Visually impaired struggle with smart home devices

  • January 25, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Design trends for smart home devices that rely heavily on visual feedback are digitally excluding blind and visually impaired people, according to market watcher Strategy Analytics.

The report says this is stopping them experiencing sophisticated smart home technology from which they would reap most benefit. The constant need to adapt appliances to create tactile feedback on slick flat digital screens is preventing the sight loss community from using smart home technologies and appliances to their full potential.

The research explored the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired and their relationship with technology. It identified key design implications with respect to user needs, technology use and pain-points for the sight loss community when using smart home technologies including appliances and smartphones, or while travelling.

“Smart home devices such as smart speakers were used by the vast majority of the blind or visually impaired participants in our research,” said report author Lisa Cooper. “But while all the participants agreed that they make everyday life far more accessible, most were not using the smart speakers to their full capacity.”

The three most popular use cases were to know what the weather was, set timers when cooking and to access recipes, rather than to connect to other smart devices around their homes.

“Given the sophisticated user experience that smart speakers could provide this community, there is a clear need to simplify the experience,” she said. “For example, buttons on the devices themselves should be more prominent so they are not touched by accident, and set-up should take into consideration that a blind or visually impaired person cannot see to carry out all the steps required; the perceived simple task of scanning a QR code could actually be impossible.”

Kevin Nolan, vice president of UX Innovation Practice, added: “Form should not win over function. Digital inclusion is relevant to a large subset of the population, not just those who are blind or visually impaired, but also those who have an injury or temporary illness which may affect their ability to access devices essential for everyday life. Form and function are not mutually exclusive, and it should not be the case that essential appliances become prohibitive because they are considered too complicated to use, or indeed too expensive to adapt.”

Strategy Analytics supports companies across their planning lifecycle through a range of customised market research. Its multi-discipline capabilities include industry research advisory services, customer insights, user experience design and innovation expertise, mobile consumer on-device tracking, and business-to-business consulting.