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A Design of Air-Condition Remote Control for Visually

Impaired People

Cherng-Yee Leung*, Yan-Ting Yao**, and Su-Chen Chuang***

* Associate Professor, Department of Industrial Design, Tatung University, 40, Sec. 3,


Jhongshan N. Rd., Taipei 104, Taiwan, Rep. of China, leung@ttu.edu.tw
** Graduate Student, Department of Industrial Design, Tatung University, 40, Sec. 3,
Jhongshan N. Rd., Taipei 104, Taiwan, Rep. of China, yty@ttu.edu.tw
*** Professor, Department of Special Education, National Taichung University, 140, Min-
Shen Rd., Taichung 403, Taiwan, Rep. of China, chuang424242@gmail.com

Abstract. Air condition is operated by a remote control presented mainly with


visual cues. Individuals with visual impairment have difficult to use it. This
research aims to design an air condition remote control for them. Based on
investigation, literature review, and discussion among 4 experts, a set of design
principles emphasizing on consistency, discrimination, efficiency, label, and
feedback has been set up. 6 main functions each having 2~4 alternatives were
modeled by ABS accordingly. 20 visually impaired people volunteered in two
experiments: within function and between function. By Friedman test and LSD
method, the 6 functions have been classified into three groups: (power switch,
temperature setting), (wind speed selection, wind direction selection), and
(sleeping mode, time setting) arranging form top to bottom on a remote control.
Through discussion, the braille labels have been decided placed at the left side
of the function buttons. The implications were discussed in the conclusion.

Keywords: Air Condition, Non-barrier environment, Remote Control, User


Center Design, Visually Impaired

1 Introduction

Air condition is one of necessities for human being. It is operated by a remote control,
especially for domestic use. The remote control of air condition has been in mature
and stable stage, and most of its control methods are similar. As shown in Figure 1,
the infrared emitter is located at the top of remote control, followed by the LCD
display area showing the current operating status, then at the bottom are the press
buttons, next to which are text labeling the function of the buttons. On the air
condition itself, there are lights, icons showing the current operating status and wind-
guiding blades showing wind direction (Fig. 2).
Most of the remote controls in the market utilize infrared to wirelessly transfer
information (Fig. 3). Users first have to hold the remote control and point it at the air
condition when pressing the desired buttons. At this moment, the air condition will
react with sounds and flash lights to indicate that it has received the signal. The
detailed operational information will be shown on the LCD display at the top of the
remote control. Users then use the remote control to adjust the air condition in order
to get their desired situation. However, information shown on the LCD display area,
text labels next to press buttons, lights and wind-guiding blades on air condition itself
are designed for sighted people. That is, all the functions on remote control almost
have been designed to be operated mainly with visual cues. Visually impaired people
lack the ability to receive information through the visual sense, which happens to be
primary channel for communication with the air condition. Therefore, an individual
with visually impaired has difficult to use it. With non-barrier environment [7, 8, 19]
and user center design concept [6, 15, 17, 18] under consideration, and based on the
requirements and opinions in operating air condition for visually impaired people
[13], this research aims to design an air condition remote control for them.

Infrared emitter

LCD display area

Press buttons
(with text label)

Fig. 1. An example of remote control [20]

Wind-guiding blades showing


the wind direction

Icons and
Display Lights

Fig. 2. An example of air condition [20]


Fig. 3. An illustration of using remote control

2 Literature Review

Visual sense is the primary Chanel to receive information [21]. The visually impaired
people are weak in visual sense; therefore, they have to rely on other senses to interact
with outside world [20]. As solving the problems confronting with visually impaired,
it is important not to forget those affecting everyday things [3]. The complicate
operation processes and functions and instructions not being discriminated are top
two problems in operating home electronic appliances for visually impaired [2]. Air
condition is one among these hard operating appliances [2].

The purpose of non-barrier environment is to design and build an accessible


environment for disabled people [7, 8, 19]. All the designs have consider their uses is
the concept of user center design which is a broad term to describe design
processes in which end-users influence how a design takes shape
[6, 15, 17, 18]. Burgess [1] mentioned some control deign principles
which include enough space for hand or finger manipulating
controls, proper location and strength for activating controls, clear
indication for showing operation status, easily readable label for
instruction and discrimination. He also mentioned that labeling
positions must be consistent, and grouping. Wu [22] added that
braille, tactile icon, and other tactually stimulus are necessary
whenever visually impaired involved. Edman [4] addressed that the
depth or height of tactile area symbols, and line symbols has to be
0.5 ~ 1 mm, and at least 1 mm, respectively. He also said the area
of tactile symbols is at least 5.0 * 5.0 mm 2, and 3 mm between
symbols. You and Chen [23] got the minimum discriminated width of
a tactile geometric shape is around 4.28 mm. Frascara and Takach
[5] suggested that the height of relief should be more than 1 mm.
With voice feedback, braille label, and various sizes of buttons,
the visually impaired has better performance in operating Fountain
machine [14]. Regarding remote control using with TV for elders,
Hung [10] stated some design guidelines about the lay out, size,
number, and shape of press buttons. Huang [9] figured out the color
combinations for text against background. Leung and Chen [11]
added text patterns used in remote control for regular people.
However, little literature concerns about air condition remote
control [12], especially for the visually impaired. Therefore, this
study tried to put some efforts on this relative ignored field.

3 Research Design

Three consecutive stages were conducted in this research: 1) design principle, 2)


model building, and 3) experiment which involved two experiments: within function
experiment and between function experiment.

3.1 Design Principle Stage

Based on the 41 requirements and opinions in operating air condition for visually
impaired people [13], and 6 main functions they need have been identified, 2 product
designers and 2 special educators were invited to discuss the design principles for an
air condition remote control. Refer to literature, the characteristics of visually
impaired, and the feature of air condition, two issues were addressed: 1) press buttons
must be tactually distinguishable in terms of their functions and operation status; 2)
feedback must be clear and be heard. A set of design principles (table 1) has been set
up. This design principle emphasizes on consistency, discrimination, efficiency, label,
and feedback.
Table 1. Design Principles

Principle Description
Shape consistency All the press buttons must be consistency in shape to avoid confusion.
Common icons are put on the top of buttons to be tactually distinguishable
Common Icons
and reduce burden of learning.
There must be some space between buttons to separate them for being
Separation
tactually distinguishable.
Buttons performing similar functions have to be grouped together to
Grouping
increase efficiency and readability.
Buttons must be extruded from the level of remote control, relief icons
Extruding
used on the top of button, and braille used to be tactually distinguishable.
Single Layer All the function has only one layer to simplify operation steps.
Label All the functions are labeled with braille to be readable.
All buttons are pressed in up and down direction, activated buttons are
sunken, and non-activated buttons are kept in normal height; therefore, this
Tactile Feedback
kind of tactile feedback is tactually clear and can show the operation
status.
Bi-Bi sound is employed to indicate button pressed successfully to give
Voice Feedback
clear hearing feedback.

3.2 Model Building Stage

Based on the design principles mentioned above, all the buttons were designed in
round shape, and being pressed in up and down direction. Their heights are 5 mm
above the level of remote control, and 2 mm after being pressed. Common icons were
used, such as, I/O represents power on and out, ∆ increasing, ∇ decreasing. Three
design alternatives for the button of power switch, 3 for temperature setting, 3 for
time setting, 3 for wind speed selection, 2 for sleeping mode, and 4 for wind direction
selection have been figured out. Models have been made by ABS, each corresponding
to one of the design alternatives (Table 2). Their specifications are shown in Table 3.
Table 2. Models for Each Function

Function Power Switch Temperature Setting

Model

Function Time Setting Wind Speed Selection

Model

Function Sleeping Mode Wind Direction Selection

Model

Table 3. The Specification (in mm) for the Models

Pattern Single Line Double Line

Specificatio
n
3.2 Experiment Stage

Two experiments were conducted: within function experiment and between function
experiment. Twenty visually impaired people volunteered in both experiments. 9
males and 11 females are able to tactually read braille. They were between 23 and 59
years old (mean 41.4, standard deviation 8.10). In the within function experiment,
each subject was asked to rank the alternatives within each function based on 3
criteria: the status readability, feedback feeling, and preference (Fig. 4). The collected
data were analyzed by the Friedman test. If a significant difference was shown, the
least significant difference method (LSD) [16] was employed to perform the post hoc
test. Then one or more alternatives within each function were selected to be included
in the final model.
There were two parts in the between function experiment: 1) function buttons
layout, and 2) braille labeling position choice. In the formal part, each subject was
asked to arrange the 6 functions in a remote control from top to bottom based on their
preference. The collected data were also analyzed by the Friedman test and LSD if a
significant result was shown. Then functions could be grouped. In the latter part, they
have to choose either left side or right side of the function button to attach braille
labels (Fig. 5). The collected data were analyzed by proportion comparison and
discussion.

4 Results and Analysis

The results are shown in the following sections.

4.1 Within Function Experiment

Table 4 lists the results of the Friedman test for the within function experiment. After
cross comparing the results among three criteria, the selected alternatives within each
function are also listed in Table 4.
Fig. 4. Process -Within Function Experiment Fig. 5. Process-Between Function Experiment

Table 4. Cross-Comparison of Alternatives within Function

Wind Wind
Function Power Temperature Timer Sleep
Speed Direction
A
B
Alternative
C
D
R 9.094 / 3.100 / 9.094 / 3.430 / 3.947 /
N/A4
1 0.0106 0.2122 0.0106 0.1800 0.1390
Friedman
6.098 / 0.400 / 0.400 / 3.430 / 3.189 /
Test F2 N/A4
0.0474 0.8187 0.8187 0.1800 0.2030
(χ02 / p)
10.300 / 6.699 / 0.700 / 15.648 / 7.354 / 12.603 /
P3
0.0058 0.0351 0.7047 0.0004 0.0253 0.0054
R C BA N/A4 C BA CA B N/A4 N/A4
LSD
F C BA N/A4 N/A4 CA B N/A4 N/A4
Grouping5
P C BA AB BC N/A4 CA B BA BD DA C
Selected
C A, B C C, A B B, D
Alternative
1: Status Readability; 2: Feedback Feeling; 3: Preference; 4: Not available; 5:
Alternatives within each function is arranged from the best to the worst. There was no
significance between alternatives within group, but significance between groups.
4.2 Between Function Experiment

The Friedman test for the function button layout had χ02 = 26.476 (p < 0.0001). LSD
grouping has shown that the 6 models each corresponding to one function have been
classified into three groups: (power switch, temperature setting), (wind speed
selection, wind direction selection), and (sleeping mode, time setting) arranging form
top to bottom on a remote control. There were 10 subjects preferred the braille labels
put to the left side of press button, 8 preferred right side and 2 had no preference.
Since the reading habit in braille is from left to right and from top to bottom, after
discussing with all the subjects, they agreed that the braille label put to the left of the
press button is more convenient.

5 Discussion and Conclusion

The marketed air condition is operated by a remote control presented mainly with
visual cues. Individuals with visual impairment have difficult to use it [13].
Therefore, they hardly operate air condition by themselves alone.
Two designers and 2 special educators figured out a set of design principles (Table 1).
Each design alternative has been modeled by ABS. After a two-stage experiment, a
final model is then shown in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6. The final model of air condition remote control for visually impaired people

This model is assumed to be tactually operated. Each function shown on the


remote control is separated by 1 mm high line and labeled with braille to its left side
in order to make function choice unambiguously. The icons on top of press buttons
can be read by fingers. The activated buttons and inactivated buttons can be told by
their heights. The reasons why the subjects preferred these alternatives are shown in
Table 5 and might be a good reference for designing an air condition remote control
for visually impaired.
Table 5. The reasons why the alternatives chosen in the final model

Wind
Function Power Temperature Wind Speed Sleep Time setting
Direction
Selected
Alternative
Unfamiliar
Familiar with Icon had clear
Single with regular Single Control and
braille direction and
button number button display are
Reasons Each button easily
Simple Few buttons Simple consistently
has unique tactually
icon Traditional icon matched
meaning distinguished
icons

All the subjects involved in this study stated that they wish this model can be
commercialized as soon as possible. They expected one day they can comfortably
operate air condition by themselves alone and enjoy it. A real prototype would be
made in the near future to test its usability. Hopefully, a real working tactile remote
control can be realized soon.

Acknowledgments. The thanks will be given to the Technology Development


Association for the Disabled in Taiwan and all the people involved in this research.

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