Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Information Technology
Information Technology
New Touchscreen User Interface Provides Improved Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities
WARF: P110035US01

Inventors: Gregg Vanderheiden, J. Bern Jordan, David Kelso

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a method for improved access to the functions of human-machine interfaces for people with disabilities.
The touchscreen is an increasingly popular human-machine interface, particularly with public information and transaction machines. Because the buttons on the screen are virtual, they can be changed readily in terms of type, size and number without changing the associated system hardware. Touchscreen systems also may include audio capabilities along with the visual buttons to help the public obtain information or directions.

These features are advantageous for designers and mainstream users. They also have the potential to be of particular benefit to people with low vision or those who have reading disabilities.

UW–Madison researchers previously developed a user-friendly method for operating touchscreen systems that can facilitate access by people who are blind, have low vision, have any type of reading disability, have trouble reaching the full screen or use prosthetics that will not work with the touch screen. This method makes use of a special tactile keypad that allows users to navigate around the screen and, for those who cannot read the screen, have the contents read to them. For those who can see and reach, it would be faster if they could just use their finger to explore the screen and use it directly. However, this would require a special mode, which is complicated on a public system. 
The Invention
UW–Madison researchers have therefore developed a complementary feature that works with the tactile keypad and allows users with any residual vision to operate the touch screen directly. This is useful for those with low vision as well as people with any type of reading problem.

The user initially touches the screen anywhere and drags a finger down or across the screen.  When he or she enters into a virtual button while dragging in this fashion, the device automatically switches into a mode where each item entered is highlighted and read aloud (or, more commonly, through headphones). In this fashion a person can move about the screen to have text read or find a desired button. When the desired button is found, the user can just lift the finger and touch the button in the normal fashion.  

While a person who is blind could use this method, it would not be reliable since he or she would not be able to see where the buttons were and could miss one easily. But for users who have difficulty seeing or reading a kiosk, this technique provides them with a much faster method of use. It also is transparent to other kiosk users who can continue to use the kiosk in the regular fashion. 
  • Cross-disability access to public information and transaction machines that utilize touchscreen systems
Key Benefits
  • Improved access to the functions of human-machine interfaces for people with disabilities
  • Simple and inexpensive to implement
  • May be utilized without altering present operation of the human-machine interface
  • Compatible with EZ-Access® devices
Stage of Development
Demonstration of this method was used for a train station ticketing kiosk.
Additional Information
For More Information About the Inventors
Related Intellectual Property
For current licensing status, please contact Emily Bauer at [javascript protected email address] or 608-960-9842