Last November (2010) I wrote on 40 page report for a major eLearning strategic development project at the Open University on personalisation for accessibility. This gives an overview of the topic, highlights the rational for adopting personalisation approaches to achieve accessibility, summarise the different approaches that are available and points to technologies and standards that can underpin them. The report is intended for both a technical and non-technical readership. This blog post summarises the information from that report. If you wish to know more detail please post a request in the comments box.
The rationale for personalisation for accessibility is clear. Accessibility is essentially dealing with diversity – personalisation avoids the always flawed attempt of doing so by a “one size fits all” solution.
There are different approaches to achieving personalisation for accessibility. These may be used in combination. Any systems developer has to consider which, if any, of these can be adopted within its specification, which need to be considered as likely for future adoption and thus raise an issue for future proofing or which are unlikely to be adopted in their context. The different approaches are:
- User selected options directly controlled from the (web) interface
- User profiles containing preferences that can be set for all content and tools
- User profiles used to select style sheets applied server side
- User profiles used in combination with accessibility content metadata to facilitate content personalisation, e.g. automatic serving of alternative formats
There is a close link between meeting the mobile platform agenda and personalisation for accessibility. The approaches adopted for both should be considered in tandem. (One way to view mobile is a special case of accessibility requirements).
Content personalisation approaches can facilitate greater browser independence.
Only limited user requirements work has been done on personalisation for accessibility. Examples include from the EU4ALL project and the BBC’s ”MyDisplay” (probably the most significant enterprise level approach to personalisation for accessibility).
Notes were made in the report on key drivers, ongoing standards work and emerging technologies that are likely to impact significantly on content personalisation for accessibility in the near future. These include soon anticipated technical innovation; maturing technical standards and new and updated legislation, accessibility standards and codes of practice. Without further comment here these key divers include:
- WAI-ARIA work in W3C
- The IMS project group developing AccessForAll 3.0
- HTML 5.0
- Mobile technologies
- The cloud-based accessibility vision is being driven in an initiative called NPII/GPII (National Public Inclusive Infrastructure/Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure)
- In the USA Section 508 refresh
- W3C’s WCAG 2.0,
- In the European Union Mandate 376
- In the UK BS 8878:2010 Web accessibility – Code of practice
Rich Schwerdtfeger (Chief Technology Officer Accessibility, IBM Software Group, based in Austin, Texas) considers we are reaching a “Perfect Storm” (excuse the American cliché) that should promote the widespread adoption of advanced and systems based approaches to accessibility such as personalisation. I think that a lot more pieces of the picture are now in place than 5 years ago but the challenge remains the political will (in diverse organisations and companies) to bring these together to facilitate systems that truly adapt to meet people’s access needs.