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Archive for May 3rd, 2007

Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 3 May 2007

I’m pleased to report that a paper on “Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes” has been accepted by the W4A conference which will he held in Banff, Canada on 7-8th May 2007 (the conference runs in parallel with the International WWW 2007 conference).

My co-authors are David Sloan, Professor Stephen Brown, Jane Seale, Professor Helen Petrie, Patrick Lauke and Simon Ball, all of whom are active accessibility practitioners or researchers in the UK higher education community.

The paper is the latest in a series which has addressed the challenges of providing accessible services in the ‘edge cases’ of e-learning and cultural heritage services. Initially, back in 2004, myself, Lawrie Phipps and Elaine Swift had a paper published in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology on Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility. Several papers followed and in 2005 myself, Lawrie, David Sloan and others had a paper on “Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World” accepted at the W4A 2005 conference. This paper argued that “the context of the Web resource in question and other factors surrounding its use are [needed] to shape an approach to accessible design“. At W4A 2006 our paper on “Contextual Web Accessibility – Maximizing the Benefit of Accessibility Guidelines” followed up on this theme.

Our latest paper is available online, as are the slides. In this post I give a brief summary of our work:

  • Accessibility is foremost about people. Accessibility guidelines are useful as guidelines, but there are real dangers in treating them as infallible and in Web developers thinking that there job is to ensure compliance with the guidelines, rather than in ensuring they provide accessible services.
  • We should therefore regard Web services as ways of delivering services, but not as the final thing in itself. In e-learning, for example, the important aspect is the accessibility of the learning outcomes, and not necessarily the e-learning resources. This leads to the notion of ‘blended accessibility‘ which has parallels with ‘blended learning‘.
  • There is a context to accessibility, which includes the context of use (e.g. informational services, learning services, cultural resources, games, entertainment, etc.). The approaches developed to enhance the accessibility of informational resources do not necessarily apply in other contexts. In learning, for example, the new information (or knowledge) which a learner gains is the result of a particular pedagogical approach which is likely to be somewhat more sophisticated than the ‘pouring of information into empty vessels’ than can result from a simplistic application of WCAG guidelines for e-learning resources. Similar issues are relevant for cultural resources: why is Mona Lisa smiling and what does that painting by Salvadore Dali ‘mean’?
  • There is a need for documented policies, but these policies should be developed according to the context of use (which will also reflect institutional contexts, such as the resources which are available).
  • There will be a need for processes which implement agreed policies. And for the policies and procedures to become embedded, there is a need to engage all relevant stakeholders in their development and deployment.
  • Within the UK, in particular, an approach based on ‘widening participation‘ and ‘social inclusion‘ can be used to describe this approach in ways which resonate with wider political developments within the public sector. This phrase also avoids the implications that there is a single, universal solution to accessibility, within corresponding imperialistic undertones.
  • Our approach would appear to work well within the UK legal system which requires organisations to take ‘reasonable measures’ to ensure that services are accessible.
  • The ‘Cathedral and the Bazaar’ analogy developed to contrast open source development with that taken by proprietary software developers can also be applied to accessibility: the authors feel we should encourage development of a diversity of solutions, rather than the slow-moving centralised edifice we see with WAI and WCAG.
  • We shouldn’t, though, throw away WAI’s successes. Rather, in our paper we promote the term Accessibility 2.0 as a way of building on WAI’s political successes and high profile and the valuable set of guidelines which WAI have developed which, although not universally applicable, can be valuable in many areas.

Your comments on our paper are welcomed.

And, for the sake of completeness and to ensure all authors are credited, here is a full list of my peer-reviewed papers in this area:

  • Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes
    Kelly, B., Sloan, D., Brown, S., Seale, J, Petrie, H., Lauke, P. and Ball, S. W4A 2007, Banff, Canada, 7-11 May 2007. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/w4a-2007/>
  • Using Context To Support Effective Application Of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
    Sloan, D., Kelly, B. Phipps, L., Petrie, H. and Fraser, H. Journal of Web Engineering, Issue 4. Vol. 5, 2006. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/jwe-2006/>
  • Contextual Web Accessibility – Maximizing the Benefit of Accessibility Guidelines
    Sloan, D, Kelly, B., Heath, A., Petrie, H., Hamilton, F and Phipps, L. WWW 2006, Edinburgh, Scotland 22-26 May 2006. Conference Proceedings, Special Interest Tracks, Posters and Workshops (CD ROM). <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/w4a-2006/>
  • Personalization and Accessibility: Integration of Library and Web Approaches
    Chapman, A., Kelly, B., Nevile, L. and Heath, A. WWW 2006 Edinburgh, Scotland 22-26 May 2006. Conference Proceedings, Special Interest Tracks, Posters and Workshops (CD ROM). <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/interop-focus/publications/www2006/>
  • Holistic Approaches to E-Learning Accessibility
    Phipps, L. and Kelly, B. ALT-J Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 2006, pp. 69-78. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/alt-j-2006/>
  • Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility
    Kelly, B., Phipps, L. and Howell, C. ALT-C 2005 Conference Proceedings. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/alt-c-2005/>
  • Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World
    Kelly, B., Sloan, D., Phipps, L., Petrie, H. and Hamilton, F. Proceedings of the 2005 International Cross-Disciplinary Workshop on Web Accessibility (W4A). ISBN: 1-59593-036-1. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/w4a-2005/>
  • Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility
    Kelly, B., Phipps, L. and Swift, E. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 2004, Vol. 30, Issue 3. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/cjtl-2004/>

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