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Research questions - the underlying issue? (was Re: XML and accessibility)

From: Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 10:01:14 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

I think the underlying argument that Scott is presenting is that someone 
needs to research, develop, and test the most effective user interface for 
people who are blind.

The discussions of this issue have been confusing because we have been 
looking at solutions without clearly stating the question.

If the question is, "what is the most effective user interface for a person 
who is blind to access the Web?" I don't believe we can point to a widely 
used, concrete solution.  There are many variables involved:
1. user agents,
2. assistive technologies,
3. individual differences and preferences,
4. various markup solutions,
5. technological changes over time,
6. combinations of all of these variables.

The crux of this issue is not dynamic versus static delivery.  There are 
two issues:
1. fundamental research in how people who are blind access information is a 
research question that needs to be answered.
2. what is possible today and what is expected to be possible in the future 
are very different.

Scott, your experience watching users who are blind access your example 
pages is very useful.  I would like to see your results generalized and not 
interspersed with proposed solutions.  We need usability information on 
individual differences of people with disabilities.  This information could 
greatly improve how user agents and assistive technologies support user 
interaction with information.

Dynamically generated pages is a technique to address a current need. I 
believe many folks on this list are anticipating future needs and are 
reluctant to press authors to do so much work today that they will not need 
to do in the future.  However, there is also the need of people who need to 
access information <em>today</em>.  Although, Scott is primarily addressing 
an ease of use issue (priority 3 or priority 2) and we still have lots of 
work to do to bring the Web into conformance with at least Priority 1 items.

The future is an idealistic place where user agents and assistive 
technologies work seamlessly together to provide an easy to use auditory 
user interface (or braille user interface) that is not confined by or an 
interpretation of the graphical user interface.

Therefore I propose that the following things happen:

1.  Scott, please write a proposal for the WCAG techniques document that 
uses W3C technologies to create dynamically generated pages.  I anticipate 
that this proposal will include example markup as well as general 
information about how to structure the page (formed from the results from 
your observations).  Look at CC/PP [1] to see if this is in synch with your 
ideas.  Some mobile groups are already using gateways to perform XSLT 
transformations based on device type.  Show us how to do something similar 
based on a user profile of preferences.

2. People have been investigating auditory user interfaces for years (see 
the International Community for Auditory Display (ICAD) [2] for more 
information).  We need to ensure that the User Agents working group is 
aware of these projects.  (However, none of these have caught on like the 
GUI. I anticipate we will see more auditory user interfaces with the 
adoption of mobile applications).  Therefore, the discussion of this topic 
is best suited for the UA working group list.

3. What about research into braille user interfaces?  Off the top of my 
head I can not think of any research projects that have investigated 
this.  What am I forgetting?  Again, the UA working group list is a better 
venue for this discussion.

4. It would be great if we could verify Scott's results or discover other 
general principles with formal testing and research.  Any volunteers?  I 
believe the WAI Interest Group list is the best venue for this discussion.

5. People need to document observations of people with various disabilities 
accessing the Web.  This information is valuable for several reasons:

a. we need to identify the technological problems - is this an assistive 
technology problem, a user agent problem, or a problem with the 
markup?  Once identified we can pass the problem on to the appropriate 
group/organization.  Some of this information is appropriate for our user 
agent support page.  This topic spans both this list and the UA working 
group list.

b. where there are general principles that we can apply to user agents or 
page markup, we need to pass that information on to the appropriate 


[1] http://www.w3.org/Mobile/CCPP/
[2] http://www.icad.org/
wendy a chisholm
world wide web consortium
web accessibility initiative
madison, wi usa
tel: +1 608 663 6346
Received on Monday, 24 January 2000 09:59:50 UTC

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