Identifying the Requirements of Visually Impaired Users for Accessible Mobile E-book Applications

Nor Laily Hashim - School of Computing, Universiti Utara Malaysia, UUM Sintok 06010, Kedah, Malaysia
Munya Ba Matraf - Faculty of Engineering and Petroleum, Hadhramout University, Mukalla, Yemen
Azham Hussain - School of Computing, Universiti Utara Malaysia, UUM Sintok 06010, Kedah, Malaysia

Citation Format:



Books are a medium for communicating information and in recent years have taken the electronic form called e-books. This shift has opened new opportunities for the visually impaired in overcoming their struggles with books in the traditional paper format. Yet, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) claimed that many e-book applications do not meet needs of the visually impaired. Very few studies had investigated this subject matter hence paving the way for this current study to address the above research gap. As a result, equitable access to e-books for the visually impaired is still limited. Hence, there is now a necessity to design usable and accessible e-book interfaces for the visually impaired. To achieve this goal, it is important to identify the e-book requirements of the visually impaired into their e-book applications. An online survey was conducted involving seven visually impaired students at a local Malaysian university. The target participants’ ages are between 21 and 27 years old. The outcomes of this study identified ten requirements for accessible e-book applications for the visually impaired. Among these requirements are features that enable users to zoom, read aloud, and search for book contents. Besides that, screen reader strategy and text-to-speech are also mandatory. Other requirements include clear text and sound, ease of navigation, high contrast, and high brightness. These requirements will involve the field of Human-Computer Interaction design which is applied particularly in the development of usable and accessible mobile e-book applications for the visually impaired.


Accessible; e-book, requirements; visually impaired.

Full Text:



Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (n.d.). Accessibility of information in electronic textbooks for students who are blind or visually impaired. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. [Online textbook] Available:

H. Patel, and P. Morreale, “Education and learning: Electronic books or traditional printed books?†JCSC, vol. 29, no.3, pp. 21–28. 2014.

(2011). UN. Disability language guidelines. 3–6. [Online]. Available:

(2019). World Health Organization (WHO). World report on vision. [Online]. Available:

J. Lazar, D. F. Goldstein, and A. Taylor, “Introduction to accessible technology. In Ensuring digital accessibility through process and policy,†pp. 1–19. Morgan Kaufmann. 2015.

S. L. Maatta, and L. J. Bonnici, “An evaluation of the functionality and accessibility of e-readers for individuals with print disabilities,†The Electronic Library, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 493–507,, 2014.

M. D. Crossland, R. S Silva, and A. F. Macedo, “Smartphone, tablet computer and e-reader use by people with vision impairment,†Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, vol. 34, no. 5, pp. 552–557, 2014.

G. B. Holanda, J. W. M. Souza, D. A. Lima, L. B. Marinho, A. M. Girão, J. B. B. Frota, and P. P. Rebouças Filho, “Development of OCR system on android platforms to aid reading with a refreshable braille display in real time,†Measurement, vol. 120, pp. 150–168, 2018.

S. Khowaja, and N. Fatima, “Knowledge resources for visually impaired persons: An Indian perspective,†Library Philosophy and Practice, pp. 1–14, 2019.

K. J. Phukubje, “The role of the audio-braille library in contributing towards academic performance of visually impaired students at the University of Limpopo,†University of Limpopo, 2019.

V. Bartalesi, and B. Leporini, “An enriched ePub eBook for screen reader users,†International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction, pp. 375–386, 2015.

S. Khowaja, and N. Fatima, “Awareness and use of electronic resources by visually impaired students at Aligarh Muslim University. Aligarh: A Study,†In CALIBER 2019. INFLIBNET Centre, 2019.

S. A. Kleynhans, and I. Fourie, “Ensuring accessibility of electronic information resources for visually impaired people: The need to clarify concepts such as visually impaired†Library Hi Tech, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 368–379, 2014.

I. Sommerville, and P. Sawyer, Requirements engineering: A good practice guide, 1st ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997.

(2017). Vision impairment and blindness. [Online]. Available:

R. R. A. Bourne, S. R. Flaxman, T. Braithwaite, M. V. Cicinelli, A. Das, J. B. Jonas, J. Keeffe, J. H. Kempen, J. Leasher, and H. Limburg, “Magnitude, temporal trends, and projections of the global prevalence of blindness and distance and near vision impairment: A systematic review and meta-analysis,†The Lancet Global Health, vol. 5, no. 9, pp. e888–e897, 2017.

S. C. Reddy, and T. Thevi, “Blindness and low vision in Malaysia. International Journal of Ophthalmic Research, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 234–238. 2017.

(2019). K. Boyd, Visual Field Test. [Online]. Available:

J. D. Adelson, R. R. A Bourne, P. S. Briant, S. R. Flaxman, H. R. B. Taylor, J. B. Jonas, A. A. Abdoli, W. A. Abrha, A. Abualhasan, and E. G Abu-Gharbieh, “Causes of blindness and vision impairment in 2020 and trends over 30 years, and prevalence of avoidable blindness in relation to VISION 2020: The Right to Sight: an analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study,†The Lancet Global Health., 2020.

C. S. Guder, “Chapter 2: Making the right decisions about assistive technology in your library,†ALA TechSource, an Imprint of the American Library Association., 2012.

H. K. Kim, S. H. Han, J. Park, and J. Park, “The interaction experiences of visually impaired people with assistive technology: A case study of smartphones,†International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, vol. 55, pp. 22–33. 2016.

T. M. Ruffin, “Assistive technologies for reading,†Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 98–101. 2012.

I. T. Bougie, “ISO 9999 assistive products for persons with disability—Classification and terminology. The Engineering Handbook of Smart Technology for Aging,†Disability and Independence, pp. 117–126. 2008.

C. Booth, “Making Libraries Accessible: Adaptive Design and Assistive Technology,†vol. 48, no. 7, American Library Association. 2012.

T. S. Hasselbring, and M. E. Bausch, “Assistive technologies for reading,†Educational Leadership, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 72, 2005.

A. J. Schmitt, E. McCallum, R. O. Hawkins, E. Stephenson, and K. Vicencio, “The effects of two assistive technologies on reading comprehension accuracy and rate,†Assistive Technology, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 220–230, 2019.

C. D. Epp, C. Munteanu, B. Axtell, K. Ravinthiran, Y. Aly, and E. Mansimov, “Finger tracking: facilitating non-commercial content production for mobile e-reading applications,†Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, vol. 34,, 2017.

C. S. Lanyi, “Choosing effective colors for websites.â€. In Colour Design, pp. 619–640, Elsevier, 2017.

H. Shin, Y. H. Gil, C. Yu, H. K. Kim, J. Lee, and H. K. Jee, “Improved and accessible e-book reader application for visually impaired people,†SIGGRAPH Asia 2017 Posters, vol. 35, 2017.

B. de Oliveira, J. C. Braga, and R. J. P. Damaceno, “Application for the configuration and adaptation of the Android operating system for the visually impaired,†Proceedings of the Internet of Accessible Things, vol. 14. 2018.

M. S. Hassouna, N. Sahari, and A. Ismail, “University website accessibility for totally blind users,†Journal of Information and Communication Technology, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 63–80. 2017.

K. L. Southwell, and J. Slater, “Accessibility of digital special collections using screen readers,†Library Hi Tech, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 457–471, 2012.

B. Axtell, C. Munteanu, C. Demmans Epp, Y. Aly, and F. Rudzicz, “Touch-supported voice recording to facilitate forced alignment of text and speech in an e-Reading interface,†23rd International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, pp. 129–140. 2018.

L. J. Bonnici, S. L. Maatta, J. Brodsky, and J. E. Steele, “Second national accessibility survey: librarians, patrons, and disabilities,†New Library World, vol. 116, pp. 503–516. 2015.

C. Mune, and A. Agee, “Ebook showdown: Evaluating academic ebook platforms from a user perspective,†Creating Sustainable Community: The Proceedings of the ACRL 2015 Conference, pp. 218–224. 2015.

J. Lazar, A. Dudley-Sponaugle, and K. D. Greenidge, “Improving web accessibility: a study of webmaster perceptions,†Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 269–288, 2004.

R. M. Majinge, and S. M. Mutula, “Access to electronic and print information resources by people with visual impairments in university libraries,†Library Management, 2018.

B. Zachariah, and O. F Nonyelum, “A Comparative Analysis of Requirement Gathering Techniques,†IUP Journal of Computer Sciences, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 7–32, 2020.

N. M. Salleh, and P. N. E Nohuddin, “Optimization of software requirement process: An integrated conceptual model of lean six sigma and requirement planning,†International Review of Applied Sciences and Engineering, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 125–133, 2019.

R. Silhavy, P. Silhavy, and Z. Prokopova, “Requirements gathering methods in system engineering,†Recent Researches in Automatic Control, pp. 105–110. 2011.

M. C. Buzzi, M. Buzzi, and B Leporini, “Investigating mobile learning and accessibility for blind users,†Mobile Learning for Visually Impaired People, pp. 26–40. 2012.

D. McGookin, S. Brewster, and W. Jiang, “Investigating touchscreen accessibility for people with visual impairments,†Proceedings of the 5th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Building Bridges, pp. 298–307. 2008.

N. Mi, L. A. Cavuoto, K. Benson, T. Smith-Jackson, and M. A. Nussbaum, “A heuristic checklist for an accessible smartphone interface design,†Universal Access in the Information Society, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 351–365. 2014.

D. Shim, J. G. Kim, and J. Altmann, “Identifying key drivers and bottlenecks in the adoption of E-book readers in Korea,†Telematics and Informatics, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 860–871,, 2016.

C. Siebra, W. Correia, M. Penha, J. Macêdo, J. Quintino, M. Anjos, F. Florentin, F. Q. B. Silva, and A. L. M. Santos, “An analysis on tools for accessibility evaluation in mobile applications,†Proceedings of the XXXII Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering, pp. 172–177, 2018.

C. Siebra, T. Gouveia, J. Macedo, W. Correia, M. Penha, M. Anjos, F. Florentin, F. Q. B. Silva, and A. L. M. Santos, “Observation based analysis on the use of mobile applications for visually impaired users,†Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services Adjunct, pp. 807–814, 2016.

C. Siebra, T. B. Gouveia, J. Macedoda, F. Q. B. Silva, A. L. M. Santos, W. Correia, M. Penha, M. Anjos, and F. Florentin, “Toward accessibility with usability: understanding the requirements of impaired uses in the mobile context,†Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Ubiquitous Information Management and Communication, vol. 6. 2017.

C. Siebra, T. Gouveia, J. Macedo, W. Correia, M. Penha, F. Silva, A. Santos, M. Anjos, and F. Florentin, “Usability requirements for mobile accessibility: a study on the vision impairment,†Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia, pp. 384–389. 2015.

S. S. Nathan, “A usability evaluation model for hearing impaired mobile applications interfaces,†Universiti Utara Malaysia. 2017.

S. Farrell, “Open-Ended vs. Closed-Ended Questions in User Research,†Nielsen Norman Group., 2016.

M. Saunders, “Choosing research participants. Qualitative Organizational Research: Core Methods and Current Challenges,†pp. 35–52. 2012.

M. Saunders, P. Lewis, and A. Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students. In Research methods for business students (Fifth). Prentice Hall, 2009.

K. Löfgren, Qualitative analysis of interview data: A step-by-step guide for coding/indexing [Video]. YouTube. 2013.

N. Rogers, and E. A. Draffan, “Evaluating the mobile web accessibility of electronic text for print impaired people in higher education,†Proceedings of the 13th Web for All Conference, vol. 26. 2016.

H. Woodward, “Ebooks and accessibility. In Ebooks in education: realising the vision,†pp. 35–49. Ubiquity Press., 2014.

G. Biancarosa, and G. G. Griffiths, “Technology tools to support reading in the digital age,†The Future of Children, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 139–160., 2012.

A. Attarwala, R. M. Baecker, and C. Munteanu, “Accessible, large-print, listening & talking e-book (ALIT),†Proceedings of the Fifth ACM Workshop on Research Advances in Large Digital Book Repositories and Complementary Media, pp. 19–20, 2012.

C. Munteanu, “An accessible, large print, listening and talking e-book to support families reading together,†Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, pp. 440–443, 2013.

E. Balajthy, “Text-to-speech software for helping struggling readers,†Reading Online, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 1–9, 2005.

E. Curts, “Three text to speech tools and 5 ways your students can use them,†, 2016.

R. McLaughlin and C. Kamei-Hannan, “Paper or digital text: Which reading medium is best for students with visual impairments?,†Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, vol. 112, no. 4, pp. 337–350. (2018).

B. Ribeiro, F. Pellegrini, M. Anjos, F. Florentin, V. Alves, D. Zandona, T. Levrero, W. Correia, J. Quintino, and J. Macêdo, “Disabled user role on mobile accessible application development,†International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics, pp. 250–259, 2019.

E. Ghidini, W. D. L. Almeida, I. H. Manssour, and M. S. Silveira, “Developing apps for visually impaired people: Lessons learned from practice,†2016 49th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), pp. 5691–5700, 2016.

(2017). W3C. Accessible rich internet applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.1. [Online]. Available:

K. Minatani, “A proposal for improvement of usability of browsing and playback systems DAISY and ePUB: Using web technology to make accessible content more user-friendly,†Proceedings of the 11th International Convention on Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology, vol. 13. 2017.

N. Abdullah, H. Hanafi, and N. I. M. Hamdi, “The rights of persons with disabilities in Malaysia: the underlying reasons for ineffectiveness of Persons with Disabilities Act 2008,†International Journal for Studies on Children, Women, Elderly and Disabled, vol. 1, pp. 127–134. 2017.

(2013). D. Whitaker, Learning to Live with One Eye. [Online]. Available: