Work Plan

From Research Questions Task Force
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The Research Questions Task Force shall liaise with the Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) working group, and with other relevant W3C groups, to identify and prioritize research questions for consideration. The topics and schedule described on this page will be updated to reflect the findings of this process. Research questions may vary considerably in the scope of the work required and therefore in the schedule of responses.

Please see the Research Questions Task Force Work Statement for details of the objectives, scope and deliverables of the Task Force.

Current Topics and Questions

The current topics proposed to be investigated by the RQTF are introduced below. In each case, the RQTF will

  • Identify and engage in discussion with relevant researchers who can offer insight into the topic.
  • Identify relevant research findings (e.g., from the literature or from research prototypes described at conferences or in other fora).
  • Clarify the research questions in view of the information thereby obtained.
  • Propose strategies, solutions, options, topics for further research, or other concrete actions that can be taken in response to the findings reached.
  • Summarize its findings and conclusions in a brief synoptic report delivered to the APA Working Group, and
  • summarize and discuss its findings at an APA Working Group meeting.

Topic 1: Accessibility Implications of New Means of Authenticating Identity on the Web

The Web has traditionally relied on password authentication. However, using strong passwords imposes significant cognitive demands, which increase as the number of passwords that must be remembered grows. Central password management schemes implemented by user agents partly address these problems at the expense of creating a single password which, if compromised, can lead to the compromise of all of the user's stored passwords. In addition, there is a desire for more secure means of authentication than passwords, leading, for instance, to the emergence of multi-factor authentication and biometric authentication techniques.

Depending on how these are designed and implemented, they can impose a variety of sensory, cognitive and physical demands on the user. The purpose of this topic is to explore the demands created by different authentication methods, how they are likely to affect users with disabilities, and what the technical requirements are for the design of secure, but broadly accessible, user authentication schemes.

  • What combinations of authentication methods, implemented by user agents, would satisfy the need for strong security while maintaining a high degree of usability for people with a variety of disabilities?
  • What is known about this, and what remains to be investigated by the research community?
  • What technical requirements should be considered for inclusion in future W3C specifications, for example future Guidelines or future W3C technologies?

Note: there is some overlap between this topic and Topic 3. Thus the two topics will be coordinated.

Proposed Activities and Schedule

  • Initial consultation with participants in the Web Security Interest Group, the APA Working Group and other interested parties (to commence by October 2016). See Authentication on the Web: Issue List in preparation for this.
  • Initial survey by RQTF participants of relevant literature on accessible authentication (by end of October 2016).
  • Outreach to relevant researchers identified by RQTF participants and the literature search (by mid November 2016).
  • Initial draft of response to research questions (mid December 2016).
  • Discussion by Task Force and preparation of response to research questions for discussion by APA WG (to be completed by mid January 2017).


Topic 2: Supporting the Personalization of Web Applications - Requirements

A fundamental shift has taken place, both in the development of standards for accessibility and in associated research, toward the construction of user interfaces designed to respond appropriately to the individual access needs and preferences of the user. The purpose of this topic is to gather requirements for supporting such personalized applications on the Web. This work will inform a possible resumption of efforts begun by the Independent User Interface (Indie UI) Working Group to develop a common mechanism and vocabulary for conveying a user's individual access needs and preferences to Web applications.

Taking into consideration current work on personalization by the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the IMS Global Learning Consortium, and researchers active in the field, the RQTF will explore answers to questions such as:

  • What should be the appropriate trade-off between defining a common vocabulary and providing support for extensibility in any future W3C technology that addresses personalization?
  • What types of user need/preference would offer the greatest initial benefits, if incorporated into a W3C technology?
  • What should be the model for addressing challenges of privacy and informed consent raised by the disclosure of individual needs and preferences to Web-based applications?
  • What aspects of a user's needs are best addressed by conveying them to a Web application, rather than by deploying an assistive technology or modifying the configuration of a user agent?
  • What other suggestions emerging from this investigation should relevant W3C working groups consider in planning their technical approach to this topic?

Proposed Activities and Schedule

  • Consultation with interested participants in the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force to collect requirements (by mid September 2016).
  • Outreach by participants in RQTF to researchers active in the personalization field and collection of ideas and requirements (by beginning of December 2016).
  • Initial discussion of progress with APA Working Group (January 2017).
  • Preparation of a response to the research questions (draft by April 2017; circulation to APA Working Group by beginning of May 2017).


Topic 3: CAPTCHA

The purpose of investigating this topic is to inform an expected revision of the Note: Inaccessibility of Captcha: Alternatives to Visual Turing Tests on the Web by the APA Working Group.

The RQTF shall seek to identify advances in technology that affect either the accessibility problems associated with CAPTCHA (e.g., by making effective CAPTCHA tasks more difficult for people - especially those with disabilities - to complete successfully), or which offer new alternatives that can be used to distinguish human users from software agents without disadvantaging people with cognitive, sensory or physical disabilities.

Technological developments that may be explored include

  • Recent advances in machine learning (especially neural networks). What is the significance of their potential to make CAPTCHA tasks easier to solve by software agents? To what extent and in what ways do they change the security strategies available to Web site operators (e.g., by recognizing patterns of potentially malicious activity, or unauthorized messages such as spam)?
  • The growing availability of mobile devices and the rise in the use of multi-factor authentication techniques. To what extent can such techniques address the need to distinguish human users from software agents?
  • Biometric and other forms of authentication: what is the relationship between the security requirements of an authentication system, and those of a system that distinguishes humans from software agents? Can common solutions be used (e.g., biometrics)?
  • What other technological changes, not addressed in the existing Working Group Note, should be considered, and what are their implications?

Proposed Activities and Schedule

  • Investigation of topic to commence following completion of a draft proposal for the Authentication topic, as described below.
  • Refinements and responses to research questions: draft by end of March 2017; completion by end of April 2017.


Topic 4: Virtual Reality

Topic 5: Payments

A future research topic—accessibility of online payment technology. Of great interest to APA.

Topic 6: Automotive and driverless vehicles

Accessibility implications of driverless vehicle technology. Of great interest to APA.

Areas to explore for emerging research and design directions:

  • Car HMi Europe conference 2017 - event in Berlin in June. Brings together UX and the automotive industry. Reviewing the proceedings/talk abstracts may identify areas where there are accessibility concerns.

Proposed Work Items

This section notes work that has been proposed to be taken up by the Research Questions Task Force, but which is yet to be decided upon or planned.