University of Maryland
Trace Research & Development Center

Projects

Improving PDF Accessibility Tools for Content Creators

PDF documents are often considered to be hard to make accessible (much harder than web content or ebooks), and content creators often report that is due to a lack of tools to assist with making PDF files accessible. Our current work, in collaboration with Adobe Research, focuses on creating new software tools to assist content creators in evaluating and remediating their PDF documents for accessibility, specifically in areas such as reading order, table markup, and headings. (PI: Jonathan Lazar)

Advancing Design Methods with People with Dementia

Researchers can greatly benefit from conducting user-centered design with people with dementia, but may face issues such as recruitment and ensuring research activities are accessible and non-exploitative. Through a range of projects, including intergenerational hackathons, remote research methods, and participatory action research, we are developing new ways to design with people with dementia. (PI: Amanda Lazar)

Understanding Accessibility Needs in Dementia

While established accessibility principles help technologists create interfaces that can be used by people with many different kinds of disabilities, our understanding of accessible technology design for people with dementia is still in its infancy. We are conducting interviews, observations, and co-design workshops with people at different stages of dementia as well as practitioners who work closely with people with dementia to contribute to knowledge in this area. (PI: Amanda Lazar) Watch a presentation about one study, which identifies ways that sensory changes affect technology use.

Towards Unified Guidelines for Kiosk Accessibility

Kiosks come in many different forms, including: public kiosks with unlimited use and no personal information; kiosks which require personal information but allow for unlimited use (e.g. ATMs); and kiosks which require personal information and allow limited use (voting machines). The Trace Center is currently working on creating a set of unified guidelines for kiosk accessibility, recognizing that a combination of hardware and software strategies must be applied to make kiosks accessible, and given the many types of kiosks, there will need to be flexibility depending on the type of kiosk and the context of use. (PIs: Gregg Vanderheiden, J. Bern Jordan, and Jonathan Lazar) Read more about the Kiosk Accessibility Guidelines in an Interactions article. And Watch a webinar on kiosk accessibility.

Evaluating the Potential Implementation of New Metrics in Automated Web Accessibility Testing Software for Managers

Automated software tools for testing web accessibility are the only evaluation method that scales well over thousands of web pages, but the automated tools can report incorrect and misleading results, as many aspects of web accessibility cannot be tested using automated means. Previous research identified a potentially useful metric, the “presence of accessibility features” metric for measuring web accessibility using automated testing tools in a way that is more accurate and more useful for managers. The Trace Center is working with Optimal Solutions Group to research how this new approach to measuring web accessibility can be incorporated into their iAccessible automated web accessibility testing tool. (PI: Jonathan Lazar) Link to press release about iAccessible.

Morphic: Making computers and accessibility easier

Morphic is a new open-source tool developed at the Trace Center, for making computers easier to use for those who use assistive technologies. It makes it easier for people to discover and quickly access and use the features that are built into computers. And it lets a person’s assistive technologies and settings follow them and appear on any computer they need to use. Companies can also use Morphic to instantly set up new corporate computers so that interns, new employees and others can have their computers set up and ready to go literally in minutes, rather than the days or weeks it often takes. (PI: Gregg Vanderheiden) For more information, go to the Morphic project web site for more information.

Making Data Visualization Accessible for Blind Users

Advanced educational opportunities and high-paying employment opportunities require the ability to analyze large datasets, yet data visualization approaches remain inaccessible for blind users. We are utilizing user-centered and participatory design methods (including interviews of blind orientation and mobility instructors) to understand how large data sets can be made accessible for blind users through sonification methods, and we are developing an accessible web-based tool for sonification of large-scale datasets. (PIs: Niklas Elmqvist and Jonathan Lazar)

Extending data science and data-driven technologies to be inclusive

We will gather, document, and promote the appropriate use of disability data in both disability-related and non-disability-related data-driven innovation and technologies to ensure that they are usable by and applicable to people with disabilities. Goals of this project include: to increase the availability to the community of data that is collected from populations for the purpose of accessibility research and engineering, to highlight the potential limitations of these data and how they differ from mass data, to promote the effective and ethical use of accessibility data, to accelerate data-driven technological innovations for universally accessible information, and to raise awareness about machine learning bias for people with disabilities. (PI: Hernisa Kacorri)

Exploring “teachable interfaces” as improved approach for intelligent self-adapting interfaces that also puts interfaces back under user control

We will test (through an in-depth example) the potential of “teachable interfaces” for more effective and accessible human-in-the loop personalization of innovative technologies that use machine learning. We will demonstrate how the concept of teachable interfaces can be effectively incorporated into a real-world assistive technology, explore challenges that users with disabilities may have in conceptualizing teachability, analyze user strategies for incorporating variation in their training examples and how they relate to system performance, and understand what design parameters, sensing modalities, and interactions are most influential for both system accuracy and user experience. (PI: Hernisa Kacorri)

DeveloperSpace

The DeveloperSpace is designed to be a one-stop place to find resources, components and people to conceive, develop, test and market novel accessible solutions. It includes a comprehensive MasterList of all of the known accessibility strategies for Information and communication technologies (ICT), QuickSheets on different accessibility topics, a compendium of all of the different open-source accessibility project and components, and marketing advice. Anyone can contribute to the site and all are invited to access it. (PI: Gregg Vanderheiden)

The Unified Listing

The Unified Listing is a free international database of accessible information and communication technologies. The Unified Listing brings together information from 12 different databases in Europe, the US and Australia. To make it easy for both professionals and people new to the field alike, the Unified Listing provides multiple methods for searching from a simple “Google-like” search, to Advanced power searching tools. It also provides a “guided search” that walks a person though the search process and is especially useful to those without good search skills or who are new to the area and are not familiar with the terminology used. (PI: Gregg Vanderheiden)