Understanding Web Accessibility and Its Drivers – Summary and Thoughts

Summary:

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.

Thoughts

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.

 

 

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

Summary

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.

Thoughts

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

Summary

—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
—Limitations
– 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.
—Study
– 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
—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
—Advantages
– Much better understanding and insights on the CVD individuals struggles
Thoughts
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.

A tangible tabletop game supporting therapy of children with Cerebral Palsy – Thoughts and Summary

Summary:

The purpose of this study was to develop a tangible table-top game supporting the rehabilitation of children with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Their aim was to provide some of the rehabilitation services provided by therapists to children affected with CP using table-top technology. They mentioned that therapists use different toys and techniques in their training sessions to do exercises like finger extensions, princer grasp, elbow extension, and supination. The experience several problems while teaching these exercises: the children were used to the same exercises and it was no longer a challenge for then, they started to compensate for their lack of movement by using their other arm/hands, they were not motivated, and since training was personal, they lacked social interaction.

The intent of their game was to design an avenue where the children could practice these same exercises while having fun, and staying motivated. They involved therapists in their design, and the therapists provided feedback which helped them to improve their design. The final game was implemented was a table-top playing surface what lit up in different LED lights, and the children had to color match several physical objects like blocks and hammers to the lights on the surface to turn them off.

Their results were mixed –  although the children enjoyed playing the game, they also experienced some of the problems the therapists experienced like compensation with their good arm, and because they were in their therapy rooms, they had some fore-knowledge of the arm movements they were supposed to make.

Thoughts:

I wish the results were more successful than they were. It seems like the children faced some of the same problems with therapists; however, the children having fun in their therapy session is certainly a step in the right direction. I feel like the paper was somewhat premature, and hoped that they would have performed some more iterations of the design before the study was published. They also mentioned that the design was an iterative and participatory process, but it wasn’t mentioned anywhere they took the design preferences of the children in the design process. It seems like they only took into account feedback from the therapists, which may vary widely from what would work very successfully for the children.

Design of an Exergaming Station for Children with Cerebral Palsy – Thoughts and Summary

Summary:

The purpose of this study was to develop an exercise video game for children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) to keep them physically active. They developed this video game with the help of medical professionals, game designers, computer scientists, kinesiologists, physical therapists and eight children with CP. The game combines a physical platform to allow pedaling motion by the children, an Xbox 360 controller, and algorithms to take input from the user pedaling to make the gaming experience smoother. Gaming systems like this allow children with CP to exercise while having fun – they mentioned that most other research studies in this area are heavily focused on rehabilitation therapy, and not many are focused on maintaining physical fitness (which is equally as important). Their game also allowed for playing with other children over a network, providing social contact – and the game can be installed and played at home without occupying too much space.

Their resulting design was highly successful – and seven of eight children could play unassisted using the final version. The children were able to exercise at levels that would lead to health benefits. One of the main things they discovered was that it is really difficult to predict the needs and preferences of children with CP if you don’t have the condition – designs that they expected to work at first were quite unsuccessful. After several iterations and designs, they ended up settling on a racer chair where the arm rests are flush with the seats.

Thoughts:

Overall, I really liked this paper. I really enjoyed their approach, their iterative design process, and I feel like they gave us an end to end picture of their research. It was also very smart of them to focus on an area that was lacking (maintaining physical fitness), as some of the problems of people with CP is as a result of lack of use of the muscle groups. Maintaining physical fitness will certainly help to keep their muscles active, and help them live easier lives.

Electronic Dementia Guide for Excellence – Summary and Thoughts

Summary

The purpose of the EDGE ( Electronic Dementia Guide for Excellence) document is to serve as an electronic guide on how to care for Dementia patients in nursing homes. Its goal is to have long-term practical use, be user-friendly, improve quality of life for Dementia patients, make best practices accessible without being intimidating, and be based on state of the art research and practices. This guide was developed to address all the needs of the Dementia patients including their health, physical, and emotional needs. It was taken through a rigorous development, testing and piloting phase, and they continuously gathered feedback from the practitioners that cared for Dementia patients. Even though this guide was conceived when the internet was not so popular in hospitals,  they knew that the internet was getting very popular and they wanted to deploy the information through a channel where everyone could access it, and the information would be updated as new information became available.

The implementation of this guide was very successful. Practitioners started to feel better about going to work and caring for their patients and patients with Dementia felt and were treated like regular human beings.

The guide went online in 1998 can be accessed by anyone at www.dementiasolutions.com

Thoughts

I tried to go to the link above, and was redirected to a “NorthEast Health Employee Login Portal”.. Perhaps, the link has been changed, or is no longer active?

This guide is a great example of patient centered research and care. They put the patients first and achieved great results. They had the foresight of deploying the information over the internet by anticipating that the internet was going to be the information portal of the future and it was a very smart strategy. I think it’s a great example of how care guides for other health conditions should be researched and deployed. Just like in HCI (putting users at the center of design), putting patients needs at the center of their care always produces quality products.

Understanding Pointing Problems in Real World Computing Environments – Summary and Thoughts

Summary:

The researchers in this article developed software and an analysis tool to collect and analyze real world pointing performance, which was used to investigate the variance in performance of 6 individuals with a range on pointing abilities. Performance pointing research is generally done in a very controlled environment (usually a lab) where the users are instructed on exactly what to do. However, this method ignores a plethora of useful data that can be gathered if gathered in a real world scenario (like users clicking links mistakenly, and going back immediately). They focused mostly on the following types of pointing errors

  • Too many buttons: When a user accidently clicks both the left and the right mouse buttons together
  • Accidental click: When the user clicks when they didn’t intend to.
  • Double click speed: When the user does not click twice fast enough – instead of a double click, it is registered as two single clicks.
  • Movement during a single click (slipping): When the user moves the mouse cursor while clicking a button.

The research study also collects data on the direction changes of the mouse pointer and the excess distance travelled (ratio of actual distance travelled by pointer vs straight line distance from mouse pointer to target). Their software tool was based on (and extends) the DART tool which is a suite of system monitoring components that run in the background to log pointing, keyboard and window events.

Overall, they were able to gather real world data that was more detailed than data gathered in a controlled environment as the users had the liberty to use the test computers when and how they wanted. They found that most of the participants did not know/were not willing to adjust the pointing settings in order to make their experience easier.

Thoughts

Overall, I think it was a nicely written paper. Although they talk about the reasons for studying pointing performance like measuring pointing variances between individuals of various abilities, and studying performance across various pointing devices, it was not clear what the real world use of the data could be. Can this data help them design better pointing devices? Can they use this data to recommend/design different pointing devices to people with diferent disabilities? I couldn’t really deduce from the paper, what some real world uses of the data was, and based on their analysis, I could only imagine that their data could produce better real world design than “lab-gathered” data – I just couldn’t tell exactly how it was going to accomplish that.