Development and validation of the universal design mobile interface guidelines through a mHealth application for individuals aging with multiple sclerosis

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Kascak, Ljilja
Sanford, Jon
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Similar to people who experience normal aging, mobile technologies provide great potential to support people aging with disability. However, there is a dearth of prior research on the needs and abilities of this user population. A large number of people with disabilities acquired in early or middle life are living longer. These individuals are experiencing the effects of aging earlier than others. Additionally, individuals aging with disabilities experience a combination of pre-existing impairments and age-related limitations, which often leads to a newly acquired age-related functional losses, comorbidities, and secondary age-related conditions. Although younger adults with disabilities may compensate for their impairments through the use of technologies, devices, and techniques, newly developed age-related limitations can reduce the effectiveness of these alternative approaches and reduce the quality of life (QOL). Mobile technology provides great potential to help individuals aging with disabilities to meet their needs. Nevertheless, there is a need for further research to solve the problems with access, usability, and utility to better understand the individualized preferences and support the needs of this unique population. Moreover, this imposes the need for personalized technologies that assist people aging with disabilities to adapt to the challenges of later life and to improve their QOL. Several design strategies are used to address the usability issues of desktop and mobile interfaces that are relevant for an aging population. Four of the most commonly applied strategies include Universal Design, Design for Aging, Universal Usability, and Guidelines for handheld mobile device interface design. Analysis of the guidelines suggested that none of the four strategies alone were sufficiently comprehensive and inclusive enough to meet the range and diversity of usability needs of older adults including those aging with disabilities within the environment of mobile interfaces. The purpose of this research project was to develop a comprehensive integrative universal design strategy, the Universal Design Mobile Interface Guidelines (UDMIG) for people aging with and without disabilities. The mobile health (mHealth) self-management holistic application that meets the health and wellness needs of individuals aging with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and provides personalized and customizable support, MS Assistant, was designed and evaluated. The UDMIG were validated through their application to the design of the mHealth app.
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