W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Research and Development Interest Group

Call for Position Papers:

Making Visualizations of Complex Information Accessible for People with Disabilities

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Research and Development Interest Group announces a call for the second in a series of teleconferences focusing on research issues in the area of accessibility and Web-related technologies. The format of the event is an accessible teleconference with real-time Web-based captioning, Web-based presentation materials, and IRC.


The Web is home to a growing and dynamic source of complex information and data sets from many domains. This information includes scientific measurements, financial data, modelling and simulation results, demographic information, and metrics describing the Web itself (communities, metadata, and relationships between pages).

Researchers and practitioners are seeking to develop innovative graphical presentations of information (visualizations). Effective visualization can make it easier for a user to quickly ascertain trends, make comparisons in several dimensions, and detect irregularities or anomalies in data. Visualizations can help users see new, interesting information or relationships between data, and illustrate structures and known, useful relationships.

Our visual system is very good in processing a lot of data in parallel, seeing structures and detecting irregularities. However, users who cannot see well need other methods to learn about the relationships. In addition, users with cognitive disabilities may need simplified presentations of complex visualizations, and users who have difficulty in interacting with spatial information may need information presented or operated sequentially. On the other hand, people with reading disabilities may find visualizations easier to understand than text.

The goal of this event is to explore visualization research and discuss possible models that could be used to make data accessible for people with various disabilities. For example, we have a visualization of related Web sites that use icons with different sizes and colors to represent number of sites connections and the domain area, and clusters of icons to indicate related Web sites. How should these patterns be made available to a user who is blind? Is it helpful to explain the patterns in a static text description, or should the user be offered a structure or different structures that can be navigated with sequentially? What structures are best to form mental models of the information? What about a list of automatically detected irregularities or a list of questions that can be asked about the data that allows one to get started and then dig deeper to expose more relationships?

Another example is a bar chart with some bars that are several times longer than others, while other bars are so short they are barely noticeable. Reading the number associated with each bar may be useful but it does not capture the instant recognition of seeing one bar twice as long as any other in the chart. How can we represent or summarize the information contained in these visual relationships in an accessible way?

We are seeking position papers from researchers and practitioners (academia, industry, government, consulting) on state of the art work in visualization technologies. In particular, we are looking for research which can address requirements similar to those expressed in the following use cases.

A meteorologist with low vision using satellite data of temperature gradients mapped across elevation of the earth's surface to determine a correlation with el Niño.

An astronomer who is visually impaired and involved in the SETI project using radio telescope data (duration X frequency X gauss) to determine evidence of civilization on other planets.

A consumer with a cognitive disability reading an electric bill online showing a graph of yearly electricity usage on a month by month basis.

An investor, who is quadripeligic, comparing, graphically, the performance data of several mutual funds at a financial services web site.

Educators and producers of statistical information, such as census data using visualization to allow viewers with a broad range of abilities to see trends and relationships of the data presented that a more granular (individual data points) view does not provide.

Additional use cases can be found at the RDIG web site.

Your position paper should describe your research and indicate whether it can address some aspect of the scenarios presented in the use cases above, addresses other aspects of visualization, or submit your own use case. If you are uncertain as to how your work can meet specific use case requirements, it is acceptable to pose this as a question in your position paper.

Who should participate

Researchers and practitioners active in any aspect of Visualization Technologies, Human Computer Interaction, Assistive Technologies, Disability Studies, Web Accessibility, or related fields; and people with disabilities with interest or experience in different approaches to accommodating their requirements for accessible Web-based visualizations.

Goals of the Teleconference

Participants in this conference can expect to gain an improved, synergistic understanding of research being done in visualization technologies for the internet and to develop contacts with others performing such research.

The mission of the Research and Development Interest Group (RDIG) is to increase the number of Web-related researchers who incorporate accessibility into their research design, and to identify projects researching Web accessibility, and suggest techniques that may contribute to new projects. The desired outcome of more research in Web accessibility and awareness of accessibility in mainstream Web-related research should decrease the number of potential barriers in future Web-related technologies.

Proceedings of the Teleconference will be Web-published by the Research and Development Interest Group.

Event Information

A date for this second event, which will take place in February, 2004, will be announced The format of the event is a teleconference, augmented by web-based presentation material, and IRC.

A position paper is not required for participation in the teleconference. Registration will be required for participation. Registration information and further event details will be announced in RDIG home page as soon as possible.

The format of the teleconference will consist of 30-45 minutes for introductions and presentations, and 45-60 minutes for discussion. Questions for discussion may be submitted in advance by email to the chair. Follow on discussion by the presenters and participants is encouraged.

Submission Information

Position papers are due by December 12, 2003 and should be sent to the chair (hakkinen@dinf.ne.jp) and W3C staff contact (wendy@w3.org). The papers should be short (limited to one page) and be submitted in HTML or plain text format. Papers in other formats will be returned. All submissions and presentation slides must conform to W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 to at least level Double-A.

All relevant position papers submitted will be published on the RDIG Web site. The RDIG Planning Group will invite the authors of select position papers to make a short presentation at the event to foster discussion. Authors of papers not selected for presentation are invited to contribute to the discussion portion of the teleconference.

The invited presentations are to be approximately 15 minutes in length and should include slides or other presentation materials. Authors are also required to make the slides of their presentation available on the event Web site.

Position papers will be published on the public Web pages for the event and must be available for public dissemination. Submitting a position paper comprises a default recognition of these terms for publication.

Information shared in RDIG meetings and proceedings is publicly visible. W3C reminds presenters and participants to disclose, where known, the IPR status of information that they share in RDIG meetings and materials, in accordance with Section 2.2, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy, of the W3C Process Document. Please also refer to the "Intellectual Property Rights" section of the RDIG Charter.

$Date: 2005/01/11 11:14:42 $ Markku Hakkinen

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