Google Research

"All in the Same Boat": Tradeoffs of Voice Assistant Ownership for Mixed-Visual-Ability Families

CHI 2020 (2020)


A growing body of evidence suggests Voice Assistants (VAs) are highly valued by people with vision impairments (PWVI) and much less so by sighted users. Yet, many are deployed in homes where both PWVI and sighted family members reside. Researchers have yet to study whether VA use and perceived benefits are affected in settings where one person has a visual impairment and others do not. We conducted six in-depth interviews with partners to understand patterns of domestic VA use in mixed-visual-ability families. Although PWVI were more motivated to acquire VAs, used them more frequently, and learned more proactively about their features, partners with vision identified similar benefits and disadvantages of having VAs in their home. We found that the universal usability of VAs both equalizes experience across abilities and presents complex tradeoffs for families—regarding interpersonal relationships, domestic labor, and physical safety—which are weighed against accessibility benefits for PWVI and complicate the decision to fully integrate VAs in the home.

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