Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Improving Web Searching for People with Cognitive Disabilities

2011/04/25

Using a website search tool is difficult for people with cognitive disabilities. Finding a relevant result is often thwarted by spelling errors they make, their inability to detect them, or a lack of understanding about how to correct them. Determining which search results are best can be equally difficult.

This post is a synopsis of an approach to circumventing such problems. An example has been implemented on a web site of the German Institute for Human Rights, which is an easy-to-read version of a United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities. A typically-appearing site search incorporates novel spelling-correction features and a simplified presentation of search results.

Spelling Correction

The site search suggests spelling alternatives only for words that actually appear within the content of the website. Searches for correctly-spelled words that produce no search results would be very frustrating for anyone.

To enable spelling suggestions, a manually-edited index of syntactically-similar words was created. Point values were assigned for similarities in the number of the same letters and the word length. A higher value was given to alternative words with the same first letter, but that was not essential.

To enable search-word spelling correction within the fewest steps possible, the most-similar alternatives are displayed in a word cloud. Of those, typically three, the one with the highest probability of matching the intended search word is presented in a larger text size.

Example Spelling Correction

The German word for “contact” is “kontakt”. Initiating a search with the misspelled word “kontat” produces a word cloud as shown in the following image.

Of the displayed three words, Kommunikation Kontakt Kunst, the second is shown in a larger font. All are hyperlinks.

The developers believe the word cloud makes it very easy to recognize the correctly-spelled word, and to select a search word. I don’t know why the first letters are capitalized.

Simplified Search Results

Search results are presented in plain language. Each has a bulleted, succinct summary of information on the linked page; and a contextually-relevant image to aid comprehension.

Example Search Result

The following image shows a single search result translated from German to English using Google Translate.

Contact - Here you will find: The address and telephone number of the German Institute for Human Rights. And a contact form.

One aspect of the search results I do not favor is that links to the search-result pages are not underlined. It is only when the cursor is hovered over a link, such as “Contact” in the example search result, that an underline appears.

Conclusion

I am impressed with this approach. This is the first time I have seen search results presented so simply, and with accompanying relevant imagery. I think the spelling-correction features are also worthwhile. In a pilot study of them, 9 of 34 people with learning disabilities could use the search site independently. I expect the developers will continue user testing. With funding and time, I would like to develop a site search using similar techniques.

Notes

Sources of Research Articles on Cognitive Web Accessibility

2010/04/01

On The Clear Helper Web Site, I published my

Sources of Research Articles about Web Accessibility for People with Cognitive Disabilities.

Most are vertical search engines of research from related fields.

Each listing is annotated with an edited quote describing the source.  At the top of the page, I note the approximately twenty search terms I used.  The following blog posts are about the results of this effort.

Since I published the above, I have significantly increased the number of articles for each list.

Defining A Good Accessibility Statement

2010/03/09

This post lists the recommendations of eight Web articles I found that opine about a good accessibility statement. I also found three that advocate a site-help page be used instead.  All are referenced below.

Common Recommendations

The survey results are from articles published on the Web by accessibility-focused organizations or by site developers.  One, “Evaluating the Usability of Online Accessibility Information“, is based upon research. Publication years range from 2002 to 2009.

Mentioned In Most Articles:

  • Agreement
    • Do not just list accessibility features; explain how site visitors can use them.
    • Detail any site barriers to accessibility.
    • Provide contact info for people who experience accessibility problems.
    • Make the accessibility statement easy to locate on the Web site.
  • Disagreement
    • Don’t refer to how the site conforms to accessibility standards (50%).
    • Do refer to how the site conforms (50%). Place the info at the bottom of the statement.

Mentioned in Half of Articles:

  • Explain the site’s or the organization’s commitment to accessibility.
  • Do not use jargon.  Use clear, plain language targeted to the site’s audience.
    • Use an alternative to the term “accessibility” because many visitors do not know what it means.

Mentioned in at Least 2 Articles:

  • Separate accessibility-statement content into sections.
  • Reference authoritative, stable accessibility-help, i.e., The BBC’s My Web My Way.
  • Do not limit accessibility information to a specific impairment.
  • Do not assume knowledge visitors may not have, e.g., which browser they use.
  • Do not claim accessibility features if they are not present.

Relevancy To Current Assessment Plan

I decided to investigate this in preparation for my plan to assess the Web accessibility of 100 cognitive disability organizations. Specifically, I considered not just awarding a point for the presence of an accessibility statement, but for the presence of a good one.  To do that, I needed to determine agreed-upon characteristics.  Now that I have, I realize it would take too much time to assess the accessibility of the Web sites and whether or not their accessibility statements, if existent, are good.

Referenced Articles

Articles That Advocate Site-Help Pages Instead

Notes

  • I searched for recommendations by people who identified themselves as having a disability, but found none.
  • Did I miss an important resource?  Please comment or contact me.

50+ Readability Resources Related To Cognitive Web Accessibility

2010/03/04

I have created an index of readability resources related to plain language; measurement tools; guidelines, research; content; symbols; and  free- and commercial products and services. At the time of this writing, there are over fifty. I will add more as I find them.

Characteristics Of Readability Listings

  • All have links to the original sources.
  • All are annotated with related information, primarily edited quotes from source pages.
  • The majority are free- and commercial products and services.  The rest are research articles.
  • The publication dates of original studies and articles range from 2001 to 2009 / present.

Links to Readability Index & RSS Feed

Notes

Technorati Verification Code = 63S9AZXDSA9K

50+ Resources Related To Cognitive Web Accessibility Guidelines

2010/02/23

I have created an index of resources related to cognitive Web accessibility guidelines. At the time of this writing, there are over fifty. I will add more as I find them.

Characteristics Of Guidelines Listings

  • All have links to the original sources.
  • All are annotated with related information, primarily edited quotes from source pages.
  • A few are original studies.  The majority are Web articles. The remainder are organizations that develop such guidelines.
  • The publication dates of original studies and articles range from 1999 to the present.

Links to Guidelines Index & RSS Feed

Future Indexes

I will soon publish other such indexes. To see a list, please refer to my previous post, “Upcoming Indexes of Resources Related to Cognitive Web Accessibility“.

Notes

100+ Resources Related To Cognitive Web Accessibility Research

2010/02/16

I have created an index of research resources related to cognitive Web accessibility.  At the time of this writing, there are over one hundred.  I will add more as I find them.

Characteristics Of Research Listings

  • All have links to the original sources.
  • All are annotated with related information, primarily edited quotes from abstracts.
  • Most are original studies. Others include literature reviews, articles that cite research, and organizations that conduct related research.
  • Many have publication dates, from 1999 to the present.

Links to Research Index & RSS Feed

Future Indexes

I will soon publish other such indexes.  To see a list, please refer to my previous post, “Upcoming Indexes of Resources Related to Cognitive Web Accessibility“.

Note: Have a resource suggestion? Please contact me.

Upcoming Indexes of Resources Related to Cognitive Web Accessibility

2010/02/08

I will soon be publishing several indexes of resources related to cognitive Web accessibility.

In each index, listings will include:

  • a link to the resource;
  • a brief description; and
  • the publication year, as appropriate.

In the order of indexes listed below, I will publish as many resources as I can, then announce the corresponding indexes.  I will continually add resources to them, so there will be a RSS feed for each. (What Is RSS?)

Indexes

  • Cognitive Web Accessibility
    • Sub-Indexes
      • Research
      • Guidelines
      • Assistive Technology
      • By Publication Year
      • Web Sites Designed for People with Cognitive Disabilities
        • Web Sites Designed Specifically for People with Intellectual Disabilities
      • Organizations that Promote Cognitive Web Accessibility
      • Funders of Research and Development Related to Cognitive Web Accessibility
  • Organizations for People with Cognitive Disabilities
    • Sub-Indexes
      • Organizations Specifically for People with Intellectual Disabilities
      • By Country
  • Master Index of All Resources
    • Sub-Index
      • All Resources Specific to Intellectual Disabilities

I will add other indexes as I think of them.  As always, I am open to suggestions.

Definitions of “Cognitive Disability”

2010/01/19

Goal

Find a recent, functional definition of “cognitive disability” written by an appropriate U.S. federal government agency, and adopted by government agencies and education institutions throughout the country.

Goal = Wishful Thinking

It appears no authoritative source has published a widely-used and accepted functional definition, nor a clinical one. Because I intend the Clear Helper Web site to be accessible to people with cognitive disabilities, it would have been helpful to find an authoritative, functional definition.

Definitions from Federal-Government Sources

The closest I came to my goal, at least for an authoritative source, is a clinical definition on the Web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families.  The definition is part of an explanation of why the term “cognitive disabilities” was not used instead of “intellectual disabilities” on the Web site of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

“Cognitive disabilities” is often used by physicians, neurologists, psychologists and other professionals to include adults sustaining head injuries with brain trauma after the age 18, adults with infectious diseases or affected by toxic substances leading to organic brain syndromes and cognitive deficits after the age 18, and with older adults with Alzheimer diseases or other forms of dementias as well as other populations that do not meet the strict definition of mental retardation.

Retrieved from: http://faq.acf.hhs.gov/cgi-bin/acfrightnow.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=934&p_created=1068052784 (Published December 4, 2009)

The next-closest to my goal, in terms of a functional definition from a federal-government agency, is on the Web site of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Cognitive disabilities cover a wide range of needs and abilities that vary for each specific person. Conditions range from person having a serious mental impairment caused by Alzheimer’s disease, Bipolar Disorder or medications to non-organic disorders such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, poor literacy or problems understanding information. At a basic level, these disabilities affect the mental process of knowledge, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment. Simply put, the Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University defines cognitive disability as: “a disability that impacts an individual’s ability to access, process, or remember information.”

Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/accessibility/technology/disabilities.htm (Published December 29, 2008).  Syracuse University definition retrieved from: http://thechp.syr.edu/definitions_support_terms.html

I also found an older, brief, functional definition on a Web site of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Cognitive disability – Limitation of the ability to perceive, recognize, understand, interpret, and/or respond to information.

Retrieved from: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/sidewalks/appb.htm (Published January 20, 2004)

I could not find any evidence that the above definitions have been adopted by anyone, let alone widely-adopted.

Definitions From Other Sources

I found the following definition on the Web site of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, at The University of Colorado.

When we refer to “cognitive disabilities” on this website we are primarily referring to mental retardation and developmental disabilities, acquired brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, and severe and persistent mental illness. …

Cognitive disability stems from a substantial limitation in one’s capacity to think, including conceptualizing, planning and sequencing thoughts and actions, remembering, and interpreting the meaning of social and emotional cues, and of numbers and symbols.

Retrieved from: https://www.cu.edu/ColemanInstitute/background.html (Published December 14, 2006)

The most useful information I found is on the WebAIM Web site.  It provides general clinical- and functional definitions in the context of accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities.  It has a list of categories of functional deficits, with a relevant synopsis of each.

Cognitive Disabilities: Introduction (Published May 3, 2009)

The WebAIM article’s discussion of clinical- versus functional- definitions closely matches that of another useful article, posted on the Disabled World Web Site.

Cognitive Disabilities (Published February 10, 2009)

Search Term

In all my searches, I used variations of the search term: “cognitive disability” definition

Sources Searched

Note: If you know of a definition or a source of a definition for “cognitive disability”, please contact me or post a comment.  Thank you.

UMMS Faculty Position Open: Web Accessibility for People with Intellectual Disabilities

2010/01/07

Below is the official recruiting advertisement for a new faculty position at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where I work.  It was recently decided we should include for the position the research area of Web accessibility, particularly for people with intellectual disabilities.  I would like to get the word out through our accessibility community.  If you or anyone you know may be interested in this opportunity, please contact me directly via e-mail (clear.helper@neindex.org) or via Twitter (@ClearHelper).  Please spread the word!  Thank you.

Faculty Positions

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center

University of Massachusetts Medical School

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), invites applications for research faculty positions with specialization include any of the following areas: behavior analysis, psychopharmacology, child clinical, health psychology, gerontology and behavioral medicine.  We are especially interested in research programs that are appropriate for individuals with developmental disabilities.  Programs are located in Central Massachusetts and suburban Boston.

Qualifications include an appropriate degree (e.g., M.D., Ph.D., Ed.D.), an established track record in NIH funded research, and potential to contribute to the Center’s current and future directions.  Start-up funding and a range of faculty incentive programs are available.

Applications & Information

To apply for any of the above positions, please submit via e-mail a CV, contact information for three or more professional references, and a statement of professional interests to Dr. Charles Hamad charles.hamad@umassmed.edu.  For all of the above positions, review of application will begin immediately and continue until the positions are filled.  Each position offers a competitive salary and excellent benefits.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer. Women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

Behavior Modification to Teach People with ID How to Access Web Sites

2009/12/24

A research study was published in 2007 that used behavior modification to teach people with autism and intellectual disabilities how to access Web sites.  After training, participants (N = 3) were able to access specific Web sites independently.

Breakdown of Task

“The following 13-step task analysis was conducted to develop the requisite skills necessary to access a specific Web site:
  1. Press the computer power button.
  2. Press the monitor power button.
  3. Place hand on the mouse.
  4. Move the cursor with the mouse until it points to the Internet Explorer® icon.
  5. Double click the Internet Explorer® icon.
  6. Move the cursor with the mouse to the Google® search box.
  7. Left click in the box.
  8. Type in the search topic of interest.
  9. Place hand back on mouse.
  10. Move cursor to the box labeled ‘search.’
  11. Single click the box.
  12. Move the cursor with the mouse down to the Web site of choice.
  13. Single click the Web site of choice.”

Note: Steps 12 & 13 should say “Web site link”.

Training

To teach these steps, the behavior-modification techniques of backward chaining, errorless learning, and most-to-least intrusive prompting were used. After completion of each step, whether prompted or unprompted, participants received edible items as a form of immediate reinforcement.  Participants were also given five minutes of their preferred Internet activity after the completion of the last step.

Results

Subsequent to training, the three participants were able to complete all thirteen steps independently.  They were also able to take the skills they had learned on the test computer, and apply them to a different computer.

Relevancy

I am keenly interested in teaching people with intellectual disabilities how to use the Web.  They can not if they don’t know the first thing about it.  This research study taught people the rudiments.

My interest in it coincides with the intended purpose of the initial tutorials to be presented on the future Clear Helper Web site: to teach people with intellectual disabilities how to use the Web, specific Web sites, and/or features of them.  Because the tutorials will be entirely Web based, the level of training used in this research study will not occur.  The consequential indication is that people who require such training may not be able to take advantage of the Clear Helper tutorials.  It is a disappointing reality.

References

Jared Jerome, Eric P. Frantino, & Peter Sturmey (2007). The effects of errorless learning and backward chaining on the acquisition of internet skills in adults with developmental disabilities.  Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 185-189.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1868816/PDF of the article.


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