Accessibility Issues With Touch Screen Mobile Phones Computer Science Essay

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The life today is on a finger tip. It has become so difficult that one has to depend on latest technology. To ease such a hectic life new evolutions in the field of technology are essential. With the development of Mobiles phones, PDA's, laptops and all other equipments this has become easy. But simultaneously increase in the problem of accessing such equipments has also not stopped. The equipments are so advanced that normal people have to give ample of time to adopt it. As technology becomes more and more advance in over day to day life it also raises the issues of accessibility. Accessibility as defined by the Centre of Excellence in universal Design is as follows

"An accessible product or service is one which can be used by all its intended users, taking into account their differing capabilities." [Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, 2010]

The report will investigate the problems faced by the people accessing the BlackBerry Torch 9800 Smartphone. As everyday there is something new emerging out of the box it becomes impossible to chase and adapt it. Here some issues are witnessed due to the changes in the operating system and implementation of the different technology in designing the phone with the touch screen technology and keeping the QWERTY keypad which is the very own sign of the mobile phone. Today, such smart phones are been used as an integral part of the life of people, but it could be difficult for some people to adapt the changes. I therefore selected the BlackBerry Torch 9800 Smartphone to study the accessibility problems and give the possible solutions to overcome it.

Current Research, Guidelines & Legislation

At times there are few tasks that even a normal person finds it difficult to use and adapt it. As the technology advances it becomes quite possible that the general public may find it difficult and may not use as they find it complicated. This make them fill a disabled though being not. World Health Organisation (WHO) defines disability as:

"Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. Impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person's body and features of the society in which he or she lives." [World Health Organisation, 2011]

Thus it becomes clear that if a normal person cannot complete its task or finds it difficult to execute it he/she is a disable. Not every person is a disable but because of the new development in the day life an individual finds the surroundings difficult to adapt it. That makes him a disable.

Here, the disability is, people cannot easily operate the Touch Screen Smartphone. Because of the highly advanced electronic equipment the person always tries to fit the environment but leave after numerous tries to access it. The accessibility of the electronic equipment comes in role which says that the product should be such that it is easy to use the electronic and communication facility. E-Accessibility as defined World Health Organisation says:

"Electronic accessibility, or E-Accessibility, refers to the ease of use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), by people with disabilities." [What is E-Accessibility? 2010]

Generally, the mobile phones manufacturer are abide to follow the accessibility guidelines. BlackBerry designs its software and applications that allows people with disabilities and impairments to use easily. Their applications and software's are designed by BlackBerry for the people with disabilities and impairments with the features of "Speakerphone, Visual, audible and vibrations alerts and notifications, hearing aid compatibility, assignable ring tones to identify callers, customizable fonts and themes, browser zoom, reverse contrast and grayscale display settings, autoText, SureType® technology with predictive text, SurePress™ touch screen." [Support for accessibility on BlackBerry devices, 2010]

The use of touchscreen technology has become the main accessibility problem with Smartphone's. The only way to input the data and view the data is touch screen. As the use of touch screen has to be done with the stylus or a soft pointed object/pen or finger, depending on the type of touch screen, the basic accessibility problem faced by the use of touchscreen was that the touchscreen doesn't work with the hand gloves on and can register the command although it's an accidental touch of the chick to the screen while on the call, here the simple solution is provide a screen lock facility while on call and for the later. Another problem is that the people use nail instead of a stylus or a soft pointed pen which can harm the screen. As technology advances, other alternative will become available but there are some simple improvements that could be made now which would be the first step to total accessibility. This is an area of much active research, and steps have been taken to produce guidelines to help.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800

Touch Screen Technology

Touch Screen Technology have made life easy. People fulfil their demands on a single finger touch. These equipments works on the best user interface providing them to make things possible at their figure tip and that is possible with the help of the Touch Screen Technology. Touch Screen Technology is defined as:

"A new visual and computer aided device where the screen acts as an interface to the computer environment by simple touches to the screen. It provides very accurate recording of the timing and frequency of response." [Psychological-consult.com, 2011]

Touch Screen Technology is used everywhere today. It is used at airline e-ticket terminals, information kiosk terminals, automated teller machines (ATM), libraries, fast food restaurants, retail stores and many other places. Its use is not limited to kiosk and support machine but it is also used in the field of education. Continuous research is carried out to facilitate the educational environment with the touch screen functionality to the wall, desks and other objects. Thus it can be said that Touch Screen Technology has become the most common mean as an input device and one of the best examples of it is Personal Digital Assistants (PDA's) and mobile phones.

Since the motive of developing Touch Screen Technology was to provide with the user-friendly interface and provide work around without the use of mouse and keyboard, it can be said logically that the touch screen technology is the best tool for the people experiencing difficulty in using mouse and keyboard because of some disabilities. Specific designed applications are been developed for the specific use with the touch functionality. These applications have a large icon and a simple user interface design.

On the contradictory side this technology presents its self as a wall to the people with physical disabilities who are unable to touch the device, or to the person with the low eye sight. Alternatives to overcome this situation should be made available by providing an accessible product that allows the person to enter the command by voice or by pressing the controller with the headstick, mouthstick or the stylus. This difference of providing the accessible product varies with the different touch screen technology. The touch screen technology are mainly of three types but not restricted to only these.

The Resistive Touch Screen is one of the basic touch technology used. In this a thin metallically electronic conductive and resistive layer is coated to the panel of the screen. On touch this layer registers the electrical current changes and then sends the registered changes to the processor.

Another technology is Surface Wave Technology where it uses ultrasonic waves that pass over the touch screen panel. A portion of the wave is absorbed on touch. This change in the ultrasonic waves registers the position of the touch event and sends this information to the controller for processing. This technology is most advanced, but the outside elements can damage it.

The last is the Capacitive Touch Screen. It stores electric charges. A circuit located on either side of the screen measures the charges on point of contact to the screen and send the information to the processor. It is the technology where the panel must be touched by skin unlike resistive and surface wave panel that use both fingers and stylus. Also these screens give high clarity and are not affected by the outside elements.

As said that the variety of touch screen technology does not limits to the above listed only. Other few of them are Infrared, Optical imaging, Dispersive Signal Technology, Acoustic Pulse Recognition and many other but for the use in the mobile phone the Capacitive Touch Screen is widely used as its more effective and easy to use.

Touch screen has two main features. First it allows interacting directly to the dialog displayed, instead of through cursor controlled by a mouse or touchpad. Second, it allows interacting with any device to do so without the intervention. It also plays significant role in development of personal digital assistant (PDA) devices, satellite navigation devices, mobile phones and video games.

Blackberry Torch 9800\\storage-stud\user-area\0\ki031\Coursework\torch.png

Figure -

BlackBerry Torch 9800

Source: www.cnet.co.ukThe BlackBerry Torch is the latest mobile handset developed by the BlackBerry attempting to tackle touch screen technology. Its software is designed to make interface more finger friendly with the all unique sign of QWERTY keyboard. The smart phone is the 1st ever slide phone developed. It combine both features a touch screen and fully QWERTY keyboard. Its improvements in operating system BlackBerry OS 6 brings a better user interface, universal search and an improved browser and multimedia experience. The most changes are brought in the web browser. The accurate pages can be loaded with all new web browsers. The apps store of BlackBerry haves wide range of apps. One can download the latest applications and stay updated to the most used social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, E-Mails, MSN Messengers, Yahoo Messenger and many more. Also with the BlackBerry Messenger, you can IM any BlackBerry user in the world for no charges.

Figure -

Blackberry OS 6

Source: www.blackberrycool.com

Figure -

Touchscreen and QWERTY Keypad

Source: www.cnet.co.uk\\storage-stud\user-area\0\ki031\Coursework\blackberry_6.jpg \\storage-stud\user-area\0\ki031\Coursework\BBM.png

Figure -

Faster Rich Browsing

Source: www.uk.blackberry.com\\storage-stud\user-area\0\ki031\Coursework\browsing.PNG

Evaluating Accessibility

Using the guidelines mentioned above to evaluate the accessibility function of the BlackBerry Torch 9800, it becomes clear that people face lot of problem accessing the Smartphone in various manners. For the purpose of this report I read and evaluated the issues submitted by the people on various online forums.

Most of the people say that BlackBerry phones are tough to understand. They issue they face is how to get started using the phone. The functions are too complicated and deep inside the sub menus. Yes, they are organised in the best and the logical manner but difficult to find in one go. People often don't have enough time to search for the feature/application they what to use. As per the review given by cnet.co.uk

"The phone's menus provide a smorgasbord of choice, like everything on the Torch. There are ten different ways to do everything, from typing a word to checking your email. Whether you find this approach exhaustive, or just exhausting, depends on how your mind works." [BlackBerry Torch 9800 review by Flora Graham, 2010]

One of the features an individual look is for a high resolution screen. Whereas, the screen of the BlackBerry Torch isn't up to the mark like other Smartphone's like I-Phone 4 or like HTC Desire. The 3.2" touchscreen is of very low resolution which is the down side of the Smartphone. Also the touchscreen is less responsive. The phone lags at times while tapping the screen as said on the cnet.co.uk:

"The touch experience still isn't quite as smooth as the one on phones like the HTC Desire or the iPhone, however. When scrolling through lists of status updates, for example, the phone occasionally became confused about whether we were tapping or scrolling." [BlackBerry Torch 9800 review by Flora Graham, 2010]

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 is comes loaded with the 624 MHz processor. The processor is quite slower than the other phones like iPhone 4 and HTC Desire HD are equipped with 1GHz processor which gives high end functionality to the phone.

Suggested Improvement

In all the Smartphone lacks some of the basic software and hardware features with a lack of disability to understand the system by making it more complicated to use. But, the below suggested improvements can be helpful which are as follows:

Search Option

The simple way to make the complicated things easy can be done by adding a search feature to it. A simple search can ease lots of things. For example, adding a universal search feature to the phone which gives result of the entire search query entered.

Battery Saver

The main problem arises when we are expecting a call or are suppose to call and the battery goes dead. Adding the power saver feature can be helpful to in such case. The software and the hardware to be so developed that I utilizes less battery and provides with full backup all the time. Currently, there are many applications designed that gives a battery saver option and sometimes minor changes to the device's setting can also be effective and helpful.

Better Processer

Speed is of lot importance in this fast emerging world. The faster the speed of process, better the result. Upgrading the current processer with the high end processor can be advisable as such high end processor products are available in the market that provides with the faster speed and better performance. For example, replacing the current 624 MHz processor with the 1 GHz processor will increase the efficiency and performance of the device.

Correct & Effective touch responsiveness

The device is equipped with the capacitive touch screen technology, which is the most effective and responsive for finger touch. But the users have problem in using it. For example, when user try to type a character it does not response or type the wrong character and at times it responds with any touch to the screen. The same technology is used by the other Smartphone's and there is no issue with them. So, here if can be logically said that the problem is with the software or the design of the phone which is not effective and responsive. Necessary improvements to them must be done to provide with the correct and effective responsiveness of the touchscreen.

Better Screen Resolution

The screen resolution of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 is only 3.2 inch HVGA+ 480x360 pixel colour display. Whereas, the other Smartphone's provide a very high resolution screen 960x640-pixel resolution display. The main downside feature of this Smartphone is low screen resolution. The Low Resolution Screen should be replaced with the High Resolution Screen to get clearer picture of the screen.

BlackBerry Contract

Any application on the BlackBerry Smartphone which gives the automatic feed updates like E-Mail, Facebook, Instant Messaging Service and any other applications requires BlackBerry Internet service. Although it has the Wi-Fi capability these applications works only with the BlackBerry Internet Services and without the internet services the Smartphone becomes of no use. The solution to this is providing the service with any internet connective rather than only BlackBerry Internet Services.

Conclusions

The report examines the accessibility issues encountered by the general public who are using the BlackBerry Torch 9800 Smartphone. People using BlackBerry Torch 9800 Smartphone are not convinced and satisfied with the features and functionality of the phone and with the drawbacks with the some of the technological aspects. The issues are related to the complication in the use i.e. non user-friendly, systems lag i.e. understanding the command and few others which are included above.

Improvements have been suggested for the some of which some of them can be easily solved by using the new and advanced technology. Replacing high speed processor solves the problem of systems lag. Designing the software and the hardware carefully giving importance to the user-friendly design and the interface solves the problem of complications in its use.

All the complications and issues should be considered with the motive to provide better product or services to the public. Research in the customer's satisfaction should be given priority to provide with user-friendly product or service, especially in the electronic devices. New and advance technology which is user-friendly should be implemented immediately but the only question remains that what is the limit of the technology and how far should it be implemented.

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