Evaluating Accessibility-in-Use

Update: Draft paper now online.

I told you that accessibility-in-use would start to become more accepted. Apparently the W4A Reviewers – a notoriously tough bunch – seem to agree as they’ve accepted our paper ‘Evaluating Accessibility-in-Use’ to the W4A 2013 Conference in Rio!


This acceptance makes triple for our work (Hypertext 2013, Web Science 2013) on Coping strategies and behaviours – and the sets of Web tactics that are used to enact them. We’ve been working on this for 4 years informally, and 2 years formally – it’s been a bit of a journey but the pays-offs are worth it.

Evidence suggests that guidelines employed in conformance testing do not catch all the accessibility barriers encountered by users on the Web. Since accessibility is strongly tied to the users’ experience there is a subjective perception of accessibility barriers and their severity. What is more, not only intangible qualities characterise the way in which these barriers are perceived, but also navigation styles, age, onset, expertise and abilities play a key role. In order to overcome the limitations of conformance testing and catch the problems that emerge during the interaction we propose a user-interaction-driven method to automatically report accessibility problems. To do so, we initially isolate the problematic interactions faced by users and the tactics employed in such situations. These tactics are considered behavioural markers of cognitive processes that indicate problematic interactions; their presence denotes the presence of problems. Then, we design and deploy algorithms to automatically detect the exhibition of these tactics and consequently detect problematic interactions. WebTactics, a tool that unobtrusively detects and reports the problematic interactions undergone by visually disabled users illustrates the method we propose.

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