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Thesis Defense - Dawe

DLC 170

Reflective Design-In-Use: Co-Designing an Assistive Remote Communication System with Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities and Their Families
Computer Science PhD Candidate

Mobile phones have transformed the way we communicate with friends and family, coordinate our daily activities, and organize our lives. For families with children with cognitive disabilities there is widespread hope, although not always fulfilled, that personal technologies -- particularly mobile phones -- can bring a dramatic increase in their child's level of safety, independence, and social connectedness. However, many individuals with significant cognitive disabilities are unable to use off-the-shelf mobile phones because of their complex menus, small buttons, and fragile platform.

In this research, I conducted ethnographic studies to first understand the current patterns of use and the adoption process of assistive technology for individuals with cognitive disabilities and their families. I identified barriers to technology adoption including lack of consideration of a caregiver network, lack of simplicity, and lack of support in upgrade and replacement of technology.

I then employed participatory design with individual families with a young adult with cognitive disabilities to co-design a PDA-based mobile phone that matched the abilities and needs of their child. I conducted an eight-week field trial with the families to evaluate the phone user interface and functionality, and modified the phones through participatory design based on the experiences of use. This research identified requirements for functionality and customization of mobile phones for this population. I found that this method was an effective way to engage individuals with cognitive disabilities as participants in the design of their own technology.

Committee: Gerhard Fischer, Professor (Chair)
Clayton Lewis, Professor
Leysia Palen, Assistant Professor
Katie Siek, Assistant Professor
James Sullivan, Senior Research Associate
Tamara Sumner, Associate Professor
Kathleen Tierney, Institute of Behavioral Science

See also:
Department of Computer Science
College of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0430 USA
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May 5, 2012 (13:40)