Requirements Engineering Elicitation for Mobility Assistance Dogs: Meeting Canine User Needs Through Technology Enabled Interpretation
Luisa Ruge, Clara Mancini, Rachael Luck
Requirements Engineering: Foundation for Software Quality
Current requirements engineering methods are heavily reliant on verbal techniques, which are inaccessible to non-verbal users, such as mobility assistance dogs (MAD). Findings from a recent pilot study, conducted at a MAD training facility, show that the elicitation of canine stakeholder needs while in training is highly dependent on employee interpretation. This paper promotes the use of technology in support of meeting canine user needs, as suggested by the emerging field of Animal-Computer
... teraction (ACI), by enabling trainers and employees to accurately elicit and interpret canine stakeholder requirements. This paper reports preliminary findings from a recent pilot study using ethnographic methods to investigate the current MAD training and matching assessment processes, and their reliance on employees' ability to interpret canine behavior. Although, employee practices are carefully designed to utilize objective assessment Copyright c by the paper's authors. Copying permitted for private and academic purposes. criteria, they may still be open to instances in which inaccurate interpretations of canine behavior(s) may result in the misrepresentation of MAD stakeholder needs. The Study Aim The aim of the pilot study was to gain an overall understanding on processes and interactions involved in whelping, training, matching and placing MADs with clients, as a means to identify areas that may directly impact their wellbeing and performance. This early work is part of doctoral research within the project Dog-Smart Homes: Portable Controls Optimized for Mobility Assistance Dogs, whose objective is to improve the performance and wellbeing of MAD partnerships. Participants, Data Collection Methods and Study Limitations The fieldwork was conducted at the facilities of Dogs For Good (DFG), a UK-based charity focused on "creating partnerships between people living with disability and specially trained assistance dogs."  . During the week long study the researcher interviewed 13 staff members who work within the areas of training and development, and service support and administration, 1 MAD dog partnership, and 1 puppy volunteer, as well as extended observations of 3 MADs in training. Data collection methods included observation, shadowing, participatory research, semi-structured and contextual interviews, which were recorded, based on participant preference, in the form of photography, audio, and video. The processes observed during the study represent common examples of operations within the industry  . The ethnographic data collection methods and analysis of this study were limited in as much as all interviews were mediated through the researcher. In addition, the study is based within a particular context, that of DFG, which although a common example of MAD industry operations is still a particular charity, with characteristic processes, roles and methods. Data Analysis Coded interview guides were created in advance containing nominal categories such as interviewee name, role, and time employed at DFG and focused on categories of inquiry regarding: employee past experience, reason for working at DFG, role and responsibilities at DFG, role challenges and successes, information management, canine behavior, and their individual experience in interacting with MADs.