Transcript for presentation:

Challenges with assistive technology compatibility in universal design


Kristin Skeide Fuglerud, Till Halbach and Stein Erik Skotkjerra


C5. UD and assistive technology

Date and Time

2014-06-17, 10:20 - 11:00


MA 7

Presentation PDF

Long oral presentation

Transcript of the talk

>> So welcome, Kristin to this seminar around University sign and assistive technology. I’ll have to inform you that the last presentation about the forms will not be so you can look for other presentations and then we’ll finish out at 11:20. Welcome!
>> Okay, thank you! I am okay, there we are. Yes, I am Kirstin and I’m going to present the paper with my colleague Jean which is working at computing center which is fun. I’m working in a company called vision truth and this is called challenges with assistive technology, compatibility and universal design. And we are computing something. Our work is research based institute. We are co located with the University of Austria and we’re a non profit research. We’re working outs the theory of statistics and I’m the head of the small group working. This one.
So first of all, I want to draw attention to the definition. There’s so many definitions of universal design but the UN definition or the definition from the conventional rights with persons of disabilities, in this definition, there’s two parts and the second part which I have highlighted here puts emphasis on the universal signs and assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities.
This is an important but also negligent part of the University side. The ultimate goal of universal design is to meet the need for assistive devices. It’s recognized that at least currently, this may not be possible and then we have to accommodate assistive devices.
Assistive devices or assistive technology can be defined product devices, created for personal use, used to maintain, increase, or improve sensory, physical, or cognitive disabilities or persons with disabilities.
So assistive devices is directed towards particular groups with particular types of disabilities or impairment in contrast with universal design which is directed towards everybody. And there are, of course, multiple assistive technologies. I have some here. Screen readers, screen magnifiers, peddles, on screen key boards, on tracking devices, mouse control, recognition, et cetera. And here’s a picture of the screen reader with the magnification, speech to text functionality.
So I also want to draw attention to universal design and this thing here. This is consisting of two main parts, technical accessibility that you actually that is technically possible to use as a solution and it must be useful for everybody. Of course, technical accessibility is a precondition for universal design but not necessarily the patient and in this project, it’s the same thing here, we’re focusing on technical accessibility which we’re aware, this is not enough for just the universal design. And so the background for this project is this. We usually do user investigations in all of our projects. In some, quite well, in a couple of the projects we had many many participants with disabilities. There has been two solutions for it and we had 24 and 30 participants visiting them in the field and we just go with it, even though the solution is supposed to be quite accessible, quite technically accessible, it was not.
So while it worked with one participant with one type of screen reader, we have another type of screen reader. And the third one with, yet another type of screen reader. So I had encountered this problem previously but the problems were not as extensive. So I started to discuss this with users with their own screen reader users and quite particularly, I discussed this with a screen reader user working with an English company access in order to find out how big is this problem. Is it a real problem or was it kind of an accident that we came upon this and he sort of confirmed, it happens quite a bit. So we agreed that this needs to be investigated more. And the main project proposal, we got funding from this program which was administered by the center, the national resource center for participation and accessibility and that’s part of the region. And this year we have done something for the project and we’ve got funding from the administration as well. So we are we have the screen reader compatibility, it’s a challenge, particularly when it comes to reach solutions and I just wanted to explain the name of the project. It’s VHL and that’s translated to virtually assistive technology. And the focus is to develop tools and methods to have the compatibility between the solutions and assistive technology but we are focusing on screen readers because that’s where we have seen the problem mostly.
I think in principle, it’s the same problem with all types of assistive technology but screen readers are rather complex technology with software and hardware and quite complex software as well.

And compatibility is required by the WCAG guidelines which is the guidelines used by most countries regarding that accessibility and the guidelines for one is to maximize compatibility with current and future user agents including assistive technology. So it’s there but it’s just that it doesn’t work properly and we have found that the only way to really be sure that it’s working is different types of assistive technology or different types of screen readers is to test and see if it works.
There’s so many companies and so many possible configurations so we have to be testing. So the activities in this project, we have come with focus groups with stakeholders such as assistive technology. Represent it from the system and other assistive technologies and we have written an online guide on accessibility. This is in our vision. We are looking at an online service to use for testing the different types of screen readers and with this currently a part of the network of screen readers, the one called
The results so far from the investigations is that the typical has access to different types of assistive technology. Some of them are large teams may have long screen reader to but they lack information about work types of assistive technology. And in a way as we have translation in this era now coming into force, but they are graded on what are the requirements at this point. And they like information about the version of assistive technology that must be supported and they have observed and know who the technology users are. There is reason for that. And then compatibility problems are cured if they are noticed about this with a participant. It’s difficult to identify where the problem is. If the screen reader, it may be problems with the screen reader or maybe service, yeah. There is possibilities here. And the screen reader is often the black box. We don’t know what is happening inside of it, at least for this side which is open source. So in a way, the readers are here, and topic for Android and it’s, you know, a person needing the screen reader doesn’t necessarily decide what screen reader to use because that may be about the system. So it’s not a free choice.
So the challenge is there’s a number of versions and possible combinations of screen readers and web browsers and the question is, do we have to test all of the combinations? There’s quite a lot of work but if not, what combinations do we have to test. And that’s something we want to find out and give support to with this.
So the conclusion is that there’s a huge need for information and tools in this area. It’s a need for up to date definition of assistive technology for each. Of course, this very strong company with that name, they have a screen reader each year, well, I think for 4 or 5 years now and it’s like a different product. There’s different screen readers that are popular in the US and some of the bigger ones of course. There’s some development in this area as well. You know, this is offered for free for Office users so there’s a better possibility and of course, so on.
But anyhow, the users, we need to accommodate them. So what we have discussed is how you can best assist them and we have a lab facility where we try and test those versions and we have started to build up an online service where the people can log on to the service. They can start whatever their browser, they want to start. They can put in their they can log in and then start screen reading and trying to find it. And the reason is, they might start any combination that is relevant.
But in order to really understand how this is working, it would be if developers could really use it hands on instead of ap on sign service because the online service is not connected to a service. There is a delay because it’s through the internet.
Some of the developers in the focus groups have mentioned they would like to see a service where the one expert in assistive devices could do the testing. And of course, it’s not just go ahead and test it because you need to understand how the screen readers are working and if you you need to know the combinations and the difference that varies between the screen readers so you need some skills to be able to do this kind of testing or you need to at least read to understand.
On the higher societal level, there’s need to work on this because the system should not allow delays and updates and so forth. It should assist users to get updated. It should be changed, I think. Users may have a few hours but not enough. And they should require from the suppliers that they assist the users to a higher degree. And the question, why doesn’t this work, there’s many reasons for it. Delays and updates, of course. It may be there is some ways to implement certain aspects but often there is parts that are not done. So this is actually a part that we have and I would be happy to receive your comments and suggestions. Thank you.
>> Thank you. I was thinking, I’m working with a deaf/blind person in Sweden and we had a long discussion a few years ago about involving more users in testing but it’s a threshold and you have to have a system where there’s more but you have to find ways to involve them and some of them will really be expert users and some are not. There’s no single user that it’s important to involve them. I imagine you have been thinking about this. Do you have can you evolve and explain more what you think about that?
>> Well, as I said, it’s not just to use a screen reader, it’s also the training. So of course, screen reader users are proficient, some of them are at least proficient in the tools and I think the reason why we didn’t pick up on this problem earlier has been we have been aware that we have a screen reader users are not experts on their choice. So sometimes you have kind of attributed difficulties to the lack of proficiency in using the tools but then we kind of got aware that actually, sometimes it doesn’t work even if you are very proficient and that was kind of the confirmation we got from all the partner agents in the project which is very he’s used several of these screen readers. But of course, a service that was asked for among them. It’s a special service that would be really beneficial if it was employed by people, by screen readers.
>> One more question.
>> Okay, it’s really interesting. When I hear about compatibility problems, I always think about standards and I think in my mind, it’s some kind of standards. It’s also about responsibility and such matters but isn’t there a lack of standards here that could lead to a long term solution on this problem? I mean, it will always be necessary to test but it’s basic.
>> Yeah, I discussed this problem with the developers and our partner and of course, with the simple straightforward solutions, this shouldn’t be a problem because then, they use the most standardized element. So after that, the solutions become more complex to use. Java scripts, it’s more of a problem because those elements have standards or the standards are updated all of the time and maybe the web browser is not updated equally so you have, it’s a real world problem, actually, because if it was an ideal world, it’s good, maybe.
>> Do you have a recommendation for which version of the technology that you would recommend?
>> Well, that’s one of the things we’re working with. Last year we got a list from the narration benefit system to know, actually, what versions are almost there. This, of course, we can discuss this with developers in focus groups as well and first of all, it’s used in the welfare system was not readable for developers because, well, the statistics were not usable. It was too detailed. It had specific names and it was difficult to figure out what and they just showed what was delivered but they didn’t show updates so we had no way to know what versions were in use right now in Norway. So really, because the welfare system is a project this year, we’re working with them to try to make this more useful for developers and then we have talked to, well, how do you say it in English?
>> Monitor.
>> Yeah, they’re monitoring systems, the developers are changing the legislation and we asked them, you need to know how many versions that you need to comply to and so forth but we haven’t investigated this issue. So they could give advice.
>> It’s a very interesting question because when you develop new web sites, you often test it with several web browsers but you don’t test it with old versions and you don’t test all web browsers. You make a choice which browsers you should test on. And when you work with assistive technology, essentially with screen readers, there’s often problems with the screen reader itself. For example, you had mentioned this in Norway, it appear ins documents even though other screen readers have been able to. So you know, you could say that Norway couldn’t be about to use PDFs because one of the largest screen readers can’t handle that technology but no one will go through that comparison.
>> That’s why we have, this welfare system is participating in the project group. There’s different departments in the welfare system that can talk together for more than a year and they just discovered, okay, this issue needs to be sorted out. So I don’t have an answer.
>> I understand it. It’s just an interesting question.
>> Yeah, and I think they’re supposed to do, in the organizing of this issue because as I said, this is kind of the requirements to the welfare well, the welfare system needs to make some requirements to the screen readers so it should say before they can read this, for example.
>> Okay, thank you!
>> Thank you, Kristen, can I ask one more question? You were talking about the welfare system, helping users use more modern screen readers. I don’t know if you have that knowledge or that research but do you think there’s a problem that users don’t want to upgrade because they don’t want to relearn or rethink or do you think it’s mostly a welfare system resource problem that we don’t give them the education to upgrade?
>> Well, it’s both, of course. Because a screen reader user needs to know a lot more than a user that doesn’t use it who took it under a combination. If there’s new screen reader or a combination of screen readers and web browser and so forth. So it’s a lot to learn each time and then there is the limited number of hours that they get from the welfare system. So I fully understand they are reluctant to update because you never touched something that works and I’m sure all of the screen reader users have experienced a number of break downs nearly everyday. It’s both.
If they could at least be sure they can call somebody and get help the same day and not in a month if something doesn’t work, that would be one step better. I’ve talked to screen reader users who have been offline until half a year because they didn’t get help from the welfare system. You know, there’s inconveniences just before the holiday happened and then, yeah, all of these things have been off for half a year. It’s, I think there again.
>> Sad. Thank you very much!
>> In Norway, you know, which is
>> Thank you, Kristen. We’re going to have a five minute break before the next presentation which can start at 11. You can go to other places or just stay here.
>> Thank you!


Rough edited copy by AVA AB and Certec, LTH

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This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.