At DePaul University, HCI students must choose one of the following classes as one of their major elective courses:
- HCI 511 Accessibility and Design for Diverse Users
- HCI 514 Global User Research
- HCI 515 Design Ethnography
My only option was HCI 511, Accessibility and Design for Diverse Users, because it was the only course offered online; however, I am so glad that I took this class because it opened my eyes to a whole set of people affected by my work on websites.
After participating in this course, students will be able to:
- Demonstrate knowledge about the concepts surrounding inclusive design, e.g., assistive technologies, universal design and usability, and ability-based design.
- Communicate about the needs of diverse users, including people with physical and/or cognitive limitations and people who are elderly.
- Articulate some of the challenges of designing technology for the needs of users with physical and cognitive limitations and people who are elderly.
- Analyze web pages for current standards of accessibility.
In a fair society all individuals would have equal opportunity to participate in, or benefit from, the use of computer resources regardless of race, sex, religion, age, disability, national origin or other such similar factors.
— ACM Code of Ethics
Movies and Response Papers
- The professor required the students to watch the following three movies and write response papers.
Group Research Project
I worked in a team of four students for the final group project for this class and we focused on screen reader users and website menus. The professor liked our research paper so much that she suggested we submit it to a CHI conference.
Breadth vs. Depth in Menu Structures for Screen Reader Users
Despite decades of study, there are still mixed recommendations on what hierarchical menu structures work best for users with screen readers. The organization and structure of these menus can make the experience of using a website enjoyable and efficient or frustrating and confounding. We replicated a study from 2010 examining the breadth vs depth argument in menu structures. Consistent with some previous studies, we found that broad, shallow hierarchical menu structures outperformed deep, narrow hierarchical menu structures for screen reader users.
Analysis of Website for Accessibility
During this class, I was working for the State of Idaho's Legislative Services Office, and I supported their existing websites. I decided to focus my report on two of the important pages in the main website for this office, found here: https://legislature.idaho.gov
This report describes the conformance of the Idaho State Legislature website, specifically the home page and 2018 Session page, with W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The tools used in the review process included W3C Easy Checks, W3C Markup Validation Service, CSS Validation Service, readable.io, WAVE, and Taw. Government websites, such as this, are required to conform to both the Revised 508 Standards and WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
The findings highlight many issues including critical items of structure/parsing errors and no visibility of focused elements; major items of navigation and visual presentation; and minor items of page titles and color contrast. A complete list of issues and recommendations can be found in this report.
- Users come from all walks of life, including people with disabilities, and cannot be summed up in one type of user. If you were to compare how my husband (a person without a disability), my mom (a person who is physically disabled but with full use of her hands), a person who is blind, and a person with quadriplegia all interact with a system, the results would be extremely different. In today’s globally connected world, I have no excuse for not considering this user group that touches me personally.
- When I signed up for this class, I wondered how we were going to spend an entire quarter on Web Accessibility. I obviously had no idea. I have worked for years as a web developer, I have a mom who is disabled, and somehow, I had failed to connect those dots. I still remember the first moment, from the first class in this HCI program, where I sat my husband down to watch him do a task. It was a simple task, one he had done on other websites, but this website was proving difficult for him. My mind, for lack of a better term, exploded. Why had I never done this simple act of watching a user before? I knew I had made the right decision in choosing this program, and now I know I also made the right decision in choosing this class. After years in this program, why had I never done the simple act of watching a user with a disability before?