Siddharth Mehrotra

Tic Tac Toe

On the left: Illustration of design of clothing tags for visually challenged users. On the right: tailored tags with golden threads on a cotton cloth.

Class project for User Centered Technology Design course

 Visually impaired people faces many challenges with common day to day activities. Shopping for clothes is a burdensome and time-consuming task for people with vision impairment. The present study studies the purchasing practice and related problems of clothing for visually impaired adolescents. We incorporated Focus Groups, Diary studies, Observations and User Interviews to understand troubles faced by visually impaired, which include shopping for clothes, searching for what to wear and doing laundry. In addition, it was found that what they need is a simple approach to identify their clothes rather than taking care of them. 
With understanding of our user requirements, we designed a tag-based label system for clothing. This tag provides a shared vocabulary of garment to visually impaired users to more effectively understand semantics of the cloth such as size, color etc. The key contribution of this work is tactile clothing labels which can be economically designed and helps our user. An initial user-study provides positive feedback from participants with testing of label system in a clothing store. 
Preliminary Study: 
Through Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM), diary studies, reflection, and interviews in a participatory design process, we sought to identify what is actually important when it comes to daily life shopping for visually impaired. Context of use analysis with personas and affinity diagrams provided us a deep understanding of the issue. Our sample includes 11 completely visually impaired participants with age ranging from 19 to 61 years. 
The process involved iteratively reflecting on our own use cases and participating in design experiments utilizing the Paco application to record in-the-moment activities and perceptions. For instance, questions included asking about one’s shopping assistance, their method to classify colours, organize cloths in wardrobe etc.  Given these data, as a group we collectively reflected on our own prior interactions, participating in an ethnographic practice to more fully unpack not just our interactions with participants, but also underlying meaning they wanted to convey. The outcome of those reflections was then taken and categorized to create our initial set of prototypes, and then iteratively expanded upon by research group participants and validated in ongoing experiments. 
Proposed Solution: 
The clothing tag in our design is a rectangle made of cardboard and a covered button. With the use of the covered button, the tag may be used anywhere on the cloth. Based on our preliminary study, the label is designed as moderate size of 5x5 cm. The protrusions represented in the figure with laser wooden cuttings alphabets & number providing a different sense of tactile feedback for users to “read” by tactile sensation. There are 3 labels which are used both front and back side to depict (brand, type of cloth with pattern), (colour, size) and (price, user description) most vital information for an apparel. These labels were chosen based on feedback by our users. The type of cloth and pattern on the cloth is designed with same cloth that is being used in the cloth in order to provide better understanding of the apparel. User definition part is left blank for the user to personalize this tag (adding clips, bands etc. as reported by them for classification of clothes). 
We ran an initial preliminary evaluation of our prototype with 8 completely visually impaired users. An informed consent was taken from the participants before the experiment. All participants were compensated with Haribo chocolates for their time. Since our prototype was related to numbers and alphabets, most of our users reported ease of identification of clothes. All of our users were able to identify the apparel correctly just after 1st round of trial. After observing the audio recordings, a text thematic analysis was performed on the data. The most significantly frequently occurring words are: easy, attach, color, perfect, matches and cost (for price of apparel). One of our users provided a feedback as: 
“I particularly like the apparel cutting & pattern on this shirt, this is very helpful as it gives me minute details of the apparel, I like this!” (30, Female)
This work presents two primary contributions to the UIST community. First, we have presented an approach to close the gap between help seeking behaviour of blind and difficulties faced by them while choosing clothes for themselves. Extending from a humanistic perspective, this clothing-label approach to reflections allows us to see that frequently the most salient assistance for visually impaired is they themselves if provided with right tools. And second, we have suggested and taken the first steps towards validating the designed tag to suggest design interventions sensitive to the needs of those being intervened upon. In other words, by including our label in our concept of assessible design, we create opportunities for design ideation that is more sensitive to patterns of actual use. 
As near future work for this research, we are collaborating with clothing stores to add these inexpensive tags to their cloths. All the tools needed to make presented tag may also be found in any stationary shop as well.