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Access to Emergency Alerts for People with Disabilities
Project Focus Groups and Usability Testing

Over the course of the four-year Project (Oct 2004 - September 2008), two rounds of focus groups (2005 and 2007) and one round of usability testing (2008) were completed. Information about and links to summaries and analysis of these activities follow.

Focus Groups - 2005

Project staff worked with four nationally-recognized consumer organizations in the winter of 2005 to conduct focus groups of individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind. These groups were asked to provide information on the way emergency communication is currently received, through what means or technologies alerts are received, and to provide feedback on the pros and cons of these methods and what ideal messages and methods of communication would be.

Summary of the 2005 Focus Groups by Project Director Marcia Brooks.

Two focus groups were convened by the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC). Groups were separated into self-identified "hard of hearing and late-deafened - technical" and "late deafened and hard of hearing - non technical" members. Link to NVRC Focus Groups Summary.

Two focus groups were convened by Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI). Groups were separated into self-identifying "deaf - technical" and "deaf - non technical" members. Link to TDI Focus Groups Summary.

Four telephone focus groups with individuals who are blind or visually impaired were convened by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Two groups were made up of individuals who considered themselves expert in various communications technologies, and two groups consisted of individuals who identified themselves as novices in their knowledge of various technologies. Link to AFB Focus Groups Summary.

One focus group of deaf-blind individuals was convened by the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC). Link to Helen Keller Center Focus Group Summary.

Focus Groups - 2007

In January and February 2007, a series of focus groups made up of people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired were convened by the Bentley College Design and Usability Center. The groups were asked to evaluate a series of five different emergency alert messages, and to comment on various aspects of the messages (length, content, use of language, communication of authority, and other variables).

Link to an Executive Summary of the 2006 Focus Groups.

Link to the full Findings Report of the 2006 Focus Groups.

Usability Tests - 2008

In the summer of 2008, Project Staff worked with the Bentley College Design and Usability Center to test a series of emergency alert messages received by individuals who were deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. A variety of mobile devices were utilized to receive these messages, including whenever possible the devices owned by individuals themselves. Messages were presented in text, video and/or audio formats as appropriate to each participant's accessibility needs.

The evaluation also tested several of the user needs recommendations developed by the FCC Commercial Mobile Service Alerts Advisory Committee (CMSAAC), in which Project Director Marcia Brooks participated. The testing included: use of a unique audio attention signal and vibration cadence for emergency messages; the recommended order of information presented within messages, and the effectiveness of the proposed Commercial Mobile Alert Service's initial 90 character limit.

Link to the full Findings Report of the 2008 Usability Tests.