Ubiquitous Web Workshop Tokyo 2006

Participant proposal: Liddy Nevile

My name is Liddy Nevile, and I am an Adjunct Associate Professor at La Trobe University in Australia and currently a Visiting Scientist at the University of Tsukuba, in Japan. I am Chair of the Dublin Core Accessibility Working Group, and a member of the Advisory Board of DCMI; a Co-editor of the ISO JTC1 SC 36 proposed standard entitled "Individualized Adaptability and Accessibility in E-learning Education and Training", the IMS/GLC accessibility metadata specifications AccLIP and AccMD (http://www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/) which are for description of user's needs and preferences and resource descriptions to match, and a long time associate of the W3C accessibility work. I have worked closely for many years, and continue to work with Jutta Treviranus, Chair of the W3C/WAI Authoring Tools Accessibility Working Group. I also work in Europe with CEN to develop accessibility related standards in Europe. In that context I work closely with Martin Ford on standards that involve definition of geospatial information to enable accessibility solutions.

I would like to attend the Workshop for one day only (unfortunately I cannot attend on the 9th).

I would like to attend because I would like to know more about how the work that we have been doing can both take advantage of and support the work of the community attending the workshop.

Participant Interests

I am very interested in the following question: "All those mobile users have minds of their own - or do they?"

I ask, "Who will determine what mobile users want from their information services?" Will their user agents determine how content and services are made available to them? will their location? their language? their culture? What about those with severe disabilities who are dependent on others to determine their needs and preferences? Those of us working on the AccessForAll approach to accessibility argue that users should have the ultimate choice and that whatever can be done to tailor their information services to them, should never be done against their wishes and requirements. Our work is informed by the experiences with PICS and also with CSS that both support the need for the user to have the final choice in such matters. In the former case, users may want something that would otherwise be filtered out, and in the latter, they may want to override what is supposed to be best for them.

In general, work in the accessibility field is concerned with ensuring that users of online resources can gain appropriate access to the content and services they want whatever their needs, including needs arising from disabilities they may have. We have adopted the AccessForAll approach that depends on technology to match resources (including services) to users' individual needs and preferences at the time they are attempting to use the resources. This approach depends heavily on application support to test and reform content and services according to user-selected needs and preferences. It does not distinguish between needs and preferences that are the result of what might be known as human disabilities and those constructed by humans. The former, such as blindness, are well-known (although some are still not understood, such as dyslexia and others are often 'invisible' and ignored), and what we call constructed disabilities. Simple examples of constructed disabilities include being a traveller in a country where the common language is incomprehensible, being a mobile user who changes from one device to another according to the location at the time, and being in one country and wanting to find out about a local service in another. While many of these problems overlap a range of activities involved in the development of the Web, our interest is particularly related to accessibility and what we think of as location-independence, which is frequently a problem for those with disabilities.

We have helped develop the AccessForAll approach by specifying an information model for description of user's individual needs and preferences and mirroring descriptions of resources, so the two can be matched for the user. We have considered the use of this model by those who generally create metadata using the pairing of properties and values as in the Dublin Core model, and also as it could be used in the education world, as part of IEEE/LOM hierarchical metadata. Now we are interested in how this information model can be generalised for use in many circumstances. We recognise that location information is critical to this being a simple process for the user, particularly as the users tend to think of the profile they want in association with a place or context.

We have two major areas of focus: first, that AccessForAll is enabled, and know this requires the capture and description of locations in ways that facilitate the user's mobility. We have found that in some cases, this means a lot more than accurate identification of the actual location of the user, as it may be identification of the virtual location of the user, for example. It may also mean very small changes in location, as in the case of the movement from one device to another while sitting on the same chair, prior to walking away from that location.

Our second concern is with the specification of needs and preferences so that the multiplicity of combinations can be served, including particularly all the needs and preferences of users with disabilities. We have worked with the idea of needs and preferences and think that many other approaches to accessibility incorrectly assume that needs are all there are, that a person has a need or otherwise. In fact, users have a need to state if this is the case or not, and sometimes they may want to be able to merely have a requirement as a preference, and not be denied access to a resource or service because that requirement is not fulfilled. On other occasions, or for other people, it may be that a requirement is absolute.

We have developed an information model but do not want to promote implementation of it in isolation from other relevant activities. We are advocating the use of our model but not being prescriptive of syntax although we would like to develop a set of best practice guidelines that support the other relevant activities.

The draft standards on which we are working are available for public comment at: http://jtc1sc36.org/doc/36N1024.pdf, http://jtc1sc36.org/doc/36N1025.pdf, http://jtc1sc36.org/doc/36N1026.pdf. Simpler versions for quick reference are available at http://dublincore.org/accessibilitywiki/DiscussionOfFcd