Improving Interface Design for People with Down Syndrome

February 28, 2013
2:50 pm - 4:00 pm
Halligan 111
Host: Rob Jacob


While there is a tradition of at least 30 years of HCI research relating to people with perceptual or motor impairments, HCI research involving people with cognitive or intellectual impairments is recent, and much rarer. Since 2006, Jonathan Lazar and his research group have been investigating computer usage by people with Down syndrome. The impact of Down syndrome on multiple channels of cognitive, fine motor, and visual and hearing abilities could affect the use of specific technology. For example, low muscle tone and weak muscles are often a problem in the arms and fingers, which could impact on keyboarding skills. Auditory memory and sequential recall are also difficult areas for people with Down syndrome, which could affect computer security. This presentation will provide an overview of the existing research on computer usage by people with Down syndrome. This research has included both children and adults with Down syndrome, using multiple research methods (survey, observation, usability testing, and experimental design). Major projects focused on the use of web-based security features, input devices, and multi-touch tablet computers. The presentation will also include a discussion of how this HCI research relates to public policy and employment issues for people with Down syndrome.

Jonathan Lazar is the Shutzer Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Harvard University), as well as a Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Towson University. Lazar has published more than 120 refereed articles in journals, books, and conference proceedings. He has also authored three books and edited three, including Research Methods in Human-Computer Interaction (Wiley, 2010), Universal Usability: Designing Computer Interfaces for Diverse User Populations (Wiley, 2007), and Web Usability: A User-Centered Design Approach (Addison Wesley, 2006). He was awarded a 2011 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Public Service, a 2010 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind for working towards achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality, and a 2009 Innovator of the Year Award from the Maryland Daily Record for his work on improving the accessibility of web-based security features. He currently serves as chair of public policy for ACM SIGCHI (the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction).