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Disney Parks Hearing Aid Companion

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January 2020 - May 2020

Project Brief

This was a semester long solo capstone project conducted during my senior year of undergrad. We were free to choose a problem space that resonated with us, and design a project around that space.

There was lots of flexibility regarding methods and routes we could take with our projects.

For this project, I chose accessibility to be my problem space and I focused on amusement parks, specifically Disney World's Magic Kingdom for my solution.


Through initial research, I determined that Disney World has many capabilities to allow a user with assistive listening devices to experience the parks to the fullest potential.


However, the current app and existing online resources lack discoverability and onboarding regarding assistive hearing resources.

Initial Research

My secondary research was conducted in hopes to gain a better understanding of existing assistive listening devices and systems. As I was designing for scalability, I also conducted research on what kinds of systems would be most suitable in public areas.

To get a better understanding of my user group, I conducted research hearing loss complications, hearing loss technology, and what Disney currently does for park-goers with hearing loss.

Although I looked at many articles and books for my research, the most important information I learned was regarding the different types of assisted listening devices, their similarities and differences, and Disney's current resources for guests with hearing loss.

Secondary research was essential to building a baseline of knowledge in a broader context to better empathize with my user group. I was able to identify a few initial pain points that users who are hard of hearing may experience in a public place. This research also provided me with different types of technology that currently exist for large public areas that I later used to create an annotated portfolio and a competitive analysis.

Annotated Portfolio

Using my secondary research, I compiled an annotated portfolio with descriptions of the different systems I looked at. 


My goal with this method was to understand the capabilities of different hearing devices and listening systems. I also wanted to identify possibilities for larger deployment in Disney Parks and see the interactions between different kinds of systems.


A system that would be able to interact with many different devices as well as encompass a large area would likely have the most potential for a large amusement park. 


My biggest takeaways with this was that induction loops would be the most beneficial for large amounts of people in a public area and they are able to be used with all the resources on this side of the portfolio including cochlear implants, hearing aids, and implement subtitles on screens. I would be able to use induction loops as inspiration for later ideation.

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Primary Research

Before my competitive analysis, I had reached out to several people for a possible interview regarding my problem space, but I was only able to get responses from 2 people within my user group. Interviewee 1 was a mom (36) and Interviewee 2 was a sophomore in college (19). Both are hard of hearing and both use hearing aids. I was able to get into contact with them through Facebook, as well as through a mutual friend.


Some of my goals for conducting interviews were to:

  • Better understand how hearing loss affects daily life

  • Learn about the pain points that people with hearing loss experience both inside and outside of theme parks

  • Identify where pain points are within different experiences

Insights from these interviews can be found in my project documentation.

Experience Map

I created a experience map that was based on information gained from my interviews, as well as the knowledge I had about a lack of resources within the theme park.

This map highlights the similarities and differences between a family’s emotions and the user’s emotions during the experience. Although some of the emotions may be the same for both the user and their family, the user will be optimistic about different things, as well as be hesitant or unsure about different things than their family would be.

For example, the user’s emotions are generally lower than the family’s emotions due to the fact that there may be more things that the user needs to research or think about with their hearing loss compared to their (potentially hearing) friends and family. When the user may be excited once entering the park, the user must seek out resources or information about accessibility in the park in order to have less pain points than they would encounter without accessibility.

Without clear knowledge on available resources within the park, the family may become unsure about the situation and the user may become anxious that they will not enjoy their trip. Both emotion lines might come together where pain points for the user are most severe, as frustration from one family member often frustrates the entire family. However, resolution of the user’s issues may be more relieving for the user compared to the family.

Because the current My Disney Experience app is intended for in-park use, I used this experience map to identify where the user’s pain points are within their journey, as well as help external audiences better understand the context of user pain points within my project.

In order to get a better understanding of the current app and its issues, as well as its use in the park-going experience, I reached back out to one of my initial interviewees and she told me more about how she used the current app on her last trip to Disney. I had planned for a co-design workshop to take place, but I was unable to complete it due to remote learning and quarantine. However, my protocol can be viewed in my project documentation as well as the takeaways from the activity.

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Final Design

My final design is a mobile app experience integrated into the existing My Disney Experience app that combines onboarding, haptics, and notifications to help park visitors with assistive hearing needs utilize their devices and navigate through the park more independently.


Onboarding Experience

Increased Transparency

Away From Screen Experience

These first three screens show, in order, the process a user would go through in order to set up their app (connecting to bluetooth, making sure that the user can hear the sound).

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These next three screens show the how to turn on notifications, open the hearing settings page, and the actual hearing settings page.


On the hearing settings page, users can turn off one ear, or both.


With both ears off, the app is still listening for park alarms, so the user will be notified of any emergency.

The first screen to the left includes a new icon that indicates where rides with assisted hearing are located.


On the middle screen, events and rides now include information that educates users on how to use unfamiliar hearing devices next to ear icons. 


To the right, rides with water or large drops will tell the user to take off their devices upon entering next to the ear icon.

The first screen to the left includes an example of a notification the user may get regarding water rides or rides with large drops telling them to remove devices before entering.


The middle and right screen show how the app now utilizes phone listening to alert the user of any alarms that may be going off even if hearing aids are turned off. 


Both notifications show up without having the phone open.

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