.6 Braille as reading format disadvantages The main disadvantage of braille as a reading format, particularly when compared to audio was the speed at which you can read.
"Speech is for speed - given a document containing just text, with speech I could probably beat most sighted readers. You couldn't do that with braille." "Even though I'm quite a fast braille reader I can still have speech set up way faster than I could read."
Another disadvantage identified with braille was that it ties up your hands when reading. The hands-free nature of audio was seen as an advantage to some:
"If you're reading braille you've obviously got to have one hand on the braille […] You can sit back and listen to the speech if you want to and be doing something else with your hands like typing, which you couldn't if you had to read the braille display." Despite identifying many benefits to the concept of digital braille respondents also highlighted a number of disadvantages.
Firstly, many found reading braille on a braille display was slower than reading hard-copy braille, for a range of reasons including start up time, the reading surface, the need to constantly refresh the braille display and the limitation of only having one line at a time on a braille display.
"I suppose the boot-up time, or the start-up time. If you're thinking 'oh I could grab my book off the shelf' […] that's quicker than having to go to my computer turn it on get my braille display warmed up."
"There's the material they're made of, being plastic [dots] I think it's slower to move my fingers over them. Also because you have to press the button to refresh for the next 40 characters that builds in a slight delay, only a millisecond or a few but still it adds up. If I'm reading from paper, my left hand drops down to the start of the next line whilst my right hand finishes the line so there's no delay at all."
Another disadvantage compared to hard-copy braille related to the single line nature of the display. Many respondents felt that it was easier to understand layout, context and spatial information in hard-copy braille, as they were able to explore the document more physically. Examples of types of material where this may be a problem included for tables, columns, music and poetry.
"I find it harder to get a feel for the overall structure of a document if I'm using a braille display. If I'm reading a long document in hard-copy I can physically feel how many pages are in each section, whereas with a braille display I can't."
"With paper, because you've got more than one line, you can much more appreciate document formatting. For example, let's assume you have a table, it's much easier to get the idea of the layout with all of it there, rather than just one line at a time."
"Braille music, I tend to find easier to learn in hard-copy, because you've got an extra dimension of the physical geography of the page. I will remember that I was at the top left when I read this rather than on a braille display where you're on a kind of rolling program along one line and you don't have any kind of spatial awareness of where you are."
Some respondents felt that despite benefits of refreshable braille, they still preferred hard-copy braille for leisure reading, as they found it more relaxing. This included not having to sit by a computer, making the distinction between work and leisure.
"I have a bit more freedom when reading hard-copy to sit where I like and move about."
"I don't really know why, maybe it's because I can switch - it's leisure and it's not working."
Another disadvantage of refreshable braille identified by respondents was that hard-copy braille has usually been transcribed, and so is likely to be well formatted and adapted if necessary to explain diagrams etc to people who can't see. When accessing information on a braille display, this is not the case:
"Most hard-copy braille is prepared by someone. On the refreshable braille, what you get is what you get."
"If you get a braille book usually it's ready and formatted. Manuals, a lot of them come in PDF formats now […] they're a nightmare because they're not usually formatted. Or if they are formatted you get 'you do this and you press this' and the 'this' is a graphic so you can't read it with your braille display. In the braille manual it would be spelled out."
Other disadvantages of refreshable braille included it being difficult to use whilst travelling (such as on a shaky train), being difficult to read more than one document at a time, and the worry that the technology may fail, in a way in which hard-copy never does.
"I'm always thinking 'hang on if this thing fails I'm [in real trouble]' whereas a piece of paper never fails. If I think I need to be sure of it and I need to refer to it then I would have hard-copy braille, but that's mainly fear of the failure of the technology."
5.7 Braille display functionality advantages When asked about the advantages of braille displays, some respondents focused on features of the device they used or specific aspects of its functionality.
In terms of benefits of specific devices, many respondents commented on the design of their braille display. Such comments included the shape and size of the display, the type of controls used, and the feel of the braille dots.
"The braille display is along the front, and so the keyboard sits tucked in quite tightly […] with the leading edge of the keyboard immediately behind the braille display. That is a comfortable position for both reading and keying."
"It's got a whizz wheel that’s very good for finding your place. It's something that a lot of them don't have so that's a really really good feature."
"Modern braille displays are very easy on the fingers, very nice bold dots. I find it a very satisfying medium."
Some respondents commented on the size of displays, with varying views on whether bigger or smaller displays were preferable:
"I like the large ones to use on a desk. […] I'm not one for key clicking all the time, I don't get on with it, so I don't really like the smaller ones."
"I think 40 [cells] is about the length that is comfortable to cope with in most cases. I can understand why programmers wanted an 80 [cell] so they could see more on the line but to me it seems too wide to be comfortable."
A key benefit of smaller displays was their portability, which was seen as a benefit for many respondents:
"The benefits of the smaller ones are that they're just smaller, they’re more portable."
Other aspects of braille display devices which respondents cited as advantages were the simplicity of their device, being easy to set up and use, good battery life, and reliability.
5.8 Braille display functionality disadvantages Respondents also highlighted disadvantages of braille displays in terms of the actual devices they had experienced, and their functionality.
A common complaint from respondents was that many braille displays were not well designed ergonomically. Examples include the shape and size of displays, which led to unnatural reading positions or difficulty accessing a keyboard and braille display together, and poor button positioning leading to strain after long periods of use.
"What it really needs is something so the keyboard can then be slightly raised up because you're having to lift your wrist and your lower arm over the braille display to get to your keyboard. I don't think it's ergonomically very well thought out."
"You're kind of holding your wrists up, it’s not a thoroughly comfortable way of reading. You can't read with your wrists flat so I tend to find after you've done about an hour, hour and a half then that's enough."
Another disadvantage of braille displays was the limitation of the size of the display. Some respondents commented on specific displays, noting that smaller devices meant more scrolling and movement. Others highlighted the difficulty of finding their place when a line of text was longer than their display. Some respondents felt that all braille displays were limited in this way as only one line of text is available at a time.
"With a short braille display like mine [18-cells] it's on the edge of what's acceptable. When you're reading a hard-copy book you're used to something more like 36-cells width so it is a bit inconvenient, there's more hand movement involved."
"Where the line is longer than will fit on the braille display as often happens in emails and sometimes in Word documents, the business of finding where I am on the braille display and panning it from side to side can be a bit tedious".
"A refreshable [braille display] only gives you one line at a time, which is always going to be a bit of a limitation."
A number of respondents highlighted that the cost of braille displays was a disadvantage. This included the initial cost of buying a display which was prohibitive to some, the cost of fixing displays and concerns over carrying such a high value item around with them:
"The expense of buying…well I wouldn't. I've got one because I've got a job."
"I do worry carrying a braille display that I'm carrying thousands of pounds of equipment with me." "They're phenomenally expensive to fix. It was £181 just to put one cell back, that's a lot of money!"
Not only was the cost of fixing braille displays a concern, but the huge inconvenience of being without it whilst it was being fixed. Some respondents were disappointed that their display was not more reliable.
"There are reliability issues with dots […] sometimes the dots start to fail and if you're reading precise information it makes it a lot more difficult and annoying because you have to remember which dot is missing or feint."
"I've got a couple of difficult dots on mine at the moment but if I send it away it stops me working! So you kind of put up with things you'd rather not put up with."
Other complaints about braille displays included them being overcomplicated. Examples include difficult set up procedures and confusion over how the braille display interacts with the computer itself and with speech software.
"Some of them you have to get it into a particular mode before you connect it to your PC, which is just awkward. […] You've got to go through some elaborate installation procedure before you use it."
"I think the concept of how the screen reader, the PC and the braille interact with each other is probably a bit complicated."
Other complaints about braille display technology included the lack of innovation in development. Some respondents felt technologies available in other products could be used to improve braille displays - such as touch sensitive 'advance' buttons to move onto the next line.
5.9 Ideal functions/features
- Respondents identified useful controls a braille display could have, particularly for advancing the next line of braille. Wheels were popular, rather than buttons:
- "Those jog wheels on a mouse you just scroll it and it flicks down the lines, you can use that to quickly review a page. I think that's a great feature rather than repeatedly pushing buttons to get down the page."
- However, not all participants liked wheeled controls: "What we don't want is strange gizmos like jog-wheels, or little tiny fiddly things or rocker bars or whizz wheels and so on. Straightforward with a clean interface."
- Other requirements for controls included buttons which were easy to use: "Decent buttons, by which I mean easily found, a good action to press, so you know you've pressed them and they don't break your finger in the process."
- Respondents highlighted the need for braille displays to be ergonomically well designed, including their buttons, their size and shape and the way braille displays can be used alongside other equipment such as a keyboard (see also section 2.5.2).
- "Buttons that are very tactile but easy to press and positioned so that I can press them without having to bend my wrists."
- "When you're reading a line you don't want to move your hand at the end of the line to hit a button to then go back to the line to read the second half of it."
- "You apply a certain amount of pressure to the [braille display] when you read it […] as you're reading it, it moves. It's a really stupid thing, they all ought to have some kind of rubber feet or some feature that makes them stable."
- Many respondents felt portability was a desirable feature for a braille display.
- "It would be more portable so it would be very light and it would have long battery life."
- "Light but strong would be ideal!"
6. Feasibility of developing a diagnostic touch test to determine braille reading potential There are various barriers to learning braille for people that have suffered loss of vision. One of the key barriers is the belief that old age, diseases such as diabetes and the perception of accompanying reduction in tactile sensitivity may prevent success in learning braille. Various research have investigated this issue, showing some relationship between touch sensitivity, however, various findings show that declining sensitivity does not prevent people from reading braille. Further research investigates differences in tactile sensitivity between blind and sighted people, clearly indicating that blind people have a superior sense of touch.
6.1 Barriers to learning braille for adults with acquired sight loss Research suggests that frequency of braille use declines with age, and that the later in life someone loses their sight, the less likely they are to engage in learning braille. Many people lose their sight due to age related diseases and it is important to understand the possible barriers to learning braille for this group.
- people losing their sight may feel a stigma attached to braille.
- many people believe that braille code is difficult to learn.
The availability of braille teaching services may be another barrier to braille learnings.
Douglas et al (2009) also investigated the views of adults with acquired sight loss, and found that availability and promotion of braille teaching were a key concern which may put people off learning braille.
Other perceived barriers to braille uptake included the development of technology (due to the feeling that technological solutions could offer more than braille) and age. Age was a barrier in various ways. Some older people simply felt they were too old to learn something new (and for some, this view had been suggested to them!). Others felt that the reduction in sensitivity of the fingertips with age meant reading braille would not be possible for them
6.2 Age, disease and tactile sensitivity The reduction in tactile sensitivity with age is a well documented phenomenon (Stevens, Foulke and Patterson, 1996; Legge, Madison, Vaughn, Cheong and Miller, 2008). This could be a key barrier to braille learning in adventitiously blind adults. Many people lose their sight due to age related conditions (Orr, 1992) with around 75% of those registered blind or partially sighted being over the age of 65 (The Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2008). Many older people are aware of the decline in functioning with age, and evidence suggests that some may choose not to learn braille simply because they believe they have insufficient tactile sensitivity
6.3 Tactile sensitivity and braille reading The two point discrimination threshold measures how far apart two points need to be for someone to perceive the two points separately rather than feeling it as one point. They found a correlation between two-point discrimination and braille reading ability, with participants with a static two-point discrimination threshold of 5 mm or above, or a moving two-point threshold of 4 mm or above being unable to read braille. In this study, 22 out of 35 participants - all with diabetic neuropathy - were successful in learning standard sized braille. Based on these findings, Bernbaum et al (1989) suggest that diabetics should not be discouraged from learning braille.
Findings showed that tactile acuity reduced with age, for all participants (blind and sighted, aged 18-81) at a similar rate of around 1% per year (note: of the blind participants, around half were totally blind, the rest had light perception but could not read print). A relationship was also found between tactile acuity and braille reading speed, suggesting that as tactile acuity declines, braille reading speed may also reduce.
The findings of Legge et al (2008) again demonstrated a general decline in tactile acuity with age. However, whilst this was true for the sighted participants, existing braille readers tested showed no such decline
Braille readers may learn effective motor strategies to pick up detailed tactile information and could go back over portions they were unsure of. Secondly, as they are free to move their finger, they could make the most of the more sensitive areas of their fingerpad even if their tactile sensitivity was in decline
Research has shown differences between blind and sighted people in terms of their tactile sensitivity. This was demonstrated by Stevens et al (1996) who found that whilst tactile sensitivity reduced with age in both blind and sighted participants, sensitivity was greater in blind participants at all ages.The findings showing the extent of the decline in tactile acuity due to age in sighted individuals could suggest that those who lose their sight later in life may have reduced tactile sensitivity which could affect their ability to learn braille
6.4 Existing methods used to test touch Tests of passive touch are often used as measures of tactile perception, as such tests measure the physical limits of perception allowing thresholds to be determined. However, there is some controversy over whether measures of passive touch are relevant to braille reading ability, as braille is read with active touch.
Goldreich et al (2003) identified potential problems with both types of testing: tests of active touch could be confounded by the motor strategies people use in exploring the stimulus, whereas passive tests could be confounded by variables such as the force with which stimuli are pressed onto the skin. A review of commonly used tests of active and passive touch tests follows.
Group 13 survey results
Online survey results
3. Screen Reader User Survey #7 Results. WebAIM, October 2017. Available at: https://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey7/
4. Braille Reader Survey Analysis. Government Studies & Systems Philadelphia, 1983. Available at: https://archive.org/details/braillereadersur00gove
5. Cryer, H., and Home, S. (2011). Use of braille displays. RNIB Centre for Accessible Information, Birmingham: Research report #15. Available at: https://www.rnib.org.uk/sites/default/files/2011_06_Use_of_braille_displays.doc
6. Cryer, H. and Home, S. (2011). Final report: Feasibility of developing a diagnostic touch test to determine braille reading potential. RNIB Centre for Accessible Information, Birmingham: Literature review #4.1. Available at: https://www.rnib.org.uk/sites/default/files/2011_07_Diagnostic_touch_test.doc
7. CHERRY MX1A-GxxA/B key switch. Datasheet: https://www.cherrymx.de/_Resources/Persistent/008b9f0ae1236239a77519e01d978c0d407db893/EN_CHERRY_MX_BROWN_RGB.pdf