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8th European e-Accessibility Forum
User-driven e-Accessibility

31/03/2014, 09:00 - 18:00 - Registration from 8:30
Cité des sciences et de l'industrie - Universcience - Paris

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New strategies for old problems: model-based user interfaces

Giorgio BRAJNIK (Udine, Italy)
University of Udine

Speaker's information

Giorgio Brajnik

Giorgio BRAJNIK is a faculty member of the Dipartimento di Matematica e Informatica of the University of Udine, Italy, where he currently teaches two courses: "User-centered Web development" and "User Experience". In the last 15 years he has been actively researching web usability and accessibility, developing and evaluating accessibility evaluation tools like LIFT, accessibility evaluation methods like Barrier Walkthrough and more recently Model-Driven methods and tools for generating user interfaces. He has taught computer science for over 20 years in Italy and abroad and co-founded two companies specialised in accessibility, user interfaces and interaction design: Usablenet and Interaction Design Solutions.



In 2012, in an attempt to harmonize our understanding of e-Accessibility, and support the expectations of users outside the community, 300 people with an interest in accessibility were asked to answer 33 questions on the relationship between accessibility, user experience and usability, between disability, inclusion, and exclusion. Respondents felt that accessibility and usability were highly related, that accessibility has a greater impact on both usability and UX than vice-versa. They also felt that accessibility is applicable to everyone and not just people with disabilities.

Respondents strongly agreed that accessibility must be grounded on user-centered practices and that accessibility evaluation is more than just inspecting source code.

Evaluating accessibility is a complex activity which is difficult to achieve. In fact, recent results regarding accessibility evaluations show that reproducibility of evaluations is poor, even if WCAG 2.0 success criteria are assumed to be testable.

It could be argued that were designers to consider the possible sequences of actions that a user could undertake to interact with a user interface, more accessible user interfaces would ensue. For a user, the capability to make sense of what is happening while interacting with a user interface depends critically on two factors: (a) the capability to interpret the information a user interface presents in its different screens, and (b) knowledge of the interaction structure (IxS) embodied by a user interface. This interaction structure is fundamental because it provides both the context for interpreting displayed/rendered information and an outline of what the possible next actions are. It is possible, therefore, that if this high-level information is made available to users, then some accessibility barriers could be removed.

Consider what is happening with mobile apps and mobile websites. Due to differences in the interaction devices (such as screen size, keyboards, touchscreens) or in the expected context of use (such as in motion, in arbitrary locations or postures), designers have to think of a completely different IxS for the application, as opposed to a desktop version. The same could be done when designing a version of a web application that is optimized for screen-reader users. A user interface with an IxS that better fits the needs and usage patterns of these users could be developed and used as a backbone upon which to develop the entire application.

If the application needs to be developed manually, this approach is unfeasible. However, by adopting a model-driven engineering approach (Brajnik, 2010) automatic generation of source code from reused specifications could be a way to achieve such a result. A slightly different approach could be based on enriching the developed user interface with additional information that is based on such an IxS. A model-driven engineering methodology for user interface called UML-IDEA could be used for this automatic generation of user interfaces.

video of the presentation by Giorgio Brajnik

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