Ping (zestyping) wrote,

Evaluating Web usability for the blind.

I'm sitting in a short talk session at CHI this morning and the presenter, from IBM's Tokyo Research Lab, is showing us aDesigner, an automated tool for evaluating website accessibility for visually impaired users.

One of the cool things that aDesigner can do is to shade in the elements on the page based on their navigation distance from the beginning, in terms of an estimate of how many seconds it would take a screen reader to get to that point. This gives you a nice overview of what is more reachable or less reachable on your page, and as you can imagine, the use of CSS, semantic markup, and "skip to content" links has a big effect. (Their website has a screenshot of how this looks, though the slide in the presentation looked better because it didn't show all the dashed borders.) Parts of the page that take more than 3 minutes to reach are so dark that you can hardly see them, which is a good way of conveying how tedious it would be to wait for a screenreader to get there. I think this is a really neat visualization technique.
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