While consensus does not automatically imply correctness, it’s a fair bet that gathering a group of twenty accessibility experts in the same room and asking them what they want to see funded by the EU in the coming years, may very well produce an important research agenda for the future.
This was the plan of the EU funded coordinated-action CARDIAC Project, and so at the end of June, approximately 20 project members and invited experts gathered in San Sebastian to decide what was important for the future. The project’s intention is to create roadmaps for future research and development in the area of accessible and assistive information and communication technology systems, and used a conflict resolution methodology called ‘Structured Dialogic Design’ to elicit our responses.
We started by stating three research agendas which should be investigated, mine were something like these:
- ‘Delivery of the interface, based on personalisation, customisation, adaptation and open APIs (such as REST) – to many and varied platforms.‘ It is my belief that we are seeing a convergence of devices and the people who use them along with a divergence of the devices themselves. This means that developers must make their applications more flexible, more customisable, and more personalisable – in effect more open – if they are to deliver these applications to the many different types of devices – and interfaces on those devices – without creating additional work by building an application for each individual device. Assistive technologies can, and will, take advantage of this flexibility and openness and become just another device to which flexible applications, content, and interfaces need to be delivered. By understanding that assistive technology is really just extreme adaptation we can implicitly encourage developers to create an openness not previously experienced when the only platform for delivery was a closed predictable desktop environment;
- ‘Support research on how Affective Computing can assist accessibility interfaces.‘ While still novel, measures of stress – based on say Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) – have been, and are becoming, increasing common measures in experiments to quantify human behaviour, particularly anxiety frustration disorientation and hesitation. However, what is the possibility of using GSR (along with predictive task models) to quantify interaction problems and automatically adapt the interface such that stress is reduced and interactivity progresses faster. Even if we are not able to adapt the interface automatically and directly we may still be able to understand the areas of frustration that are common among different user groups and change the interface such that these areas of stress are reduced; and
- ‘Identify human factors barriers to health, education, and participation of low income groups.‘ The opportunities created by digital technologies are not enjoyed by the whole of society, indeed, there is a strong correlation between digital exclusion and social exclusion. There are significant and untapped opportunities to use technology better on behalf of citizens, communities, and digitally disenfranchised groups. However, to achieve inclusion, systems must be created seeing the human factor as a part of an integrated solution from the outset, not as an adjunct but also not as a focus. In addition, the multiplicity and ubiquity of devices and their interfaces are key to successful inclusion, and systems must be tailored to what users actually require and will use; as opposed to what organisations and government require and use. For instance, uses on low income may not be able to afford general-purpose computational facilities and therefore it may be more appropriate to deliver applications and content via other mediums such as mobile devices, games consoles, digital television, or other as yet undefined applications and devices. Only by making sure there is access to, what now seems to be compulsory digital interactivity in areas such as education and health care, can we make sure that the next generation have better chances than the current one.
While the details of each of the other 70 or so points discussed may not be very enlightening the title of the clusters, the method required us to group these points into, may help to give a high level impression possible routes:
- Beyond HCI;
- Cognitive Interaction;
- Innovative User Interfaces;
- Accessibility Resource Materials;
- Adaptive User Interfaces;
- Knowledge Sharing;
- Decision-Making and User Centred Design;
- Universal Remote Console;
- Ubiquitous Computing;
- Human Factors;
- Social Interactions;
- Text Processing;
- Adoption of Accessibility;
- User Profiles; and
- Design Tools.
By expanding these fifteen or so pathways, we may be able to build a research roadmap for funding by the European Union into the midterm future.