Facilitating Independence for Photo Taking and Browsing by Blind Persons
Photography is a visual way to capture a moment in time, used for artistic expression, and to document significant events. Even though photography is an inherently visual endeavor, several studies, supported by our own investigations, have shown that many people in the blind community take pleasure and find use in photography.
Because taking, organizing and sharing photos traditionally requires visual information, people with no or limited sight can have problems with these activities. People without sight must process chunks of information sequentially as opposed to globally (as is the case with sighted people). This nuance in information process adds to the difficulty of processing a photo album for people without sight.
Previous work has made photo capturing without sight easier, such as Bigham’s work with VizWiz, and Jayant et al’s work with photography among people who are blind [12,23]. These researchers design systems to help someone who is blind aim a camera and capture a “good” photograph. But there is little work that makes photo browsing and sharing accessible for people who are blind. My dissertation research aims to facilitate independence for blind persons to locate and browse photos in a sequential manner, as opposed to global. This is done through user-centered development of a smartphone application that can be used without sight.
The work begins with an investigation of current practices of blind persons in these activities, by conducting an in-depth survey and interviews among people who are blind, investigating their current photography preferences and practices. The survey and interviews informed the design of an iPhone app, called VizSnap, which is a blind-friendly app to help photographers sequentially organize a photo album by attaching time, date, location, and audio to the photographs to enhance memory retrieval of the photographs.
VizSnap was distributed among 13 blind people for two months; their usage of VizSnap was monitored by gathering their photos and the photos’ accompanying metadata (time, date, location, audio recordings). A user study was also conducted every two weeks with each participant. The photos taken by the participants were analyzed for type of photo and quality of photo. The participants’ usage of VizSnap was also analyzed to determine the viability of attaching audio, time, date, and location to a photograph, in a sequentially organized photo album, to enhance memory retrieval of the moment in which the photograph was taken.
The ultimate goal of this research is to encourage and challenge modern developers to create their technology with Universal Access at the forefront of each stage of development. VizSnap attempts to achieve Universal Access by appealing to both people who are blind and sighted people. This will greatly improve the overall design and general enjoyment of the product by all members of the community. Not all people use technology in the same way, and without thoughtful design, certain groups may be excluded from using mainstream technology when their usage is not considered.