CCE Theses and Dissertations


A Study of a Modified Auditory Component Using a Drag and Drop Multimodal Feedback Toolkit for Older Deaf Computer Users

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Laurie Dringus

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell


In the quest to achieve universal usability for all computer users, research continues to focus on older adult populations, particularly for those with disabilities. Multimodal feedback is a technique used where auditory, haptic, and visual cues are given to a computer user and their success and accuracy are gauged in the performance of computer tasks. Researchers have employed multi modal feedback to examine user performance on tasks that use a drag-and-drop graphical component, with the contention that additional study of multimodal feedback is needed using various subsets of these populations, particularly among older users with disabilities.

One subset of the older population with disabilities is the older deaf computer user. Deaf computer users have difficulty in processing sounds and therefore would have difficulty processing the auditory component used in traditional multimodal feedback studies. The problem is that older deaf computer users, in the absence of the auditory feedback component, must rely on visual and haptic cues when using an interface that employs traditional multimodal feedback components.

This study revealed how older deaf computer users of varying degrees of deafness gauge their task accuracy and perceived success with multimodal feedback cues when given traditional haptic and visual cues in conjunction with a modified auditory feedback component. The modified auditory component used in this study was a tooltip utilizing American Sign Language (ASL) to cue the user if they were successful. Sixty deaf participants at least 70 years of age, right-handed, with no physical or visual disabilities, and with limited computer experience participated in the experiment.

The study found that the participants reported higher rankings of task performance, and lower rankings of perceived difficulty and frustration, but found no significant decreases in task performance time when the ASL tooltip was used. In addition, there were found to be more drag-and-drop errors across all levels of deafness among the participants when the ASL tooltip was used. Future studies of older deaf computer users should examine wider age ranges, varying levels of computer experience, and modifications to the ASL tooltip to decrease its feedback time.

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