Article: Social4all: Definition of specific adaptations in web applications to improve accessibility.

Citation: Crespo, R.G., Espada, J.P., & Burgos, D. (2016). Social4all: Definition of specific adaptations in web applications to improve accessibility. Computer Standards & Interfaces 48: 1-9. (link)

Most attempts to make the web accessible for a wider number of users rely on designing accessible websites. This paper describes an approach which works more like screen reading software, by adding a layer of accessibility to websites using a tool created by the authors called Social4all.

The tool works by allowing anybody to input the URL of a website and create an “adaptation profile” which is then stored in a central repository and can be accessed by other users who need to visit the website (p. 3).

To create profiles, a user must analyze the website’s HTML, CSS, and Javascript using jQuery scripts which test the code of the site using algorithms based on WCAG guidelines (p. 4). The big benefit of this (apart from what is essentially crowdsourcing accessibility issues to interested users) is that each profile may approach accessibility problems slightly differently depending on each individual’s preferences (p. 4).

The authors tested their system with occupational therapy students, and asked them to assess its ease of use in creating new adaptation profiles. The test users rated the system as easy to understand (p. 7), although it seems as though the system would have to be tested by users with disabilities to be fully assessed as effective.
Overall, the concept is an interesting one to consider, although the language of the article is unclear in some places, which makes for difficult reading at times.

Generally speaking, though, a tool like Social4All should not be seen as a replacement for actual accessible web design. Rather, it might serve as a useful tool for users stuck dealing with otherwise inaccessible websites. Since this is only a preliminary study into the concept, it will be interesting to see what further developments are made.

Spanish speakers can access a more detailed, lengthier report on the methodology in Spanish at the Research blog of Universidad Internacional de la Rioja, the primary author’s institution.