Postcard of a painting

Yesterday I received notification of publication of a Web Accessibility Special Issue of the Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology journal, focusing on a selection of the best work presented at recent W4A conferences. I had the pleasure of editing this edition of the journal, and the result is what I think is a very neat cross-section of the web accessibility research and development going on right now.

In a previous blog post I touched on some of the problems with academic web accessibility research – in particular the cost barriers to accessing research published in some journals, and the sometimes lengthy time-to-publication, which can reduce the impact of late-breaking work in a fast moving area like web accessibility.

Copyright reasons prevent me from replicating the work published in the journal. So instead I’ve provided a brief overview of each of the papers that appear, with a link to the page where you can access a copy of the full paper. The authors are also bound by copyright agreements, but I’m sure each would be happy to answer further questions about their work.

The subjects range from from accessibility evaluation and measurement, to supporting accessibility of Web 2.0 applications to investigating the accessibility benefits of semantic markup to effective policies for using the Web to its full potential in enabling access to disabled people to online information and experiences.

From Web accessibility to Web adaptability; Brian Kelly, Liddy Nevile, Sotiris Fanou, Ruth Ellison, Lisa Herrod and David Sloan.
A review of web accessibility from an organisational and policymaker’s perspective. This paper focuses on ways to strike a balance between a policy that limits the chances of unjustified accessibility barriers being introduced in web design while also providing enough flexibility to allow the web in a way that provides the best possible user experience for disabled people by acknowledging and supporting the diversity of and the occasional conflicts between the needs of different groups.
Experimental evaluation of usability and accessibility of heading elements; Takayuki Watanabe.
This paper describes an investigation into the usability and accessibility impact of effective use of HTML heading elements on accessibility, and provides data to support the argument that these features positively impact on usability and accessibility for visually impaired web users.
WAI-ARIA live regions and channels: ReefChat as a case example; Peter Thiessen, Erin Russell.
A case study describing application of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Accessibility Initiative Accessible Rich Internet Application (WAI-ARIA) in creating a chat application usable and accessible by sighted and visually impaired people.
Web accessibility and open source software; Željko Obrenović.
This is a review of the many diverse technologies and solutions that have been developed under an Open Source Software (OSS) approach, and a discussion of how accessible web browsing can be improved through using these technologies in innovative ways.
Tool independence for the web accessibility quantitative metric; Markel Vigo, Giorgio Brajnik, Myriam Arrue and Julio Abascal.
Efficient and accurate web accessibility evaluation on a large scale remains an important objective in the quality assurance of web content, yet the limitations of automated evaluation methods are well known. The authors of this paper propose the Web Accessibility Quantitative Metric as a reliable and independent measure of a Web site’s accessibility.
Editing Wikipedia content by screen reader: Easier interaction with the Accessible Rich Internet Applications suite; Marina Buzzi and Barbara Leporini.
This paper investigates the increasingly important topic of supporting disabled people as producers, and not just consumers, of web content. Wikipedia is the ‘Web 2.0’ example site used, and the authors explain how WAI-ARIA can be used to enhance non-visual usability of editing features of the Wikipedia interface.
Enabling web users and developers to script accessibility with Accessmonkey; Jeffrey Bigham, Jeremy Brudvik, Jessica Leung and Richard Ladner.
This paper focuses on supporting extension of browser functionality for accessibility purposes. AccessMonkey is a scripting framework that can be used to improve accessibility by modifying standard browser – and the authors demonstrate examples of how this can be used to enhance the user experience for disabled people, for example where appropriate assistive technology may not be available.

I hope by providing an introduction to each paper I’ve given you an insight into the diversity of web accessibility research currently taking place, and introduced you to some of the people who are carrying out this important work.


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