Economics of UD ICT

Front cover of publicationWhen governments and private enterprise fail to listen to social justice arguments it is often thought that economic arguments will win the day. This may be partially true if these arguments are allowed to be heard. “On Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Universal Design of ICT”, is another attempt at showing that universal design has cost benefits, particularly if you take the longer view. 

Abstract: In the ICT and IT domains, Universal Design is typically viewed as a burden and an expense, and its application is often justified only by ethics and/or legislation. Advocates for Universal Design (UD) are arguing that it is cost-effective, but so far there are few studies that document this in a detailed way. In this work, we discuss related research and studies dealing with the costs and benefits of accessible and usable ICT solutions. In particular, we discuss the findings regarding what is a universally designed solution, what is needed to make such a solution, how much does it cost, what impact can be anticipated by the extra effort, and how it can be measured. Finally, we suggest an approach for carrying out cost-benefit analyses of developing universally designed solutions. There is a weak indication that the economical benefits of UD solutions are much higher than the initial and running costs.

I think it is problematic to talk “cost-benefit” because politically it seems it has to benefit those who are not excluded. “Cost effectiveness” is a somewhat different measure with a focus on outcomes rather than outputs. Schraner et al have developed a different model using assistive technology as a case study. Jane Bringolf, Editor.

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The Eyes have it!

Picture of Jordan NguyenThe recent ABC science program, Catalyst, featured a new invention by Dr Jordan Nguyen. It demonstrated how a 13 year old boy living with cerebral palsy could use his eyes to directly control the lights, the fan and the television. Various environmental control systems designed for people with disability have been commercially available for many years, but these often require the use of a tablet or computer. Occupational therapists and bio-medical/rehabilitation engineers can skillfully adapt existing devices to suit individual needs. 

Research on eye-tracking or eye-gaze systems is going on all the time and David Hobbs and his team at Flinders University are at the forefront of such inventions and adaptations. For those interested in some of the background to these systems, you can download their most recent publication on using low cost, portable, tablet-based systems for children.

Spectronics Australia has a catalogue of assistive technologies for children with disability, including devices using eye-gaze techniques. 

 

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Google Maps – how accessible is this app?

picture of a Google map with icons for parking and transportGoogle Maps and similar web and mobile apps are being used more frequently as a means of getting around easily. But the rapid growth of technology often means that accessibility for all is getting left behind. While work continues on the accessibility of the web in terms of text and graphics, maps have not attracted much research and development. 

The study by Tania Calle-Jimenez and Sergio Luján-Mora presents an analysis of the barriers to the accessibility in geographic maps, and explains how technologies and tools have evolved. In their conclusions they claim to have a technical solution that enables maps and map symbols to be intepreted by a screen reader for people with low vision or who are blind. The format can describe elements such as polygons, lines and points which can be interepreted by screen readers for people with low vision.

Download Web Accessibility Barriers in Geographic Maps article from the International Journal of Computer Theory and Engineering

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Teaching UD and Inclusion to designers

inclusive design symbolsProfessor Simeon Keates has been researching aspects of universal/inclusive design over many years. In this article he focuses on how designers can acquire the knowledge and skills to gain information about users and apply it to the design.

Abstract: Designing for Universal Access requires designers to have a good understanding of the full range of users and their capabilities, appropriate datasets, and the most suitable tools and techniques. Education clearly plays an important role in helping designers acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to find the relevant information about the users and then apply it to produce a genuinely inclusive design. This paper presents a reflective analysis of a variant of the “Usability and Accessibility” course for MSc students, developed and delivered by the author over five successive semesters at the IT University of Copenhagen. The aim is to examine whether this course provided an effective and useful method for raising the issues around Universal Access with the designers of the future. This paper examines the results and conclusions from the students over five semesters of this course and provides an overview of the success of the different design and evaluation methods. The paper concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of each of the specific methods, techniques and tools used in the course, both from design and education perspectives.

Download the article from Universal Access in the Information Society,  , Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 97-110

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iBraille: Creating a Mobile App

iBrailleAccessibility guidelines are in place for websites and webpages, but we need to go further and start to consider people with vision impairment who use mobile apps. Making IOS compatible with Braille is the purpose of this study. The authors conclude that a set of development guidelines are needed similar to the web guidelines for accessibility.

From the abstract:  In this revolutionary time of expanding tablet use and app development, universal design and accessibility is paramount to the construction of mobile apps. Some issues in accessibility are easily identified and may be addressed at the onset of software development. However, guidelines for software development are minimal (Sapp, 2007), particularly in relationship to mobile app development. Despite efforts to create universally designed software from the onset, many issues with accessibility are unknown until the app is in use. Similarly, teachers, students, individuals with disabilities, technology specialists, parents, and users of a particular device may identify a variety of different needs and options that make an app user friendly. In some cases, the app may be fully accessible, but successful use of the software requires advanced technology skills (Sapp, 2007), and the development team must simplify the user interface. To address ease of use, the opinions of a variety of different users, especially teachers, who have varying experiences and technology skills during development is critical (Falloon, 2013). The purpose of this paper, is to share the research-based, iterative, and organic process of development that authors used to create the iBraille Challenge Mobile App.

Download Methods in Creating the iBraille Challenge Mobile App for Braille Users

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Blending UD, e-Learning and ICT

elearningThe authors* of this chapter examine how to blend universal design (UD) with e-learning tools used by post-secondary faculty and with information and communication technologies (ICTs) used by students in traditional classroom, hybrid, and online courses. The focus is on how instructors can design and deliver their courses in an accessible way using e-learning.  The authors conclude: “Considering UD when selecting and using e-learning materials in traditional, hybrid, and online courses can ensure an accessible learning experience for the diversity of students in today’s colleges and universities. Collaboration between the wide array of stakeholders is needed to design, implement, and support accessibility and usability. This includes the students, instructors, ICT vendors, institutional IT procurement specialists, and campus disability service providers.”

*In S. E. Burgstahler (Ed.), Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice (2nd ed.), pp. 275-284. Boston: Harvard Education Press.

Dowload the chapter here 

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Disability and mobile Internet

world wide webGerard Goggin’s latest publication focuses on the Internet, which is now 25 years old, but mobile Internet accessibility is struggling to keep up. He asks, “the web is our virtual commons, but how can we empower all people to use and contribute to the web regardless of language and ability?”

Gerard Goggin is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydisability in australia goggin newelldney. His research focuses on the social and cultural aspects of mobile media and Internet, as well as disability and digital technology. He co-authored the landmark book with the late Christopher Newell, Disability in Australia: Exposing a social apartheid.  A review of the book provides an overview of the issues covered.  A good reference for understanding the routine oppression of people with disabilty in Australia.

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Access, accessibility and the iPhone

iphone-4-ios-7-iphone-4sBlurred lines: Accessibility, disability and definitional limitations.

This paper explores the history and utility of the concept of “accessibility” in relation to the iPhone and similar devices, and the difficulties of differentiating between accessibility for people with disability and usability concerns for the general public. Elizabeth Ellcessor is assistant professor of cinema and media studies, and has an engaging way of writing. She says the case of iOS7 indicates the difficulties of defining both accessibility and disability in the contemporary moment. Increasingly, the lines between accessibility and usability, disability and difference, accommodation and preference are blurring. 

The author uses disability theory to argue that access is a complicated phenomenon, and that even given the difficulties in establishing definitions of “accessibility,” the concept is worthwhile because it carries with it reminders of the politics of difference, the difficulties of access, the history of disability rights, and the relationship of media to civil rights and public participation. Download the document.

Note: the webpage is not particularly accessible with on-screen small print.

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Internet use by older people with low vision

world-wide-web_318-9868Internet use: Perceptions and experiences of visually impaired older adults, published in the Journal of Social Inclusion, provides some excellent qualitative research – the comments from older people with vision loss are especially revealing. Anyone involved in internet communications should read this, especially those designing and posting to websites and designing email platforms. The study comes from the University of Northumbria, Newcastle UK. Note: the authors use the term “visually impaired”. In Australia the correct term is “vision impaired” or “people with low vision”.

Griffith University PressThis study has been made freely available by Griffith University Press.

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Designing mobile apps for a National Park

Yosemite 1Creating Alternative Formats. The design of brochures for National Park Service in the USA has evolved into reliance on graphic images of pictures and maps as a means of stimulating interest in visiting. However, this style of brochure does not lend itself well to audio description and other formats. This article traces the detailed research into formulating appropriate designs for alternative formats. Adopting a components-based approach, the intention was to provide clear pathways for cross-modal translation of the printed material into audio-described media, which then, can be efficiently distributed via mobile apps, as an extension of these original components. There is also a link to the Unigrid system that is applied to all NPS brochures.

 

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