Tools in and out of sight : an analysis informed by Cultural-Historical Activity Theory of audio-haptic activities involving people with visual impairments supported by technology
Abstract: The main purpose of this thesis is to present a Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) based analysis of the activities conducted by and with visually impaired users supported by audio-haptic technology.This thesis covers several studies conducted in two projects. The studies evaluate the use of audio-haptic technologies to support and/or mediate the activities of people with visual impairment. The focus is on the activities involving access to two-dimensional information, such as pictures or maps. People with visual impairments can use commercially available solutions to explore static information (raised lined maps and pictures, for example). Solu-tions for dynamic access, such as drawing a picture or using a map while moving around, are more scarce. Two distinct projects were initiated to remedy the scarcity of dynamic access solutions, specifically focusing on two separate activities.The first project, HaptiMap, focused on pedestrian outdoors navigation through audio feedback and gestures mediated by a GPS equipped mobile phone. The second project, HIPP, focused on drawing and learning about 2D representations in a school setting with the help of haptic and audio feedback. In both cases, visual feedback was also present in the technology, enabling people with vision to take advantage of that modality too.The research questions addressed are: How can audio and haptic interaction mediate activ-ities for people with visual impairment? Are there features of the programming that help or hinder this mediation? How can CHAT, and specifically the Activity Checklist, be used to shape the design process, when designing audio haptic technology together with persons with visual impairments?Results show the usefulness of the Activity Checklist as a tool in the design process, and provide practical application examples. A general conclusion emphasises the importance of modularity, standards, and libre software in rehabilitation technology to support the development of the activities over time and to let the code evolve with them, as a lifelong iterative development process. The research also provides specific design recommendations for the design of the type of audio haptic systems involved.
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