Stanford Seminar - Rethinking Design for Accessibility

Stanford Seminar - Rethinking Design for Accessibility

Accessibility as a Collaborative and Emergent Phenomenon

  • Accessibility is not just a feature or checklist but requires understanding the social and technical systems of activity.
  • Accessibility is an emergent and collaborative phenomenon, as seen in the example of Amy, a blind weaver, who interacts with her social and material environment to create accessible weaving.
  • Interaction is multimodal, embodied, and situated, as demonstrated by Chuck Goodwin's study of his father with aphasia, who actively participates in storytelling despite his limited vocabulary.
  • Disability is not located within people or society but in the particular sociomaterial arrangement of relations and the ordering of practices.
  • Interdependence is a key concept in understanding the relational nature of assistive technology use and the labor that people with disabilities put forth in creating access.

Rethinking Accessibility in Specific Work Contexts

  • Research should focus on understanding and rethinking accessibility in specific work contexts, such as professional and academic writing and editing, audio editing, and fiber arts.
  • Blind writers and editors face substantial barriers to equitable access when using collaborative writing tools, as they lack the same visual cues and information as their sighted collaborators.
  • Blind people use various strategies to make collaboration happen, such as maintaining collaboration awareness, employing coordination and writing strategies, and navigating group dynamics and role structures.
  • Collaborative writing tools present information in a flattened and serialized manner for blind users, making it difficult for them to access and understand the collaborative context.
  • Screen reader users face challenges when collaborating on documents due to the inaccessibility of collaborative writing tools.
  • Current tools have inefficient and cluttered representations, making it difficult for blind writers to identify comments and edits.
  • Social and material consequences arise from inaccessibility, such as the fear of being seen as a bad employee or not an effective team player.
  • Researchers designed various non-speech auditory techniques to improve asynchronous collaborative writing, such as tone overlay and voice coding.
  • Understanding who is doing what and where in real-time collaborative writing is a significant challenge for blind writers.
  • The researchers developed a Google Docs extension called Collab that incorporates audio cues to support real-time collaborative writing.
  • Collab provides features such as follow mode, earcons, and an audio scrollbar to enhance awareness and coordination among collaborators.
  • The researchers conducted evaluations with screen reader users and cited collaborators, demonstrating the effectiveness of Collab in facilitating collaborative writing.

Accessibility in Audio Production and Fiber Arts

  • The second case study focused on the experiences of blind audio engineers, sound designers, musicians, and podcasters.
  • Blind audio producers put in a tremendous amount of work to piece together accessible and efficient workflows.
  • Blind professionals confront ableism in their work and must present as capable and competent.
  • Learning and creating access in the audio production community is a community-based effort.
  • Blind experts help novices learn and use standard terminology, use knowledge of element locations and the accessibility tree to describe navigation, engage in shared sensemaking during collaborative troubleshooting, and share accessible tutorials.
  • Existing online tutorials that are primarily text-based and on YouTube don't support screen reader-centric understandings.
  • Blind instructors create their own tutorials to address the needs of blind users.
  • Blind instructors describe the complexities of managing the tutorial creation process.
  • Blind instructors are looking for ways to facilitate hands-on, structured learning.
  • Tutor is a GarageBand extension that allows screen reader users to record and play accessible and interactive tutorials for audio production.
  • The system logs the instructor's screen reader interaction, captures snapshots of the accessibility tree, and automatically adds breakpoints after each step in the interaction.
  • Instructors can record audio instructions while using the software, and Tutor trims and syncs the audio with the breakpoints.
  • Learners can replay step-by-step instructions and get confirmation as they proceed, enhancing the learning experience.
  • A study with blind instructors suggested that Tutor puts them on autopilot, reducing the cognitive load of recording and mixing audio instructions.
  • Another study with novice screen reader users who are new to audio production is ongoing to evaluate the effectiveness of Tutor compared to audio-only tutorials and text-based instructions.
  • A project focused on Fiber Arts and weaving, led by former PhD students, aims to rethink accessibility in design by studying the work of Weavers.
  • Weavers create a variety of adaptations and customize their environment to support more accessible practices, such as using magnetic boards, Braille instructions, and tactile tape measures.
  • The analysis shifts attention away from the tools and objects of accessibility to understanding how the interactive properties of materials form an accessible language of making.
  • Weavers describe how they "convince the materials to cooperate" and how the shuttle communicates mistakes through its behavior.
  • The project highlights the collaborative and embodied nature of making, where experienced members provide hand-over-hand guidance and prompt interactions through material placement and patterns of working together.
  • Blind Weavers participate in many aspects of the weaving process but are largely excluded from the conceptual

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