Longitudinal observations in the wild are becoming increasingly seen as the place to look for rich data about the user experience; and this experience is shared by users with disabilities. Thanks to the W4A review committee for understanding this and accepting our communication about our work in the field ‘Understanding Users in the Wild’ a draft of which you can read.
In it we say that:
Laboratory studies are a well established practice that present disadvantages in terms of data collection. One of these disadvantages is that laboratories are controlled environments that do not account for unpredicted factors from the real world. Laboratory studies are also obtrusive and therefore possibly biased. The Human Computer Interaction (HCI) community has acknowledged these problems and has started exploring in-situ observation techniques. These observation techniques allow for bigger participant pools and their environments can conform to the real world. Such real-world observations are particularly important to the accessibility community who has coined the concept accessibility-in-use to differentiate real world from laboratory studies. Real-world observations provide low-level interaction data therefore making a bottom-up analysis possible. This way behaviours emerge from the obtained data instead of looking for predefined models. Some in-situ techniques employ Web logs in which the data is too coarse to infer meaningful user interaction. In some other cases an exhaustive manual modification is required to capture interaction data from a Web application. We describe a tool which is easily deployable in any Web application and captures longitudinal interaction data unobtrusively. It enables the observation of accessibility-in-use and guides the detection of emerging tasks.
We are really hoping to generate a lot of discussion on this topic and how it affects users and our understanding of users in the context of accessibility and disability.