Alison Lee, IBM TJ Watson Research Center
19 Skyline Drive, Hawthorne, NY 10532 http://www.research.ibm.com/people/a/alee
The Web's affordances for information sharing, computation and social interaction has enabled online communities to abound and flourish. Examples of social interaction spaces that are commonplace on the Web include digital cities , community networks , weblogs, portals such as eBay and Slashdot, and older technologies based on electronic bulletin board systems, news groups and mailing lists [3, 4]. These examples illustrate two important aspects of the kinds of collaborative technologies that exist. First, such technologies are no longer limited to work contexts but extends to commercial and non-commercial contexts involving large and small groups of non-technical end-users [5, 6]. Hence, a larger user population are using and exploiting Web-based collaboration technologies. Second, while there is much interest in real-time forms of collaboration like instant messaging and video conferencing, large numbers of asynchronous and semi-synchronous forms of collaboration exist. Many of these create persistent traces (e.g., postings, weblogs, reputations) that allow visitors to view and make use of the information.
For the last eight years, I have been involved in a number of R&D projects in the area of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), social computing, and Web application development, with a focus on creating novel, Web-based applications and systems that productively leverage social relations using technology.
The broader agenda of this stream of work was identifying the design principles for large-scale social interfaces and the novel, socio-technical tools and applications for such interfaces [10, 11].
Presently, I engaged in research in the accessibility area. I am part of an IBM Research group that is developing a browser helper object for IE that enables a wide range of end users with variety of impairments to access Web pages reformatted in a manner most usable by them. These adaptations are done without requiring Web content providers to rewrite their Web pages. Furthermore, the WebAdapt technology enables users to apply transformations in combination to address multiple impairments. We are expanding the types of transformations that can be supported and the technical issues with facilitating Web accessibility for a broader and non-homogeneous user population. The work began with Seniors last year, a user group whose needs are not adequately covered by current accessibility guidelines. This year we are work with users with a variety of developmental disabilities.
The WebAdapt technology can be used on a variety of Web sites including social interaction Web sites like CHIplace and Portkey. This technology enables users with impairments to explore and participate in social interaction sites, a capability not envisioned in the design of these sites.
In moving from work on collaboration to accessibility, I am bringing a combination of expertise and knowledge to work on tools and applications that enable accessible, collaborative interactions. This includes developing end-user technologies for Web accessibility and collaboration and tools that enable developers to create accessible collaborative applications. The initial focus is for the WebAdapt project and involves developing Web page analysis tools that can support transformations such as page linearization (in the absence of Web pages with skip link navigation), that provide Web page overviews, and that assists end users in navigating within a Web page. This work can further enable accessibility impaired users to access information-rich Web sites and social interaction spaces such as weblogs, Ebay, and community-support Web sites.