Open badges and accessibility

I recently attended a talk on the Open Badge Framework, by Grainne Hamilton, from the JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland. It got me thinking about the potential Open Badges has a way to allow people to reward sites for a high level of accessibility.

The post that follows is a direct copy of what I originally published on the University of Dundee’s eAccessibility blog. Have a read and let me know what you think.

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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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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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Design for life part 1

One of the great things about my job as a researcher with a focus on accessibility and usability is that I can happily justify going all reflective on an everyday event, wondering why it happened, and what could be done to change it in the future – especially if it involves some user interface design quirk or flaw. Recounting this can provide valuable insight and encouragement to improving the quality of interface design – just Ask Tog!

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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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