Designing Digital Libraries to Support Blind and Visually Impaired Users: A methodological reflection on a large-scale project


  • Iris Xie University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Shengang Wang University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Hyun Seung Lee University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Tae Hee Lee University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Qualitative methods, Quantitative methods, Blind and visually impaired users, reflection, Digital library, Design guidelines



The purpose of this study is to review and reflect upon the qualitative and quantitative methods applied and lessons learned in the process of completing the project “Creating accessibility and usability of digital library (DL) guidelines to support blind and visually impaired (BVI) users.” This study focuses on the following issues: 1) The recruitment of BVI users, scholars/experts, and DL developers and associated challenges and solutions; 2) The use of data collection methods for diverse DL stakeholders and associated challenges and solutions; 3) The application of data analysis techniques and associated challenges and solutions. It is a challenge to recruit large numbers of BVI participants, and it is an effective approach to establish connections with trusted organizations and institutions - particularly BVI-related organizations - to promote the studies. Multiple data collection methods (questionnaires, think-aloud protocols, transaction logs, diaries, interviews, and focus groups) were used throughout the research project. As BVI users utilize screen readers to understand DL interfaces and simultaneously express their actions and thoughts, the challenge associated with think-aloud protocols can be resolved by offering orientation training and clear instructions. Both quantitative and qualitative data analysis methods were used throughout the project. Descriptive analysis is the most commonly employed quantitative method since statistical analysis cannot be performed due to small sample size. For qualitative analysis, it is critical for sighted researchers to understand BVI users by collaborating with blind researchers and carefully reviewing the video and transcript data to enhance the open coding process. Future research on the methodology applied in BVI-related studies is also discussed.


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