Goal Crossing with Mice and Trackballs for People with Motor Impairments: Performance, Submovements, and Design Directions

Jacob O. Wobbrock and Krzysztof Z. Gajos



Prior research shows that people withmotor impairments face considerable challenges when using conventional mice and trackballs. One challenge is positioning the mouse cursor within confined target areas; another is executing a precise click without slipping. These problems can make mouse pointing in graphical user interfaces very difficult for some people. This article explores goal crossing as an alternative strategy for more accessible target acquisition. In goal crossing, targets are boundaries that are simply crossed by the mouse cursor. Thus, goal crossing avoids the two aforementioned problems. To date, however, researchers have not examined the feasibility of goal crossing for people with motor difficulties. We therefore present a study comparing area pointing and goal crossing. Our performance results indicate that although Fitts¢ throughput for ablebodied users is higher for area pointing than for goal crossing (4.72 vs. 3.61 bits/s), the opposite is true for users with motor impairments (2.34 vs. 2.88 bits/s). However, error rates are higher for goal crossing than for area pointing under a strict definition of crossing errors (6.23% vs. 1.94%). We also present path analyses and an examination of submovement velocity, acceleration, and jerk (the change in acceleration over time). These results show marked differences between crossing and pointing and almost categorically favor crossing. An important finding is that crossing reduces jerk for both participant groups, indicating more fluid, stable motion. To help realize the potential of goal crossing for computer access, we offer design concepts for crossing widgets that address the occlusion problem, which occurs when one crossing goal obscures another in persistent mousecursor interfaces. This work provides the motivation and initial steps for further exploration of goal crossing on the desktop, and may help researchers and designers to radically reshape user interfaces to provide accessible goal crossing, thereby lowering barriers to access.

Available Versions

Citation Information

Jacob O. Wobbrock and Krzysztof Z. Gajos. Goal crossing with mice and trackballs for people with motor impairments: Performance, submovements, and design directions. ACM Trans. Access. Comput., 1(1):1-37, May 2008.