Accessibility the Ghost! – #accessibility #a11y

It seems to me we just can’t put our finger on a concise collection of knowledge and thought surrounding a scientifically valid corpus of testable understanding. Accessibility research is spread out across many domains, there is no generally accepted definition, and the guidelines and standards which are collected (often not by the research community) are to a large scale anecdotal.

Accessibility the Ghost

Accessibility the Friendly Ghost?

We have a problem in Web accessibility, in that accessibility itself seems to still be like a spectre, a ‘willow-the-wisp’ that is very difficult to resolve at the  deeper research levels.  In research we have no shared concept of accessibility, do we include ageing, situational impairment, low income, developing regions? Is accessibility really about Effective use (a. Powerful in effect; producing a notable effect; effectual.) or the removal of all barriers to access whatever they may be – agnostic of the functional abilities of the person involved?

Where are our data sets for secondary analysis, without them how can be certain of the science of others? Where is the empirical work collected, which will help us understand and design for people better. Guidelines and standards just don’t cut it as they about very specific cases, not about a generalisable and testable understanding of our interactions; they tell us what to do – but not why we should do it. Further, they are created from anecdotal, expert (in some cases more expert than others) opinion, via consensus.

It seems to me we just can’t put our finger on a concise collection of knowledge and thought surrounding a scientifically valid corpus of testable understanding. Accessibility research is spread out across many domains, there is no generally accepted definition, and the guidelines and standards which are collected (often not by the research community) are to a large scale anecdotal.

So what should we do, well in the past I’ve made a swing at proposing a journal (the ‘Journal of Human-Factors Experimental Methodologies, Data-sets, and Analysis’ ) to collect our datasets together, but is this enough. We have practical standards – which maybe fine for the practice community – focused on application to a domain; not creating new knowledge, innovation, understanding, and incremental experimentation.

Maybe, it’s too much like ‘herding cats’. In physics, especially High Energy Physics, the researchers speak with one voice, they have findings in (mostly) one place (regardless of the journal they a published in); that place is arXiv.org.

Now there is space on arXiv for computer science called, CoRR, and HCI has a place too; total HCI Technical Reports – all years, all months – 7. Total physics Technical Reports for March 2012 alone – 418.

Enough said!

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One thought on “Accessibility the Ghost! – #accessibility #a11y

  1. Pingback: Building an Accessibility Body of Knowledge « The ’58 sound

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