Smart-home technology is often championed as a way for disabled and older people to have greater independence at home. This is particularly true for the control of heating and energy use.
Since most smart-home devices are controlled via mobile applications on smartphones and tablets, the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, will examine how accessible these apps are for disabled and older consumers. When it comes to app development the importance of accessibility can be overlooked. Although the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for websites covers mobile apps, the uptake of accessibility standards for mobile applications (or apps to you and me) is inconsistent.
These apps have the potential to increase a consumer’s ability to control their heating and energy use, but may be acting as a barrier in getting the full benefit of these technologies. RiDC will undertake research with disabled and older consumers and other usability experts to evaluate these apps. This will include collecting direct feedback of consumers' experiences and needs through surveys, testing and usability workshops.
The findings will be published on our website in the new year and promoted through our UK wide networks to help consumers make an informed choice and to encourage future inclusive design. Our project seeks to answer the following questions.
- How easy are these apps for people with different disabilities, to set up and use?
- Which apps, features and functions are helpful for disabled and older customers impairments, specific needs or circumstances?
- Can these apps be improved to support greater independence for disabled and older energy consumers?