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Usability of Accessible UI Design Patterns

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Work to promote rich internet application accessibility has included proposing and promoting a range of user interface (UI) design patterns that adopt WAI-ARIA and/or HTML5 to optimise accessibility. In some cases, there may be multiple versions of similar UI patterns. There is a need to gather quantitative and qualitative data from users of assistive technology (AT) to help authors understand the level of usability the pattern offers users of different ATs, compare different solutions, and to help select appropriate patterns for appropriate situations.


Page author: David Sloan


User Interface, Design Patterns, Usability Evaluation, Comparative Evaluation, WAI-ARIA, HTML5


To help authors implement accessible rich internet applications, user interface design patterns have been developed using WAI-ARIA to represent how a range of UI elements can be provided in a way that is accessible to and usable by assistive technology users. There is a lack of published evidence supporting some assumptions made during the development of these patterns, relating to predictions of preferred behaviour amongst users the patterns are intended to support.

Where solutions exist, it would be helpful to understand:

  • to what extent these are usable by people using different ATs
  • how do alternative solutions to a similar UI design problem compare in terms of ease of use?

This would help to:

  • identify where existing solutions could be improved
  • identify where existing solutions may have limitations in use or support
  • enable authors to reliably select from existing solutions based on solid evidence

Designing and conducting robust usability evaluations of selected design patterns, involving people using different ATs, would allow gathering of quantitative and qualitative data that can be analysed and used for objective measurement and comparison of different solutions.


Examples of UI design patterns that could be evaluated:

  • Calendar/date picker
  • Progress bar
  • Mega-menu
  • "Fat tool-tips"
  •  ?




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