Web design for cognitive accessibility
Abstract: Information and communication are increasingly being conveyed over the Internet. The forms of service and commerce that we are familiar with today will most likely be reduced in scale in the future to be replaced by new electronic solutions. For this reason, it is important that new technology be designed so that as many people as possible can utilize it. Accessibility to a range of services and information is a vital cornerstone of a democratic society’s vision of participation by all. In this research, accessibility is primarily elucidated from the perspective of people with disabilities and in particular those with cognitive limitations. The three studies presented here have been pursued within the framework of a project financed by VINNOVA and the Knowledge Foundation of Sweden. The aim of the project was to gain knowledge and understanding of how people with cognitive limitations manage to use the Intenet and in so doing, establish a basis for developing a method that would increase their accessibility to the Internet. At an early stage, people with cognitive limitations were included in the project and through their participation the user’s situation had a central position in the research. An expert group of professionals discussed the theoretical and developmental issues involved. The practical applications were developed in an iterative process with representatives of the end users. By making use of observation techniques, the work of the two groups could be joined together to form a whole. The studies describe aspects of Internet accessibility from three different angles: • Accessibility via distributed cognition in the design of a web page • Usability of Microsoft Internet Explorer’s easiest navigation tools • Existing technology as the solution to a specific problem—ACCeL The first study describes how you can build cognitive support into the design of the web page. One of the results was a list of guidelines for improving the cognitive understanding of web pages. The second study describes how the subjects managed to navigate between and on web pages using Microsoft Internet Explorer’s navigation tools. The subjects were asked to open, close, move up and down as well as back and forward and this did not cause them any difficulties. However, it was when they were asked to process text that the subjects had obvious problems. Entering a search word or a URL address as well as understanding the text on a web page was hard for several of them. The experiences from the first two studies were used to develop a method and system for increasing Internet accessibility in the third. The system is called ACCeL (Assistive Computer Control easy to Learn). The main component is the C-Pen 10, a commercially available electronic device, which uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to scan in printed letters, numbers as well as a special Anoto pattern. It can then be used to transfer text into all Windows programs. A screen reader is used to read the text out loud for the user. The third study describes the ACCeL concept and in the results from the evaluation, we can see that the subjects find it easier to navigate between different computer programs and web pages. The process of navigating has been made more concrete because it takes place directly from paper using the electronic pen.
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