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MP3 player features and AT for people with upper body or cognitive impairments

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This article looks at the usability of MP3 player for people with upper body or cognitive impairments. Using an MP3 player is an enjoyable task. In order to have an acceptable MP3 player, the product must communicate well with the intended users, displaying what the users need properly. The goal is to provide information to people with impairments about what to look for in products that accommodate their specific functional or cognitive needs and enable them to independently complete their activities. Everyone should have a chance to experience a MP3 player. But when that is not enough, certain assistive technology should be implemented to make such experience happen. Upper body impairment can hinder a user to reach or lift products and achieve fine motor activity. Cognitive impairments include problems with memory, reading, and attention and organization. With these impairments the users will have troubles in using the products.

What are the features that one should look for in MP3 player?

  • Size of the product - Find a MP3 player with the most suitable size for the user’s hand which enables the user to hold steadily and manipulate flexibly.
  • Buttons or controls
    • The user must make sure to understand the buttons before using the product.
    • The controls should be easy to read and intuitive in use.
    • The graphics on the buttons or controls should be larger and easier-to-read.
    • The buttons or controls should not be placed crowded or user will make mistakes easily.
  • Screen - If touch screen is preferred, the sensitivity of the screen should be moderate.
  • Battery
    • The users with upper body impairment could change the battery with low physical effort.
    • The position of the battery is easy to recognize.
    • Longer lasting time.
  • The body of the product - It might be better to pick the product with grip on the side or anti-slip cover to avoid it slipping from hands.
  • Mobility - The MP3 player should be portable. It is better to take it without using hands.

Assistive Design Products

Voice control MP3 player



The muso is a pocket-sized accessory for the iPod. It allows users to access their music with natural voice commands. The Muso synchronizes with the user’s iTunes library directly on first use and requires no training to understand requests such as "How about some Rolling Stones, "Give me jazz” or "Go to My Broadway Tunes playlist". The Muso also allows users to make requests such as “play me something like the last song. The muso is totally mobile and self-powered and the battery lasts for ten hours under normal operating conditions.

Accenda voice control for ipod

Accenda voice control
Accenda voice control

The iPod Click Wheel is a design marvel unless people who have low flexibility in fingers. Imagine the situation that your iPod is in a pocket and you don’t have a free hand. The ACCENDA VOICE CONTROL for iPod adds hands-free operation to all of the most popular iPod models. You can achieve the following operations:Adjust, the Volume, Play, Stop, Go to the next track, Go to the previous track and Replay song. In general, users could just tell the iPod what to do without lifting a finger.

First, plug the existing earbuds or headphones into the ACCENDA VOICE CONTROL for iPod; Second, plug the cable into the iPod dock connector and everything is ready. No set up is required. The tiny (1½") lightweight ACCENDA VOICE CONTROL may be hung around the user’s neck or clipped to the clothing and is powered by the iPod itself.

At the same time ACCENDA VOICE CONTROL for iPod might be trained to recognize commands in other languages.

Product Links


MP3 Players AbilityNet Global Assistive Technology Encyclopedia. Accessed October, 2009.

Author: Ran Zhou Universal Design @ Georgia Tech.