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Evaluating Accessibility

Recently we have been involved in a number of conversations about accessibility as it relates to universal design for learning or universal design in education. Specifically, how does one measure the accessibility of curriculum, instruction, devices, and environments? How accessible does something have to be to be considered universal?

A number of researchers are working on this question. Some argue that any improvement over the status quo is an application of universal design. Others argue that there should be a very high standard (i.e., 99% accessible).

We recently came across a dissertation from Spain that addressed the issue of accessibility measurement. The context of the study by Markel Vigo, Ph.D. was to automate the measurement of web page accessibility as Google and Yahoo crawlers crawl the web and archive web pages. His work resulted in the development and evaluation of the Web Accessibility Quantitative Metric (WAQM). He specifically studied web accessibility for blind users.

The system automatically creates a report for each web page. Then, the WAQM system makes an algorithm with this data about the web page in order to calculate its level of accessibility. In this way, when a blind person carries out a search on the Internet, criteria related to their disability are taken into consideration, along with the usual search criteria. Beside each link there appears the scoring corresponding to the level of accessibility. A user’s profile is created on the basis of their special needs and then used to personalize the report that the evaluation tools automatically create for the web page.

Interested readers are directed to the following web page where they can read the abstract of the study and download a PDF version of the dissertation:

Automatic Assessment of Contextual Web Accessibility from an Evaluation, Measurement and Adaptation Perspective
http://www.sigaccess.org/community/theses_repository/phd/markel_vigo.php

or for those who prefer a research brief:

System to Facilitate Internet Use by Disabled is Evaluated
http://www.basqueresearch.com/berria_irakurri.asp?Berri_Kod=2583&hizk=I

Hopefully this work will inspire other researchers, developers, and practioners to think about accessible design and accessibility measurement.