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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The design and field evaluation of PhotoTalk : a digital image communication application for people who have aphasia Allen, Meghan


PhotoTalk is a software application for a mobile device that allows people with aphasia to capture and manage digital photographs in order to support faceto- face communication. Aphasia is an acquired language impairment which can affect speaking, auditory comprehension, reading and writing. Individuals with aphasia often find it challenging to communicate verbally, although they generally retain their ability to recognize images. Unlike any other augmentative and alternative communication device, our application focuses solely on image capture and organization and is designed to be accessible to people with aphasia. The PhotoTalk project used a streamlined research process that consisted of 4 phases: (1) a participatory design phase involving speech experts, (2) an informal usability study, (3) the primary evaluation of PhotoTalk, a 1 month field study with 2 people who have aphasia, and (4) a secondary field study with 1 individual who has aphasia. Two speech-language pathologists acted as representative users in the participatory design phase in order to rapidly design and develop PhotoTalk and to move quickly to the evaluation stage with individuals who have aphasia. The informal usability study with 5 participants caught usability problems and provided preliminary feedback on the usefulness of PhotoTalk before we moved forward with the field studies. Our 1 month field evaluations with 3 users demonstrated the application's promise in terms of both its usability and usefulness in real life situations. Both participants in the primary field study used PhotoTalk regularly and fairly independently throughout the field study, although not always for its intended communicative purpose. The participant in the secondary study was able to use PhotoTalk completely independently for specific communicative purposes. In this thesis we describe the streamlined research process we used, the PhotoTalk application, the informal usability study, and the two field studies, as well as provide preliminary guidelines for involving domain experts in assistive technology research.

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