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A multimodal end-2-end approach to accessible computing (2nd ed.)
Biswas P., Duarte C., Langdon P., Almeida L., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2015. 336 pp. Type: Book (978-1-447167-07-5)
Date Reviewed: Dec 12 2016

Today, communication applications and devices such as smartphones are mostly designed for common use. However, they feature a plethora of complex functionalities that make their use difficult for certain groups of people. Thus, elderly populations and individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities are not always capable of using them. This exclusion results from a conventional/traditional user modeling process that only considers “typical” users, not elderly populations, people with severe disabilities, and illiterates.

This book consists of three parts, which provide a valuable background on demographic structure and cognitive disability among elderly populations in both industrialized and developing countries. The authors have evaluated the conventional user design approach and compared it with a user-centered modeling approach for inclusive interaction design. They furthermore present and discuss a set of ongoing and implemented accessibility projects, which aim to make the implemented systems usable by anyone, regardless of disability and age.

The first part discusses demographic structures and cognitive disability among elderly populations, as well as issues that elderly and illiterate users face in interacting with computers/technology. The authors figure out the correlation between education level and the ability of elderly and illiterate people to use computer systems and technology.

The second and the third parts present and discuss ongoing accessibility projects and running assistive systems (for example, GUIDE, an EU project) for elderly people. The authors clearly describe the process of user-centered modeling approach design. Through the presented projects, the authors show how the elderly and people with disabilities can benefit from accessibility computing and/or assistive technology. These parts of the book thus show the significance of a user-centered modeling approach in system design.

I personally appreciate the important statistical data (see chapters 1 and 2) in the first part of this book, which additionally points out guidelines for multimodality design as well as a user-centered modeling concept to design system interfaces for users regardless of their (cognitive/physical) disabilities. I especially appreciate the project presented and discussed in chapter 8: “Embodied Virtual Agent as Means to Foster E-Inclusion of Older People.” This chapter has great potential to help, particularly in designing and implementing medical applications such as assisted diagnosis systems and patient assisting medical training systems, especially for elderly patients.

The book is well written and judiciously structured. The chapters form a continuous thread and thus gradually lead readers through the book from the background and motivation for accessibility computing, to case studies on how elderly people are a fast-growing user group in the Western world, to why the future of devices and system interface design is concerning here, to the user-centered design process and its implementation. I recommend this book, which features best practices, to designers and developers of system interfaces.

Reviewer:  Thierry Edoh Review #: CR144964 (1703-0175)
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