An Operating System Designed Accessibility First

Personal Student Project
Mentor Hope Akello
INTD 316 - Prototyping, Sketch, Testing
September 2019 - December 2020
This is a school project thought up and developed by myself, in an environment where user's live with a range of abilities the tech sector sucks at incorporating peoples needs from the beginning. This project aims to eliminate assumptions and attempt to visualize a new os, built with inclusivity from the ground up. running out of time, i attempted to visualize some adaptive control methods that could easily navigate this new virtual space and how that could help many user groups. From this project i learned so many things, but i have to note the importance of research, looking and understanding the user empathizing with them and understanding the needs and frustrations they might have really help outline the path you take to your final outcome. My focus was on developing an accessible interface to advance current features to the forefront of the design process. This project is an attempt at a design practice called Accessibility First, This is when a designer uses accessible practices right from the beginning of the design process. Though not a perfect approach, having many boundaries with user testing in a school setting I believe this approach could benefit all designers when producing work in the digital age, as when we design with accessibility in mind from the start we can account for so many more walks of life into our work.
In 2019, tech development still regards accessibility needs as an accessory, not an advantage

Users with accessibility needs largely do not receive all the benefits of advanced technology today, and would benefit from its full capabilities

Not enough products aim to use modern tech to advance the lives of these users
simulated book operating system​​​​​​​
projection mapping interface
thought based interactions
real world interactions simulated digitally
Taking inspiration from my research on this subject such as Mercury OS, by Jason Yuan, I adopted inclusive research around the death of the desktop. This functionality removes clutter and is more inclusive to user’s. This helped inform a known design space within the problems I was tackling and focus around the area of redesigning digital skills for users within this problem space.
“people living with ASD, ADHD, and other neurological differences who are frequently overwhelmed by the flood of sensory information we have all come to expect in conventional operating systems.”
“for people who already have trouble controlling their locus of attention, the context switching required to deal with these interruptions can be an incredibly draining experience that could take up to 15 minutes.”
With Accessibility First in mind, my initial approach with redesigning digital skills found a familiar interface using books for precedent. Books have easy to navigate pages that become familiar like a magazine to where your favorite pages are, the middle is sports, comics at the end. This idea generated a consistent page design where each popular application lived on a separate page. I prototyped this in paper and later as a digital representation of bookmark tabs. Through user testing this became redundant and frustrating for users. This idea is later referenced in the physical prototype
design principals
Initially, limiting the scope of the user-test to a tablet, I developed a system where user’s could see the system & workspace they were currently in, and if needed could still enlarge the screen to be a full size, this would be adapted to a folding screen in the style of a digital book, This gives user’s a familiar setting when interacting with their device.
Some user feedback from this clickable interactive prototype:
Tab bar seems difficult to navigate, unsure of the system. 

The icons for changing the page size did not make sense, I didn’t even notice them

This page is familiar to navigate, but I couldn’t find my way back to the home. 
Sketching and testing more paper prototypes post this initial design, I focused efforts at colour choice studies in regards to accessible design as well as navigation style to update the system into something more intuitive to new users while remaining closely related to devices of their own.
After user testing, the updated prototype gave a larger view space for users, added reminders notifications and easibility for the persona in mind. By categorizing applications, reminders, and history the user gets an easy reminder on the home page on opening the device this consideration also removes over-stimulating sensory objects and interference. This interface is easily adaptable to different device types and sizes.
Users can create the size of space needed. Making interactive elements easier to tap, touch, move & place.

Users can, move, enlarge and customize  the space to their liking.

Organized applications, and synced iconography, allow usage for gamepad controller for prototyping purposes and adjusted module sizing for a larger user group.

These additions received more user testing, and had changes in iconography, padding and placement of items.
Testing use cases for amputee’s and users with differently-abled bodies, adjusting and resizing button scale and card size. These tests helped inform my final size of the device, and potential screen sizes.
This mockup introduces the idea of this device as an accessory to preowned devices, limiting the amount of development needed to produce this device, and also keeping a familiar style and language to users. Adding this as an accessible addition to their devices can reduce the price point and allow not create barriers for potential users.
From my previous user-testing this size felt comfortable to the majority of testers, giving enough screen space to users with dexterity needs and also comfortable to place in a lap for users in a wheelchair. This screen size assists users with vision impairments and as an accessory could easily fit in a bag or pouch on a wheelchair. Folds out to become 8” X 11 1/4”, giving users enough room to navigate easily through the system.
Prototyping navigation through the prototype with an X-Box controller, this navigation simulates the way a user with limited mobility could move through the system with minimal dexterity.
I prototyped and tested a comfortable cushion for user's to navigate the system through a series of chin pushes that can be used to move through the assisted applications, and an adaptive joystick for wheelchair users that would be created as an accessory to existing wheelchair joysticks. Designing accessibility first opens a world of opportunity when prototyping tangible interactions. Though products like the Microsoft Adaptive Controller, or Logitec’s G series are on the market they only exist for game controllers, these rarely can be used in a real world computing scenario. This gave me considerations when prototyping for quadriplegic users, and user’s that rely on the aid of an electric wheelchair.
My vision for this product is that it could be easily accessible, and an accessory for users that currently have technology. Adaptive to Android or IOS, the user could plug in their device and gain access to an all encompassing software that would cater to their specific needs upon starting up, with a variety of questions to answer and change through usage. This would help users gain easy access to their mobile applications and the system itself would make all the adjustments to each application so the users would not need to alter anything after the initial boot.
This video depicts the navigation through the interface using assisted technology
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