My approach to accessibility research

People can be very different in their capacity to interact with one another. That capacity manifests itself in terms of both physical and cognitive capabilities, for example vision and short term memory capacity, and can vary over time periods as short as a single day.

With such variation in personal capabilities, designers of computer user interfaces often provide affordances in their design to allow for some adaptation of interaction style between user and computer. The degree of sophistication of affordances provided can vary widely between user interfaces and the devices that host them. This is particularly true of hand-held mobile devices, where small form factors and battery life limitations affect the computational and presentational capabilities of the devices.

The context in which people interact with hand-held mobile devices, is ever expanding as mobile access to information becomes ubiquitous. Further, the same content, especially web pages, may be accessed from a range of different devices, each with their own constrained capabilities. It is particularly this use-case of the mobile internet that is the focus for my research.

The approach taken is to consider the people, their devices, the context of use, and the information content accessed, in quite abstract terms, constructing independent object oriented analysis models to represent each conceptual problem domain. Those problem domains are considered first in their own right, and then in terms of their relationship to each other, in order to investigate how effective models of self-adaptation of both content and interaction modality by a user interface may be constructed.

My work extends Nesbitt’s concept of design spaces to scope consideration of visual, sonic, haptic, and cognitive interaction between user and interface. That consideration gives rise to recommendations for the scope and structure of user and device profiling, and for improved meta-models of web content and associated interaction modalities. The meta-models of web content conflate the concept of design spaces with a re-working of the Dexter and Amsterdam models of hypertext upon which existing web mark-up language such as HTML and SMIL rely.

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