Designing touch surfaces to help the visually impaired operate home appliances

Tangible Surface Research, LLC
Pittsford, New York
EngineeringArt and Design
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/5601
Raised of $500 Goal
Funded on 10/02/15
Successfully Funded
  • $903
  • 180%
  • Funded
    on 10/02/15



The goal is to evaluate home appliance overlays that use tactile icons.

Part I - Twelve visually impaired test participants evaluate different overlays at the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI) in Rochester, NY. Below is a chart of the overlay and tactile icon evaluation.

The Overlay Evaluation uses a touchscreen monitor displaying a simple microwave oven interface. See the test fixture lab note. The overlays match the microwave controls on the touchscreen. See my overlay lab note on the different overlays, why I chose these overlays and how I created them. For each overlay, the test participants will perform two timed tests (sequence and random selection) and answer 'likeability' and usability questions.

The Tactile Icon Evaluation will present 6 plates of tactile icons (start, stop, power level, time cook, popcorn and up arrow). We will discuss the tactile icons and record the icons that they like best, least and are most meaningful.

Part II - Nineteen students from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) School of Design will design, develop and test tactile icon overlays for a microwave oven and conventional oven.

Scaled pictures of actual microwave and conventional oven control panels will provide the layout and spacing.

The groups' objective is to develop easily recognizable tactile icons that work as a system. The students must develop icons for the most common functions on the microwave and all the functions on the conventional oven. The materials provided to the students will be clear film (shelf liner) and craft foam (as material that tested well in the ABVI test). Students will record each iteration, the feedback received and the modifications based on the feedback.


Qualitative Data Capture - A qualitative analysis of different overlays requires capturing accurate button press location and timestamp. We choose to do this with overlays on a touchscreen monitor. The challenge is to create a touch surface that appropriately represents an appliance control panel.

Travel logistics for visually impaired test participants - One has to respect the effort it requires for a visually impaired test participant to travel to a test site.