Design of Hand-Held Remotes for Older Persons with Impairments

William C. Mann, Kenneth J. Ottenbacher, Machiko R. Tomita, Susan Packard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The University at Buffalo Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Aging (RERC) developed two prototype television remote control devices (remotes), designed to address the needs of older persons with some visual and/or fine motor impairment. The prototype remotes have large buttons, large numbers and characters on the buttons, and high color contrast between the buttons and background. One remote has 15 buttons, and one has 6 buttons. The purpose of this study was to test these prototype remotes against two commercially available remotes for user speed, accuracy, and satisfaction. One of the commercially available remotes has small buttons and small print but more features than the prototype remotes; this device came with the television used in the study. The second commercially available remote has somewhat larger buttons, but still smaller than the ones on the RERC prototypes. Thirty elders with impairments participated in testing the remotes in a simulated living room setting. The order in which the remote devices were presented to the subjects was randomly determined. Results indicated a significant difference among remotes in number of errors made; subjects made the fewest number of errors on the 15-button prototype remote. There was no significant difference among remotes in speed. There were significant differences in user satisfaction: users preferred the 15-button prototype device. Subjects were asked if they would rather have more features and small buttons on their remote, or fewer features and larger buttons; almost three- fourths of the sample desired fewer features and larger buttons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-146
Number of pages7
JournalAssistive Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 31 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Hand-held remotes
  • Older persons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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