Re: Vision impaired interface

From: Douglas W. Jones <jones_at_cs_dot_uiowa_dot_edu>
Date: Fri Oct 31 2003 - 09:21:00 CST

On Thursday, October 30, 2003, at 10:12 PM, Peter B. Maggs wrote:

>> though. For example, the first that came to my mind was, how to
>> handle write-ins - any ideas?
>
> Write-ins present a number of different and difficult problems.
>
> First, for voters who are good at typing. There are many examples of
> typing
> interfaces for blind users.

The Avante voting machine uses a standard keyboard for blind users,
so if they can type, they can use it. The Avante keyboard has one
modification, 4 "huge" eys on the for corners. These huge keys are
the entire navigation scheme for voting on the ballot, and there is
a scheme for write-in votes that allows you to use them to pick letters
from the alphabet, very cumbersomely.

> These interfaces for instance allow the user to
> choose to type with no feedback, with line by line feedback, with word
> by
> word feedback, or with key by key feedback. For any particular
> interface,
> it takes a while for the users to learn the commands, but this
> investment
> has a long term payoff.

Feedback models other than letter by letter for text entry are almost
irrelevant to voting systems, since most voters don't cast write-in
votes, and those who do so do so only rarely. The fact that voters
only vote a few times a year adds further complexity.

In general, user interfaces for voting systems, whether for handicapped
or voters or for the general population, must be designed to work
reasonably with no training or with trivial training, because you don't
vote frequently enough for the training to "stick" from one election to
the next. This makes many standard assumptions about user interface
design for PC's irrelevant.

> A suggestion would be to give all three - letter-by-letter,
> word-by-word, and end of line audible feedback
> with no options. Thus if the user typed in John Smith [and then hit
> ENTER], the computer would say: J O H N John S M I T H Smith [pause]
> John
> Smith.

This is a sound proposal.

> For the user who is not a decent typist or can't type at all it is
> harder.
> One approach would be to use the same system, but to substitute letter
> by
> letter voice recognition. The user says "J" - the computer says "J - is
> that right" - the users says "YES" or "NO" - etc.

There are voter privacy issues that come up with any interface that
asks the voter to speak while in the voting booth.

I have never seen a handicapped accessible voting machine that took
this path. The ES&S model, for example, has a 3-button interface.
If you want to cast a write-in vote and you can't work the keyboard
that is on the touch screen, it starts repeating the alphabet and you
hit the select button each time it gets to the letter you want next.
The same feedback options discussed above make sense in this context.

Quite frankly, election officials hate write-in votes and never seem
to mind making them inconvenient, not only to handicapped voters but
to the general electorate. I've seen touch-screen voting systems
where, to cast a write-in vote, the alphabet was presented in
straight alphabetical order, nominally, in order to avoid favoring
those who can't type. That way, nobody could do write-ins quickly,
everyone was forced to enter write-in names at the slowest possible
rate. (And keyboards implemented on touch screens are awful to begin
with.)

                                Doug Jones
                                jones@cs.uiowa.edu
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Received on Fri Oct 31 23:17:06 2003

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