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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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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HCI 2009: an on-the-train-home review

HCI 2009, the 23rd annual British Computer Society conference on Human Computer Interaction, took place this week at Cambridge University’s Churchill College . It started and finished with two provocative and inspiring keynote talks, and in between were some interesting presentations and discussions. I was there to give a paper on the user research work we’ve been doing as part of the Usable Image project, but I was also wearing my accessibility hat, and while there wasn’t a huge amount of coverage of accessibility or inclusive design there were plenty of other presentations that were definitely of relevance.

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