2013. UK, Italy and Slovenia. 

Partner: Equal Eyes. Client: EU Commision. 


As a part of an EU project and in collaboration with a startup company, I conducted a qualitative research study and created a mobile prototype for visually impaired users.


The main purpose was to get a deeper understanding of visually impaired users. Second goal was to co-design a mobile solution that would be implemented by the startup company.

Research goal

The main purpose was to get a deeper understanding of visually impaired users. Second goal was to co-design a mobile solution that would be implemented by the startup company.

Methodology and methods

Deep Ethnography. Shadowing. Contextual Inquiry. Usability studies. 


  • Industry guidelines that became the official guidelines
  • EU-wide qualitative research with multiple industry partners
  • Prototype of a mobile application that could be installed on most smartphones
  • The prototype was implemented and validated

From Shadowing to deep ethnography

After shadowing and contextual inquiry, I decided to become blind for a day as this was the only way to truly experience loss of eyesight. 

Later on, I simulated severe visual impairment and spent a day with the visually impaired. Using the devices they use and the way they use them. 

Note: As promised to the research participants, I'm not showing the photos and videos shot during research.


Crucial findings

I’m not half-dead and I’m not stupid either. All I want is to be treated equally.

One finding was, that the visually impaired always emphasise that they are not blind. And they almost reject any "special" treatment. Instead, they search for ways how to hack the existing system on their own. It is true they formed different behaviour patterns, but they want to walk the same path as everyone else. 

I don’t need a dumb device, give me a normal phone.

The visually impaired also grew very impatient when I introduced them to dedicated devices or for example when introduced to tailored tours in museums. Interestingly, this was also true when working with elderly, who feel belittled when we give them overly simplified mobile phones. 



Part of the research was to map the current state-of-the-art of mobile products and services for visually impaired. I focused on specific scenarios such as: visiting a venue, going to a museum or traveling. Secondly, I was interested in the most generic scenario: using the mobile to perform simple actions such as calling. 

Surprisingly, I found out that a lot of venues (Italy and the UK) offer good support and enhance the experience of visitors with disabilities. Though, again the on-site service is tailored for the blind, deaf or visitors with mobility problems. 

The same could be said for the existing mobile solutions for the visually impaired. They all seem to follow the same patterns - the only difference being the design implementation. 


The mockups

Based on the insight, I created paper prototypes of the service as well as an interface for the generic mobile launcher. I tested the prototypes with the user group and after the first life session, I invited them to participate in the design process. 

Testing paper prototypes, different iconography and designing the final mockups. 


Usability and the road ahead

The service and product mockups were tested with a neutral user group (N=7) using an adapted SUS questionnaire and observation as a method. With the help of the University of Maribor, we installed two mobile applications on peoples' phones. 

Together with academic (University of Maribor) and other partners (EU commission) we prepared the final industry guidelines.  We also went back to the users participating in the research and promised to keep them in the loop.