Title : Mobile Accessibility Tools for the Visually Impaired

Candidate: Nektarios Paisios
Advisor: Lakshmi Subramanian


Visually impaired users are in dire need of better accessibility tools. The past few years have witnessed an exponential growth in the computing capabilities and onboard sensing capabilities of mobile phones making them an ideal candidate for building next-generation applications. We believe that the mobile device can play a significant role in the future for aiding visually impaired users in day-to-day activities with simple and usable mobile accessibility tools. This thesis describes the design, implementation, evaluation and user-study based analysis of four different mobile accessibility applications.

Our first system is the design of a highly accurate and usable mobile navigational guide that uses Wi-Fi and accelerometer sensors to navigate unfamiliar environments. A visually impaired user can use the system to construct a virtual topological map across points of interest within a building based on correlating the user' walking patterns (with turn signals) with the Wi-Fi and accelerometer readings. The user can subsequently use the map to navigate previously traveled routes. Our second system, Mobile Brailler, presents several prototype methods of text entry on a modern touch screen mobile phone that are based on the Braille alphabet and thus are convenient for visually impaired users. Our third system enables visually impaired users to leverage the camera of a mobile device to accurately recognize currency bills even if the images are partially or highly distorted. The final system enables visually impaired users to determine whether a pair of clothes, in this case of a tie and a shirt, can be worn together or not, based on the current social norms of color-matching.

We believe that these applications together, provide a suite of important mobile accessibility tools to enhance four critical aspects of a day-to-day routine of a visually impaired user: to navigate easily, to type easily, to recognize currency bills (for payments) and to identify matching clothes.