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Aging effects on the visibility of graphic text on mobile phones

S. Hasegawa, M. Omori, S. Matsunuma, M. Miyao

Gerontechnology 2006; 4(4):200-208 doi:


Text including characters unsupported by built-in fonts of ordinary mobile phones can be displayed on the liquid crystal displays of these phones with the use of graphic text. Disaster information with maps or other important information that can be sent by using graphic text is necessary for persons of all age groups, including elderly people. However, the small characters on the displays in mobile phones are hard for elderly people to read. We studied the visibility of characters by measuring reading speed, rate of misreadings, and viewing distance while 41 young, 14 middle aged, and 33 elderly subjects read graphic Japanese text on mobile phones aloud. We also recorded subjects’ subjective evaluations after every trial. The subjects’ visual functions of cataract cloudiness and near visual acuity were also measured. We found that reading performance deteriorated as the size of the characters became smaller, and as subjects became older. Cloudiness and near visual acuity were strongly correlated with age, and they also affected reading performance. However, neither of the two had higher correlations with reading speed or viewing distance, than with age. Moreover, viewing distance increased as the subjects became older, but became shorter as the character size became smaller. The effects in terms of visibility are not simple, and the results suggest that aging includes more factors that need to be considered.
Keywords: LCD; legibility; small displays; mobile phones; aging

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Gerontechnology (ISSN/EISSN 1569-1101 1569-111X) is the official journal of the International Society for Gerontechnology