|Links for Universal Usability|
|Ben Shneiderman: Universal Usability (PDF)|
|Wikipedia article about universal usability|
By Gerd Waloszek, SAP User Experience, SAP AG – January 21, 2008
See also our Accessibility Glossary for terms that are more directly related to accessibility. There, you will find, among others, descriptions of the different impairments.
A general term used to describe how easy it is for people to get to, use, and understand things.
Accessibility is most often used to describe facilities or amenities to assist people with disabilities, as in "wheelchair accessible." This can extend to Braille signage, wheelchair ramps, audio signals at pedestrian crossings, walkway contours, website design, and so on. (From www.wikipedia.org, adapted)
HTML tag that provides alternative text when non-textual elements, typically images, cannot be displayed. (From www.marketingterms.com/dictionary/)
See also: ALT Text
Refers to "alternative text" that is placed in the code for an image in an HTML page (in an ALT tag). If the image is not displayed, the ALT text can be presented instead. ALT text is especially useful to users of speaking browsers. The text should be a brief representation of the purpose of the image, not a description of the image. ALT text is frequently seen on tooltips when users move the mouse over images.
A 1990 federal law that forbids discrimination against persons who are disabled. It gives civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.
Any item, piece of equipment, or system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. (From Section 508)
This definition is very broad, potentially including anything from wheelchairs to hearing aids. In the context of Section 508, the term typically refers to tools used by disabled individuals to increase or improve the functionality of information technology.
Assistive technology can be either software- or hardware-based. Hardware solutions can span a broad range of devices, from low-tech items such as mouth sticks or paper stabilizers, to high-tech products such as refreshable Braille displays or eye gaze communication systems. Software solutions can include built-in features such as the accessibility options in Microsoft Windows or stand-alone programs such as speech recognizers and screen readers. The most appropriate type of assistive technology for a disabled individual depends on the nature of the disability.
A code which enables blind persons to read and write. It was invented by a blind Frenchman, Louis Braille, in 1829. Braille is comprised of a rectangular six-dot cell on its end, with up to 63 possible combinations using one or more of the six dots. Braille is embossed by hand (or with a machine) onto thick paper, and read with the fingers moving across on top of the dots. Combinations of Braille dots within a cell represent contractions of two or more print letters and Braille characters take up three times as much space as print.
These displays create a tactile translation of information on a computer screen. Some Braille displays have a reusable, refreshable surface, composed of rounded pins that rearrange to translate information as it is selected on screen.
See also: Refreshable Braille Display
A computer keyboard with braille-coded keys. For example, transparent Braille labels allow both blind and sighted users to access a keyboard.
The software on a computer that allows Web pages to be rendered so they can be "read" by users. This may be a browser that renders things visually, in a manner confined to text only, or in any other manner that may be appropriate, such as voice output.
A standard for specifying the appearance of text and other elements. CSS was developed for use with HTML in Web pages but is also used in other situations, notably in applications built using XPFE. CSS is typically used to provide a single "library" of styles that are used over and over throughout a large number of related documents, as in a web site. A CSS file might specify that all numbered lists are to appear in italics. By changing that single specification the look of a large number of documents can be easily changed.
Curb-cuts are scooped-out pieces of sidewalk to allow wheelchair users to cross streets. They are also useful for baby carriage pushers, delivery service workers, cyclists, and travelers with roller bags. Advocates of universal usability like to use the analogy of curb-cuts to explain how systems designed for disabled users can benefit all users.
For blind users and users with visual impairments, textual descriptions, also called Text Equivalents, can be provided that are read aloud by a Screen Reader. Text descriptions can be provided for user interface elements, such as controls, as well as for images and animation (required by Section 508 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
A design philosophy, which aims to improve the life of everyone through design. (From www.design-for-all.org/, adapted)
A condition that curtails to some degree a person's ability to carry on his normal pursuits. A disability may be partial or total, and temporary or permanent.
See also Impairments for types of impairments/disabilities
A name shared by two laws passed in Australia (1992) and the United Kingdom (1995). They both prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities.
A generic name for all of the technologies involved with communicating with computers.
A worldwide computer network using the TCP/IP protocols (and other protocols like HTTP on top of it). The World Wide Web, for example uses HTTP (Hypetext transmission protocol).
The most important accessibility feature to be provided for Web pages. It allows users to access each "active" element in the portal with the keyboard. Keyboard accessibility is especially important for physically impaired and blind users who cannot use the mouse. All other users will appreciate this feature, too, especially advanced users who enter mass data, or users who work with a laptop.
Multi-layer systems are regarded as the most promising approach to achieving universal usability to-date. These systems accommodate different users through multiple interfaces, such as multiple versions of adjustment controls, or variable numbers of options to select from.
A keyboard that appears on screen so a user who cannot use their hands can use Assistive Technology, such as a head pointer to enter keyboard input.
See Universal Design
An electro-mechanical device for displaying Braille characters, usually by means of raising the dots through holes in a flat surface. Refreshable braille displays sit under a regular computer keyboard, and smaller displays (usually 18-40 cells) are available on some models of notetakers.
See Section 508
A computer program that reads the screen to a user. It can be used to surf the Web, write a spreadsheet or document, or just to read pages. It is closely related to Voice Output.
A software program that magnifies a portion of the screen, so that it can be more easily viewed. Screen magnifiers are used primarily by individuals with low vision.
Section of the US Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that protects people in federally-funded programs from discrimination on the basis of a disability.
The term commonly used to refer to the United States federal government's recent enactment of regulations regarding equal access to information technology for people with disabilities. Specifically, Section 508 refers to Section 508 of the United States Federal Rehabilitation Act. In 1998, the United States government amended the Rehabilitation Act to add this section.
Section 508 establishes accessibility requirements for any electronic and information technology that is developed, maintained, procured, or used by the United States federal government. It requires that all U.S. government agencies "ensure that federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access of those without disabilities." It also requires that federal agencies developing Web sites ensure that citizens with disabilities have equal access to the information on those Web sites.
To be "Section 508 compliant," software, Web sites, documentation, and technical support purchased by the federal government after June 25, 2001, must meet the accessibility standards specified in the Section 508 regulations. These standards, as well as definitions of "electronic and information technology," were issued by the U.S. Access Board (an independent government agency) on December 21, 2000.
Convert electronic text to speech, and can be used with a variety of access hardware and software.
See also: Voice Output
Term used to describe the technique of providing a text alternative that will be the same in both content and function as a non-text object on a Web page, such as an image map.
Means, as a general term, that all persons regardless of whether they are poor or rich, have disabilities or not, etc. can access something, be it nature, works of art, technology or, more specifically, information technology.
The following definition of universal access can be found at Wikipedia:
In many developed countries an infrastructure exists to help implement the vision. Examples include access to education at the grade school, high school, and sometimes college level; disability-related laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 in the United States; universal access policies and funding that support for telecommunications infrastructure to underserved rural and inner city areas such as high bandwidth lines to local government and healthcare buildings in small towns; and universal access to healthcare in some countries, especially in Europe, Canada, and Japan.
With respect to information technology, "universal access" means that computer applications, Web pages must be universally accessible. In many countries, this is required by legislation, e.g. in the United States by Section 508.
Designing for the largest audience possible regardless of disability or ability to speak the native language. This is a process rather than an end in itself.
Architect Ron Mace coined the term universal design in the early 1980s. At that time, it was recognized that improving the access for people with disabilities often meant better access for everyone. His definition of universal design is as follows:
Universal design intends to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Thus, universal design attempts to benefit people of all ages and abilities.
The seven principles of Universal design are:
Universal design is based on the following seven principles:
The URC SIG defines a Universal Remote Console (URC) as "a combination of hardware and software that allows a user to control and view displays of any (compatible) electronic and information technology device or service (or "target") in a way that is accessible and convenient to the user."
The basic idea behind the URC is to define a universal protocol (Alternative Interface Access Protocol = AIAP) that enables any device to command any other device via remote signals. This approach is especially promising for disabled and elderly people but brings hope to all those many people who cannot program video recorders, use copy machines, or handle "intelligent" microwave ovens. With an URC, people can use devices of their choice as remote controls for other devices.
Universal usability refers to the question of how information and communications products and services can be designed so that they can be used by every citizen. The term was introduced by Ben Shneiderman in an article, titled Universal Usability (Communications of the ACM, 2000, see references). In the article, Shneiderman outlines a research program for addressing the "universal usability challenges" of:
According to Shneiderman (2000), these three challenges are the main obstacles for making information and communication services available to every citizen, or as he puts it, "in attaining universal usability for Web-based and other [information and communication] services."
Shneiderman (2000) also provides a practical/measurable definition of universal usability:
The idea that a software application, including a Web site or Web page, is easily used by a user.
Systems that allow a person to access a computer by entering data and issue commands to the computer with spoken words without using a keyboard or mouse.
Spoken words that are conveyed to the user from the computer.
Technology by which sounds, words or phrases spoken by humans are converted into electrical signals, and these signals are transformed into coding patterns that can be identified by a computer. Based on this identification, the computer usually takes some action.
See World Wide Web
Pursues, in coordination with organizations around the world, accessibility of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research and development. (From homepage)
Guidelines that explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines are intended for all Web content developers (page authors and site designers) and for developers of authoring tools. The primary goal of these guidelines is to promote accessibility. However, following them will also make Web content more available to all users, whatever user agent they are using (e.g., desktop browser, voice browser, mobile phone, automobile-based personal computer, etc.) or constraints they may be operating under (e.g., noisy surroundings, under- or over-illuminated rooms, in a hands-free environment, etc.). Following these guidelines will also help people find information on the Web more quickly. These guidelines do not discourage content developers from using images, video, etc., but rather explain how to make multimedia content more accessible to a wide audience. (From abstract, modified)
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0) as a Recommendation in May 1999. This Working Draft for version 2.0 builds on WCAG 1.0. It has the same aim: to explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities and to define target levels of accessibility. Incorporating feedback on WCAG 1.0, this Working Draft of version 2.0 focuses on guidelines. It attempts to apply guidelines to a wider range of technologies and to use wording that may be understood by a more varied audience. (From abstract)
A "page" of the World Wide Web, usually in HTML format (the file extensions are typically htm or html) and with hypertext links to enable navigation from one page or section to another. Web pages often use associated graphics files to provide illustration, and these too can be clickable links. A Web page is displayed using a Web browser, and can be designed to make use of applets (subprograms than run inside the page) which often provide motion graphics, interaction, and sound. (From www.wikipedia.org)
An Internet service based on the HTTP protocol and HTML pages; provides an easy-to-use user interface for the Internet.
Consortium that develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential. W3C is a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding. (From homepage)