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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

3 December 2014

WAI R&D Symposia » Way-Finding Home

Accessible Way-Finding Using Web Technologies Symposium Home


This online symposium brings together researchers, practitioners, and users with disabilities, to explore new and on-going research and development in accessible way-finding using web technologies. It examines different technologies, applications, concepts, and solutions that help people with disabilities orient themselves, explore, and navigate through the physical world. The goal of this symposium is to explore current state-of-the-art in accessible way-finding, better understand the accessibility needs and preferences of people with disabilities, and explore promising web technologies and developments to provide accessible way-finding. Details are in the Background and Scope.

See Participating on how to register and contribute to this Symposium.


You can participate in this symposium in several ways:

  • E-mail before the symposium – sending additional short contributions, questions, and comments to the publicly-archived mailing list RDWG Comments, with subject starting "[AWF Symposium]"
  • Phone conference (requires registration) – listening and contributing comments and questions during the symposium. Registered participants will receive dial-in instructions by e-mail.
  • Live captioning - reading the real-time captioning during the symposium. (Transcripts will be provided after the symposium.)
  • Chat – contributing comments and questions during the symposium. Please use a nickname that makes it easy to identify you when you have questions or make comments, for example, use your first and last name as nickname like this: "Firstname_Lastname".

We hope to address all questions and comments raised during the symposium although we cannot guarantee we will get to each one.


Participation by phone is closed; registered participants will receive dial-in instructions by e-mail. Participants are expected to read the papers in the Proceedings before the symposium.


15:00-17:40 UTC (times in different locations)

  • Welcome (15:00-15:05 UTC)
  • Introduction (15:05-15:10 UTC)
  • User Interfaces (15:10-15:35 UTC)
  • Data Formats (15:35-16:10 UTC)
  • Data Gathering and Sources (16:10-16:45 UTC)
  • Mainstream Integration (16:45-17:00 UTC)
  • Short break (17:00-17:10 UTC)
  • Open Q&A Session (17:10-17:40 UTC)

Participants are expected to read the papers in the Proceedings before the symposium. Please use the Chat to contribute comments and questions during the symposium.


Way-finding includes applications and services to help people orient themselves, explore, and navigate through buildings, places, cities, and beyond. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Navigation systems for drivers and passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians;
  • Interactive guides for museums, tourist attractions, and points of interest;
  • Orientation assistance for airports, hospitals, and public transportation.

Increasingly web technologies are used to provide such way-finding applications and services. This allows them to make use of web-based maps, location information, crowd-sourced reviews, and real-time data about the weather, traffic conditions, and other relevant aspects. It also allows the integration with and use of web-enabled sensors and actuators, and deployment on web-enabled devices such as mobile phones, televisions, overhead signage, glasses, watches, and other gadgets. Way-finding using web technologies enables new paradigms in many areas including mobility, travel, and tourism, and unprecedented opportunities for everyone.

In particular people with disabilities can greatly benefit from such way-finding applications and services, to gain more independence and self-determination. Examples of web-based maps, crowd-sourced information, and public data with accessibility information demonstrate the use of the Web to augment the physical world. Similarly, examples of specially created navigation and orientation systems, smart wheelchairs, smart canes, and other devices and applications demonstrate the potential of connecting the physical world with information on the Web to improve accessibility.

Also mainstream developments, including in the areas of near-field communication, open linked data, and self-driving vehicles, provide the potential for more versatile and cost-effective way-finding applications and services. However, it is unclear how well such mainstream way-finding applications and services address the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. This includes aspects such as:

  • Data about the physical accessibility of places and routes;
  • Capabilities to use this data to select accessible routes;
  • Capabilities to present the information in accessible modes;

This symposium explores the current state-of-the-art, gaps, challenges, and opportunities in providing accessible way-finding using web technologies.


The scope of the symposium includes but is not limited to the following aspects:

  • Users Interfaces: Using web technologies to display spatial, orientation, and navigational information in ways that are accessible for people with different types of disabilities. Some particular questions include:
    • What are the main challenges in providing accessible user interfaces for way-finding systems, and how can web technologies help to address them?
    • How do technologies such as WAI-ARIA and IndieUI address accessibility requirements in way-finding systems, and what gaps exist, if any?
    • Which additional Techniques for WCAG 2.0 could be proposed to help support more rapid development of accessible way-finding systems?
  • Data Sources, Formats, and Standards: Exploring existing and new data sources, formats, and standards to describe, review, and annotate the accessibility of places. Some particular questions include:
    • How are or can semantic web technologies be used to describe accessibility of physical places and objects?
    • What kinds of vocabularies and taxonomies exist, such as those found in building codes, and how can they be reused in the web context?
    • What types of data sources and data collection methods provide or can provide accessibility-related information? What types of formats and APIs do they use?
  • Integration with Mainstream Developments: Reviewing mainstream applications, devices, and systems that can contribute to accessible way-finding using web technologies. Some particular questions include:
    • What kinds of technologies, systems, and applications entail potential benefits for accessible way-finding using web technologies?
    • What kinds of web-enabled sensors, devices, and gadgets entail potential benefits for accessible way-finding using web technologies?
    • What is the role of standards, policies, and market forces to enable more mainstream accessible way-finding applications and services?

We particularly welcome submissions that describe:

  • Empirical studies and research,
  • Prototypes, strategies, and solutions,
  • Experiences and lessons learned,
  • Specific recommendations.

See Participating on how to register and contribute to this Symposium.


The Website Accessibility Metrics symposium was organized by the W3C/WAI Research and Development Working Group (RDWG). Contact Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C Staff Contact) with questions.

Symposium Chairs

  • Christos Kouroupetroglou (CNT, Greece)
  • Annika Nietzio (Research Institute Technology and Disability (FTB), Germany)
  • Vivienne Conway (Edith Cowan University, Web Key IT Pty Ltd, Australia)

Scientific Committee

  • Christophe Ponsard, CETIC, Belgium
  • Klaus Miesenberger, JKU, Austria
  • Shadi Abou-Zahra, W3C/WAI, France
  • Hassan Karimi, University of Pittsburgh, United States
  • Luz Rello, Carnegie Mellon University, United States
  • Silvia Mirri, University of Bologna, Italy
  • Helmut Heck, FTB, Germany
  • Annika Nietzio, FTB, Germany