Accessibility research wins international award

AbilityNet staff have won ‘Best Communication Paper’ at the annual Web for All (W4a) conference, a prestigious international event with a strong focus on accessibility. Their paper described a study on the validity of current mobile web accessibility guidelines and beat off competition from world-leading organisations IBM and the W3C.

Dr Chris Bailey and Raphael Clegg-Vinell with their Award from W4A_2.jpegDr Chris Bailey and Raphael Clegg-Vinell, shown in the picture with their Award, are consultants from AbilityNet’s accessibility team. They worked with Dr Voula Gkatzidou, a Research Fellow at Brunel University, to prepare the paper for the conference called “Investigating the Appropriateness and Relevance of Mobile Web Accessibility Guidelines” and passed a rigorous peer review process before being accepted.

W4A is one of the largest accessibility events in the calendar. attended by a number of delegates from around the world including academics, policy makers, disability groups, technology advocates and representatives from large corporations such as Google and includes representatives from the W3C – the body who develop standards for the web.

Raphael, the lead author of the paper, explained the research:

"The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develop guidelines for making the web more accessible to people with disabilities. These guidelines are known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) and Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP 1.0) (Mobile Web Best Practices) and are internationally regarded as the industry standard guidelines for web accessibility.

“Our work at AbilityNet is increasingly focused on mobile platforms. We carry out mobile testing sessions with users who have a range of different access needs and preferences.  For the benefit of clients, findings from these sessions are mapped wherever possible to the industry standard guidelines.

"However, our experience shows that many issues reported by users cannot be easily mapped to guidelines, or do not appear to be covered by a guideline at all.  This motivated us to conduct more detailed research and analysis into the matter, to ensure that guidelines really are there to benefit the users.”

Dr Chris Bailey attended W4A, which this year was held in Seoul, Korea, to present the findings of the research: 

“The presentation was a great success and was very well received by delegates. Feedback was highly positive and it sparked a lot of debate among attendees. As a direct result of presenting at the conference, the W3C asked AbilityNet to engage directly with them. This will ensure that the findings and  any fuuture work feeds into the development of the next generation of Mobile Accessibility Guidelines."

Chris, Raphael and Voula hope their research will help bring about much needed enhancements and updates to the current mobile guidelines.  The work also helps pave the way of others to conduct similar research into this fast-growing and important area of mobile web accessibility. 

Their work doesn’t stop here, and they will continue to monitor the results of user testing sessions and evaluate the effectiveness of the guidelines for both the benefit of AbilityNet, its clients and the wider UX community.    

The paper is available in the ACM Digital Library