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By Mike Paciello
The key reason why most technology — current or emerging – is not suitable or usable by people with disabilities is simple – users/people with disabilities are rarely, if ever, integrated into the conceptual design of a product.
In order to ensure the vision of a flexible, pervasive accessibility technology, researchers and usability specialists need to devise evaluation methods that easily and effectively engage people with disabilities in the processes of user interface design and usability testing.
This executive summary suggests that one solution involves the creation of a web-based, virtual usability testing center that employs remote evaluation and critical incident reporting methodologies.
A virtual web usability center provides the accommodation mechanism required to devise remote evaluation and critical incident reporting protocols. A virtual center allows users with disabilities to be easily integrated in the user interface design phase of emerging telecommunications and information technology products.
Currently, industry and usability testing organizations are faced with the challenge of accommodating users with disabilities on several levels:
The advantage of setting up and establishing an accredited, non-profit virtual center for accessibility is that it resolves all of these questions AND provides an means to “lease” and/or “rent” the virtual space to electronic and information corporations interested OR mandated by law to implement accessibility in core products.
Today, it is painfully obvious that the IT industry at-large lacks accessibility focus. Interestingly, the key to user interface accessibility is to focus on the principles of user centered design (UCD) – a design standard that encompasses holistic usability design methods. However, and in spite of the apparent focus on “usability for all users,” UCD case studies and testing methods themselves lack data or standards of measure that include people with disabilities. Much of this can be attributed to the reasons previously mentioned.
The ideal then is to broaden the scope of user inclusiveness by engaging users with disabilities through a variety of usability testing methods and iterative test cycles, including:
To achieve this goal, we must create a user environment that easily and effectively accommodates users with disabilities. Creating a web-based, virtual usability testing center could be an answer. There are several advantages to the employment of this facility. To list a few:
The advantages of remote evaluations and critical incident reporting are also numerous:
Additionally, remote evaluations and usability measurements can also be captured using unattended and network subjective usability testing methods, for example:
To summarize, Emerging IT lacks accessibility focus - we must build awareness. True user accessibility requires usability methodology based on user centered design that requires investment in all users, regardless of ability. This is the essence of user inclusiveness/integration.
Remote evaluation usability provides the framework for disabilities inclusion. Launching an international collaborative to create a virtual usability center for accessibility on the web is a potential means for ensuring accessibility of emerging electronic and information technology.