Understanding Web Accessibility and Its Drivers – Summary and Thoughts


The purpose of this paper was to understand how different professionals understand web accessibility and usability including their target audience (disabled vs non-disabled), how they should be evaluated and their appropriate context.

With this research, they intended to “guide and help in better teaching web accessibility by solidifying ideas and concepts”, “better communicate the concepts to people who are not in the field”, “advance web accessibility as a research field by providing shared understanding, grammar and lexicons”, and “improve penetration of web accessibility into commercial and industrial settings”.

In order to gather their data, they implemented a survey to about 379 people to find out about their background, how they view accessibility and usability, and asked them to rate some accessibility statements according to their level of importance. They sent out this survey to find out if age, profession, industry, country of origin, education, experience, specialization and interest affect how people view accessibility.

These were their results:

  • Most people agreed on the following definition: “Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web, and they can contribute to the web”.
  • Designing better products and being inclusive are the major reasons why people embrace accessibility.
  • People embrace accessibility as a result of social responsibility over legal issues
  • Simple, clear, achievable and realistic definitions are preferred.
  • Accessibility should not be an afterthought.
  • Definitions disseminated by large institutions or regulatory bodies are preferred.


Sincerely, I didn’t think that how people understand accessibility was such an issue (I’m happy this paper exposed that). I view accessibility just like the way I see electronic records – it’s a place that everyone has to migrate to in order to remain competitive and make their jobs easier. Making websites accessible is even more important, because it opens up businesses to a much larger population of people including disabled people, the elderly etc. I wish the paper had talked more about how the professionals thought websites should be evaluated – giving people something concrete on some of the best ways to make their websites accessible.




Passchords – Secure Multi-Touch Authentication for Blind People – Summary and thoughts


The purpose of this paper is to discuss all the different security threats that blind mobile users face, some ways to mitigate those threats, and the introduction of a new authentication tool called PassChords.

People use their mobile phones to access important information nowadays including email,banking and credit card information, and private data. Security of these devices and the data they contain is especially important. This paper focuses on the threats that blind people face while using these devices to access important data. They are as follows:

  • Aural Eavesdropping: Due to the fact that blind people use text to speech tools on their phones (e.g iPhone voice over, accessibility etc), there is a huge risk of people overhearing important information when these devices are used in public. This risk can be mitigated by using earphones but blind users need to be aware of their environment by listening, and using earphones can sometimes be dangerous.
  • Visual Eavesdropping: A person with low-vision can use mobile phone tools like text magnifiers, and large fonts to make their comprehension easier. This makes it a lot easier for someone walking by to see the contents of the users phone. The iPhone currently has a tool called the screen curtain that blacks out the screen for users who depend on voice interaction to mitigate this risk.
  • Unauthorized user access: Research shows that 89% of people who have found mobile phones have attempted to access the phone’s private information. Most smartphones have the ability to be locked and unlocked using a pin for authentication, but this method is very cumbersome and error-prone for blind people. In order to mitigate this risk, the research team developed a tool called PassChords

According to the paper, “PassChords is a non-visual authentication method for touch surfaces that is robust to aural and visual eavesdropping. A user enters a PassChord by tapping several times on a touch surface with one or more fingers.” The sequence of finger taps defines the password.

In order to design a tool, they wanted to design a tool that was fast, robust to aural and visual eavesdropping, and had a high password strength and recall rate. In order to set a PassChord, the user taps all 4 fingers on the screen in order to calibrate the screen to the finger positions, and enters a sequence of several taps on the screen using a combination of different fingers to set the password. If the user makes a mistake, the PassChord can be reset by recalibrating and re-entering the tap sequence.

They conducted a study with 16 participants total, and the results were nearly three times as fast as the iPhone’s passcode lock with VoiceOver. There were no unexpected obstacles with password recall.


Overall, I was rally excited about this paper. It was very clear, and I was super excited that two of our UMBC professors were referenced in it. Using PassChords as a method for authentication is evocative of playing different sequences on a piano, so that can help with it’s recall.


“So That’s What You See!” Building Understanding with Personalized Simulations of Color Vision Deficiency (2012) – Summary and Thoughts


—The aim this research study is to put friends/relatives in the shoes of people with Color Vision Deficiencies (CVD). They developed a CVD-simulation that provides personalized, more accurate view of how CVD individuals see color.
Prior CVD Simulations
– Mostly simulate an extreme case of CVD
     ÷ 75% of cases are not that extreme
– Require to know the specific type of CVD
     ÷ People generally do not know what type they have
– Simulate one type of CVD at a time
     ÷ There are cases (especially in older adults) where people have more than one condition
Using empirical simulations, they
     ÷ Measured color perception of CVD Individuals
     ÷ Measured color perception of non-CVD individuals
     ÷ Showed the non-CVD the image as the CVD individual would see it.
– 5 Pairs of participants
– Each participant performed vision test (CVD and non-CVD)
– Show the non-CVD Individual image as it looks to CVD individual
– Qualitative discussion of results
– Much more accurate results than other simulation tools
– To the non-CDV individuals, food looked unappetizing – neither rotten nor unripe, Christmas trees looked unwatered and dying, different crayons looked muted
– Much better understanding and insights on the CVD individuals struggles
I thought this paper was really interesting. First I didn’t know much about people will color blindness so it was a great learning experience for me. I wondered why they didn’t try to develop a tool to help people with CVD see colors normally, BUT I agree that there a lot of value in this type of research, especially as it relates to the design of items that we interact with daily.