Building an Accessibility Body of Knowledge

This year, we’ve seen a growing prominence of discussions about the idea of developing a resource providing access to trusted information on web and ICT accessibility – an accessibility Body of Knowledge. It would be hard to defend the idea that accessibility knowledge should remain a specialism, held only be a chosen few and made available to others only at great cost, going against the very objective of supporting inclusion that we surely all support. Instead, there’s an obvious attraction for accessibility specialists and those less familiar with accessibility theory and practice to be able to refer to and use a resource that provides authoritative information on accessibility, from development techniques to assistive technology performance and support to legislative requirements to statistics on return-on-investment.

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A world tour of UK accessibility research groups

In a previous post on guerilla accessibility research I commented on how some of what seems to be the highest-impact innovation in web and ICT accessibility is provided by developers and designers trying out new things, and refining emergent techniques in response to issues that are discovered by their peers or by disabled web users. By contrast, when “universities” and “web standards/inclusive web design” are mentioned in the same sentence, it’s usually to receive criticisms of the poor quality of web design education…

However, in academia, there’s a small, yet bright and enthusiastic community of people tackling various accessibility research challenges (and often injecting inclusive design into the teaching curriculum too). Too often, traditional research dissemination models mean it’s a long time (if ever) before the outcomes of this research make it into the public domain, and academia has work to do to adapt to better use social networking services to share plans and discoveries more quickly and effectively.

So to redress the balance slightly, here’s an overview of some of the groups I know of in the UK who are doing interesting and high-impact web/ICT accessibility research – starting from the north and working south (of course!).

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CSUNs in the shade

Excitement is growing amongst people who work in accessibility, as the CSUN 2011 conference in San Diego draws closer. As probably the longest and most well established conference on disability and technology, CSUN attracts a great number of people working in the web and software accessibility and inclusive design area. This year is no exception, judging by the chat on Twitter and the CSUN Tweetup roll-call. But I’ve never been, and I’m unlikely to attend unless my circumstances change. Here’s why.

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eAccess+ – A European network for e-accessibility

The European Commission-funded eAccess+ network is a network of organisations who will focus on supporting and promoting awareness and adoption of e-accessibility in industry and the public sector, and also amongst service providers to excluded groups. We’ve just had our kick-off meeting – so here’s some information about what we’re going to do over the next 3 years.

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The role of accessibility in the usability profession today – and tomorrow

I had the honour of taking part in a panel session discussing How Does Accessibility Fit into Today’s Usability Practice? at the Usability Professionals’ Association Conference (UPA 2010) in Munich last week. The session was organised by Shawn Henry of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and provided an opportunity to debate the challenges of promoting and supporting accessible ICT design within a wider usability context. A number of interesting discussion points emerged – here are my reflections on the panel session.

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Is ‘a11y’ our ally? Thoughts on a tag for web accessibility

The discussion over what should be the best tag to use for technology and accessibility related content on social media sites like Twitter and Delicious continues apace, with a number of different suggestions – with the merits of the abbreviation ‘a11y’ at the centre of most debate. Alternatives such as ‘access’ and ‘axs’ have been proposed.

Here are my thoughts.

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