Presentation I: Before holidays

Here is the presentation I gave thursday 16 December:

Feedback I received:

  • More pictures of examples on Facebook where the persons with a mental disability have problems with: For example the top navigation bar: Home – Profile – Account => Really sober
  • Contact the Facebook accessibility team
  • Free more time for the last evaluation of the implemented part I application
  • Number the slides

Other presentations:

  • One of the most interesting presentations in my opinion was the one about Augmented Reality by Niels Buekers. I really think this is an interesting topic and has something futuristic. If this would actually come out in real life I would were glasses even though I don’t need them! The only remark I have on the presentation was that it would have been nice to see some pictures but I understand this is harder then for other topics.
  • The presentation of Michaël Vanderheeren was also very nice. It was really structured and the goals were clear and came from logical conclusions.

Of course the other topics were also interesting, but personally for me the two above really sticked. One because of the topic and the other just because of the great work already done. This proofs how useful those presentations were. The blogs gave some explanation but it was all a bit vague. Thanks to the presentation we all have a better idea now on were the other students stand, feedback on your work,…

Evaluation I

Today I completed my first evaluation of the paper prototype. It took a bit longer than expected because last monday I did not have the time and because I’m in Leuven during the week I couldn’t test on my target users since I can only meet them in the weekends.

The evaluations went quite well and I received a lot of good feedback. Also all participants thought the application was really nice and usefull. These were the scenario’s I asked them to do:

Scenario’s for the parents:

  1. Login for your child and set that she/he is capable of reading and writing but needs control
  2. Set at the permissions everything that has to do with placing comments on “Hide”
  3. Go to the next screen (not a straightforward way)
  4. Set a password and continue
  5. Change the settings so the child cannot create groups anymore

Scenario’s for persons with a mental disability:

  1. Who was the last one that posted something on your wall?
  2. Update your status (This is set that the person is not allowed to do this so there will be popup to enter a password => What is the reaction?
  3. Start a new Facebook chat
  4. Make a new Facebook group
  5. Make a new Event

Afterwards I asked some questions to them:


  1. Age?
  2. Any experience with a touchscreen? Could be a smartphone,…
  3. Any with the iPad?
  4. Do you have a child with a mental disability or a child that is too young to realise any dangers in the world like abuse?
  5. Do you have any experience with Facebook?
  6. Were the settings clear enough? Any suggestions?
  7. Do you find the information panel handy?

Persons with a disability:

  1. Have you ever used Facebook?
  2. Do you have a Facebook account yourself? If not, interested in one?
  3. Any experience with a touchscreen? Could be a smartphone,…
  4. Any with the iPad?
  5. Do you think it would be handy to have like a button that would read all statusses of your friends aloud or do you prefer choosing the statusses that you want to hear yourself?

The goal of the evaluation was to see whether the application was usable by:

  1. Persons who might not have experience with multitouch devices and/or social networks
  2. People with a mental disability who might think totally different and look different at the world. Things that might seem logic for me could not be logic for then and the other way around!

I told the test users that this was a think aloud test so they had to say what they were thinking so I could understand why they were doubting about something, suggestions,…

For the test for the parents I found 5 parents willing to help me age 30-55. There were some general trends that I will shortly talk about:

  • For scenario 2, 4 out 5 users tapped hide for every place comment type instead of the general button that would hide them all at once. The reason they said was that it was not really clear that they were grouped. Some suggestions were putting the titles in bold, setting the margin for the subtypes more to the right, put them inside lines, in squares,…
  • 2 out of 5 did not find the solution for scenario 3 (they have to swipe to get to the new screen). When I told them what the solution was they said that they just not think of that because it is on paper but that when they see it on the device they might have tried that but they were not sure of it so it is definitely something I still have to check. The interesting here was that the 3 that found it all already had used an iPad and were able to put the link. My coordinator suggested to put a button for the next page permissions or a popup somewhere with some explanation of basic iPad controls for parents who do not have an iPad themselves but want to set the one of their child.
  • 2 out of 5 did not find the settings. Feedback was that the icon wasn’t that clear to them but if it was more a button they would probably have noticed it.

Some suggestions I received (also for the facebook part I showed to them):

  1. Possibility to add standard texts, like for example wishing someone a happy birthday. This way they can be proud they did something on their own AND the parents do not have to worry about it.
  2. In the application child is not really a good word. It is also for a grown-up person with a mental disability…
  3. Setting instead of allowing reactions on a status of a friend => More general on a post of a friend.
  4. Why showing birthdays on the profile of the person? Should it be there?
  5. Maybe it is better to move the application settings like permissions,…  to the general iOS settings => Otherwise child can still see that it does not have access to it. Might concern some children!
  6. Password in settings => Child could think it is the facebook password
  7. Like the standard text for wallposts you could do the same for status updates. You could add standard statusses like I’m happy, sad,… and also an option to type it yourself. This could also be very usefull for the third level (persons who need pictograms)

The test for persons with a disability was a little bit disappointing, the problem was that the paper prototype principle wasn’t really that clear for them but the biggest problem was that my paper prototype wasn’t visual enough for them. It was a lot of the same colors, perhaps not a very nice handwriting,… Seeing the difference between what is a button and text, does that represent a picture? And more like that were difficult for them.

For this reason I just did a test with two children without a disability to see whether basic Facebook functionality was still clear. The children had experience with Facebook. Some conclusions:

  • Tapping the existing status should allow updating the status
  • Sidebar for chat was handy and was immediately used
  • One child found that the sidebar draws more attention and was clearer than the tabs (needs further testing)
  • Pressed 2 times on text instead of the icon (Events and Notifications)

Paper prototype I

After lots of hours of drawing, pasting, printing, cutting,… the paper prototype of the Facebook application for people with a disability is finally finished so I can evaluate it tomorrow. It is only a part of the application because I will first test it with parents and also a part with children who can read. For the persons who have trouble reading I’m still looking for good icons to replace as much of text as possible but still be clear enough.


New storyboard & Meeting

After three really busy weeks packed with deadlines I was able to finish my new storyboard which shows you part 1 of my thesis. A Facebook application for people with a disability. The first two pages of the storyboard are for the parent or guardian of the person with a disability to set what he or she is able to do.

The third page shows how the standard application will look like if everything is enabled and if it is for a person of “level 1” who can read and understand perfectly but has problems with knowing who to trust or not, what is good online behavior and not,… So the parent will be able to restrict the possibilities of facebook. In that way the parent or guardian does not have to worry about those things anymore. So as you can see most of the things are standard things you can do on facebook but with a slightly different interface but the power of the application will be in the ability to block (changed but more on this later) certain features in the application.

For the people with a disability who have problems with reading but are able to understand (almost) everything there will be like planned in the original application text-to-speech options. The idea is that there will be a speaker like icon where the person can tap on and then select the words or buttons that he/she does not understand and those will then be spoken aloud.

The last category will be the people with a disability who have problems with understanding the words. For them I will try to convert statuses etc. to pictograms but for this I still need more information.

Like already mentioned, there is already a small change to the storyboard for setting the permissions. Now this is an ON-OFF button but my coordinator José pointed out that blocking instead of hiding a certain feature could cause frustration for the person with a disability. He/she might start wondering why he/she is not able to do that and others are,… For that reason it might be better to give the options ON | Hide | Block. So hide will really hide that feature in the app so the person with the disability will not see it exists. Block on the other hand will allow the person to see everything and for example allow to type a new status but when it really wants to commit the action then a prompt will show to type in the parent/guardian password.

Any suggestions and/or comments are much appreciated!

A change of plans…

Tuesday I had my first meeting with prof. Duval to talk about what I already had found, my planning and what my tutor José and I concluded for the application. He said that he liked the idea and that it was good work but that he feared that the application does a lot of things and that some aspects of it are maybe more general learning environment and not specifically for people with special needs. The problem is than that at the end of the year everything might work a little bit but nothing really great… That’s why he advised me that I should concentrate on a part of the application, draw it, test, implement, test again and repeating this until I’m really convinced that this is a great application and it would actually help people with a mental disability. Then I could focus on a different part and do the same again.

We started discussing about the for example first part of the application I could make – Facebook for the disabled. I could use the technologies I was already planning to use in it so it is still usable for the learning part of the thesis like Text-to-speech and visualization of the words a student has problems with, clustering similar students,… I should also check some specific specifications that aren’t really measurable but might be interesting to investigate like for example when something isn’t working my brother (who has a mental disability) gets more rapidly upset instead of just relativizing it, how to avoid this?

After talking some more about this prof. Duval mentioned that this could also be expanded to be used by people without a disability for example in the car. Then big clear buttons, pictograms and text-to-speech could also be very handy. This is called access for all like for example the curb ramps on a sidewalk were initially designed for people in a wheelchair but afterwards it was also used by people with a baby trolley, luggage,…

So quite a big change of plans but after thinking about it, it is for the best. Now I can concentrate more on a smaller aspect and try to perfection it as much as I can. Like they say, “Less is more”…


Here are the storyboards like I announced in the previous post. They sketch the most important functionalities but not all of them because some things are relatively straightforward and depend on the possibilities of iOS or simply because I’m not entirely sure yet on how to show it like for example the visualization of the social profile of the students with disabilities. The majority of the app does not depend on how this is done so this will be kept for a future step.

Suggestions are still highly appreciated!

Use cases

To get an idea of the different interactions possible with the application I made a storyboard and some use cases. I’m still busy with making the storyboard a little bit clearer but the use cases are ready so here they are. Adjustments are of course still possible so if you have any remarks or suggestions don’t hesitate to put them in the comments. They will be greatly appreciated!

1. Use case of the teacher with the teacher app:

2. Use case of the student with the student’s app:

3. Use case of the parents with the student’s app:

Idea’s after last meeting

During the last meeting with my coordinator José this thursday we concluded what the application should do:

  1. Like I concluded from the interview, the students will be able to use text-to-speech in the application. They should be able to select words, sentences or paragraphs in an easy way which the current voice-over functionality on the iPad does not.
  2. The application will gather all the words the students select to be read aloud.
  3. The teacher will be able to see this data in her application. In that way he/she is able to see if there are certain words the students select repeatedly. That way he/she can work on those words.
  4. This data can also be used to make a user profile of the student. This could for example be used in a web search application. When the student looks for certain topics, the application can do a risk evaluation of the resources and recommend or discourage visiting a website because there could be a lot of words in it where the user has problems with. This can avoid frustration. For this the IMS Acc4All (social tagging of the resources) and LIP (this specification defines a user profile) standards can be used.
  5. There will also be Facebook integration. This will be limited to accessing the classgroup’s discussion boards, the accessing of profile pictures for the teachers application. The reason the classgroup discussion board will be integrated is that in this way they will be working in an environment that protects them from some other facebook functionality that some people with a mental disability have problems with like explained in the post about the interview.
  6. Twitter feed for quick announcements from the teacher.
  7. Of course the application will also be able to do the “basic” things we would expect in an application that will be used in a class environment like an attendance checker, grade stats, calendar, assignments checker,…

Book: Making apps for the iPhone

I am currently reading a great book I found on called “Apps maken voor de iPhone” by developer Koen Pijnenburg. It’s in Dutch and explains all the basics for developing iPhone apps. Since the iPad has the same operating system the basics are the same for both devices.

The book expects that the reader already has a couple of years of programming experience in an object oriented language. I bought it because I read in a review that it explains Objective-C very well and since I didn’t know the language yet and it is required for developing on iOS that would come in handy…

Field research: Interview

Monday 11 October 2010 I interviewed Ann De Leersnijder (teacher for students with social and emotional problems) and Peter Bauwens (ICT teacher) at “De Sprankel” in Mechelen. This is a school for people with mental disabilities.

The interview was really interesting because this is one of the very few schools that already use ICT tools for people with disabilities. Not yet in the classroom though, they have ICT-lessons were they use those tools. For example they use Sprint which is a text-to-speech program normally used by people with dyslexia but this is also very useful for those with a mental disability. They pointed out that this isn’t the ideal way though. Sprint is not designed to be used by people with a mental disability but solely for people with dyslexia. The problem is that there is just no alternative… There are so much opportunities in this field which could help the people with a mental disability a lot and allow them to have a higher life standard.

They also use Wai-Not, this is sort of a private social network were the students can chat and send e-mails to each other. This is specially made for people with mental disabilities and uses betaprents. This are pictograms so that the ones that can’t read can transform sentences into pictograms. Peter pointed out that too badly the other way around is not implemented (I showed them Proloquo2go and that is exactly what they want Wai-Not to implement). It also has auditive support so the students can let it speak everything out loud. The problem with it is that it is really limited. Sometimes the students just want to let one word or sentence be spoken out loud and that is not possible. It also does not show which word where in the text is spoken while this is something that stimulates and improves their reading capacities. The other big problem is that this is a private network so yes it is secure and avoids abuse but on the other hand they are again separated from other people without a mental disability… Having a mental disability does not mean you can not have friends without one! I mentioned that it could be possible to use the api of for example Facebook to make a simple, safe application for Facebook with tools for people with a mental disability so they can also be socially active. They responded that if something like that existed the world would open for a lot of people with a mental disability.

So what I can conclude from this interview is how important text-to-speech software is for people with a mental disability. This allows them to do a lot more. It is not that they can not understand things or process information. It is just that they do it differently and therefore perhaps slower but they may not be underestimated and too badly this happens too much…