Universal Design of Intelligent Personal Assistants


Publication date



OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University

Document type


Master i universell utforming av IKT


As new ways of information and communication technology arise along with new forms of interactions, it is extremely important that these innovations are created, maintained, and further developed and improved under the particular rules of universal design that apply to the corresponding technology. Since 2011, with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone 4S with its intelligent personal assistant (IPA) Siri implemented, until today, major companies have announced their IPAs to make our lives easier. Day by day, they are continuously implemented in many other platforms, such as appliances and cars. The current statistics show a tremendous increase in usage and areas of development, on the other hand experts claim that an even more sophisticated era is yet to come. This thesis aims to investigate the accessibility and usability of IPAs where the main research question stands: do intelligent personal assistants ensure accessibility to the technology they’re present for the blind and non-verbal people? Further, this question is divided into four sub questions. Initially, the first sub question is: what barriers do fully blind people experience when using intelligent personal assistants, and how to overcome these barriers? The second sub question is: what barriers do non-verbal people experience when using intelligent personal assistants, and how to overcome these barriers? The third sub question is: are intelligent personal assistants useful to fully blind people in noisy environments? The fourth sub question is: do the user interfaces of intelligent personal assistants facilitate accessibility and usability? In this thesis, the universal design of IPAs is approached by using qualitative methods of research. Moreover, the methods comprise of: semi-structured interviews with five blind participants and observational tasks used as a supplement to the interviews, usability testing using a persona to represent the non-verbal user, and a systematic literature review. Both interviews accompanied by observations and persona testing are used to gather data about the barriers that these two groups of users face and their experiences. The data from the interviews is then analysed using the content analysis technique. The interview schedule consists of eight questions, and there are four tasks part of the observations. Lastly, the systematic literature review is designed with specific search terms and criteria and its main objective is to examine the state of the art of IPAs, incorporating the new ideas and features including guidelines and design methods. A systematic approach will be used to identify relevant papers and studies through methodical search of academic online databases. Although few researches exist regarding the universal design of IPAs, the previous research is limited and has mainly studied other areas, such as the privacy concerns or public usage of IPAs. However, limited as it is, there are themes of the current research that focus on the deaf and hard of hearing and have studied and tackled the impairments and disabilities that occur from situations. Nonetheless, existing research also focuses on the enhancement of IPAs, possibilities of integrating IPAs into computing environments in an Internet of Things context, and factors that affect the everyday use as well as suggestions for improvements. Most importantly, this thesis is one of a kind and focuses on two groups of people with disabilities by exploring their usage experiences through semi-structured interviews to uncover barriers as well suggest solutions to disable these barriers. And, having in mind the concept of UD with the goal of providing the same benefits and opportunities to the broadest possible scope of users.




Permanent URL (for citation purposes)

  • https://hdl.handle.net/10642/7612