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UMSI student project can help make disc golf accessible to visually impaired players

Thursday, 08/17/2023

Four students at the University of Michigan School of Information are working to make the sport of disc golf more accessible to blind and visually impaired players.

Master of Science in Information students Suviksha Hirawat, Rebekah Lim, Terrence Liu and Yeshashree Prasanna partnered with students at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind to create an app prototype that would allow more people to play disc golf independently. The project was part of the SI 699 - User Experience Mastery course, taught by assistant professor Robin Brewer, whose research includes the intersection of technology and accessibility.

The students applied the process of universal design to their project, which includes the principles of inclusivity, accessibility and usability. “For something to be useful to everyone, it needs to be accessible. Technology can only be as useful as the people who are able to use it, so universal design goes a long way in helping us achieve accessibility,” MSI student Yeshashree Prasanna said.

Four people stand in the woods at a disc golf course
Master of Science in Information students Suviksha Hirawat, Rebekah Lim, Terrence Liu and Yeshashree Prasanna.

The sport of disc golf usually relies on a player’s ability to use their vision to locate the disc and basket, and to be able to navigate past obstacles on the course. "Our project solves this by creating an auditory experience that converts all of these key visual cues into auditory cues," says Yeshashree.

While much of the project was completed through remote Zoom interviews, the team had the opportunity to travel to the school in Romney, West Virginia, to test the prototype in-person. The visit was made possible with help from the UMSI Engaged Learning Program Gifts fund.

On the grounds of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind is a 9-hole disc golf course. Disc golf is a popular activity among students at the school. The team tested their prototype with the students on the course to collect user research firsthand and tweak their designs.

The app connects to sensors on the disc and the basket, and provides voice commands and vibration feedback as players navigate the course. “One of the students was really hyped,” said MSI student Terrence Liu. “They gave us a lot of good feedback and it was really inspiring, not just designing for us, but for everyone.”

“This app would allow independent access to disc golf that currently doesn't exist,“ said Melanie Hesse, Dean of Students at the West Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. “If we can develop the app, it would be life-changing for blind and visually impaired individuals world-wide.”

 

Learn more about UMSI’s Master of Science in Information program