Accessibility for Architects, Accessibility for Web designers

Often, when working to promote accessibility of the digital environment, we look to the physical environment for comparisons and analogies. A PhD study at the School of Architecture here in Dundee has made me realise just how many parallels there are in the challenge of raising the profile of accessibility both amongst architects and amongst web and software developers.

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Web accessibility surveys – results are frequently disappointing

A recent exchange on Twitter has motivated me to write about the contribution published surveys on web site accessibility make towards understanding and addressing the problems that hold back web accessibility. I’ve read, and continue to read, many, many papers presenting the results of surveys of web sites, and I think we need surveys to look beyond just the data and instead delve more deeply into why the results are as they are. We’ve gone way beyond the point where a paper simply reporting that a study of x web sites from y sector revealed ‘disappointing’ levels of accessibility provides anything more than a minor contribution. Surveys need to look at process not product.

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e-Assessment and Accessibility

Recently, I’ve been doing work looking at accessibility implications of electronic assessment (e-assessment for short). E-assessment covers any use of electronic means, often a web interface, to ask questions of and gather information or evidence from a user in order to provide some form of assessment of their levels of knowledge, skills or competencies in  a particular subject or activity.

From a technical perspective, this is related to electronic survey accessibility, which in turn could easily be seen as a real world instance of accessible web form design plus accessible navigation; and therefore covered by a subset of WCAG 2.0. However, it’s not as straightforward as that.

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A fresh look at older people as ICT users

Recently I had the pleasure and honour of sitting on the examining panel of a PhD thesis defence by Sergio Sayago, a researcher at the Interactive Technologies Group of Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona. I met Sergio at W4A 2009, where he and his supervisor Josep Blat won the Best Paper award for their paper describing an ethnographic study of older people and their use of information and communication technology. Having enjoyed reading that paper and hearing his talks (he gave two at W4A), it was great to be able to announce that he’d successfully defended his PhD thesis.

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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.

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We can create

Last week, I gave a talk on web authoring tool accessibility at a Scottish Web Accessibility Briefing event, in Glasgow. It was an excellent chance to catch up with fellow accessibility advocates from Scotland – Mark Palmer, Alan White, Jim Byrne and Colin Hamilton. Co-incidentally, the latest draft of Version 2 of the W3C Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) is currently out for public comment.

So I thought I’d summarise the points I made in my talk (my slides are available on Slideshare). Why do web authoring tools have an increasingly important role to play in supporting web accessibility, and why is it so important that we talk about authoring tool accessibility in the right way?

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Finest worksong

I had the great pleasure recently of giving a talk at the Universitat de Barcelona‘s Department of Library and Information Science (in Catalan). It was organised by Mireia Ribera, and attended by staff and students on the Masters of Digital Content Management course, and I’m very grateful to Mireia for the invitation to talk, and to visit such a beautiful city!

I’d been asked to give a perspective from the UK on developments in web accessibility over the years, and in putting together my talk, I ended up with a 10 year biography of web accessibility. I thought this was a nice, round figure, given that it’s almost 10 years to the day since version 1 of WCAG was published by the W3C on 5th May 1999; and nearly 10 years since I started working in this area as a researcher/consultant in the newly formed Digital Media Access Group.

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