2004 Conference Proceedings

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Kay Lewis, Ph.D.
P. Matthew Bronstad
Bradford Barron
Justin Hays
Accessibility Institute, FAC 248C
The University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station G9600
Austin, Texas 78712
Phone: (512) 495-4288
Email: kay_lewis@austin.utexas.edu


We discuss results of a study examining Web usage strategies of participants with learning disabilities, participants with visual impairments and participants with no identified disabilities.


Designing Web sites that are accessible to all individuals with disabilities - that is sensory, cognitive or motor - is a challenging and somewhat daunting task. In some cases a design strategy to overcome a limitation for people with a particular disability may actually create a barrier for people with a different type of disability (Slatin & Rush, 2003). For example, using animations to explain a new concept could be the optimal way to convey information to someone with a learning disability; however, these same animations could be very difficult to use for someone with low vision using screen magnification software.

People with disabilities often have unique strategies and remediations for overcoming weaknesses associated with their disability. If we can understand the similarities and differences in Web usage among different users with different types of disabilities, we can develop Web sites and guidelines for Web site development to best meet the needs of all individuals with disabilities.

We designed this study to investigate how individuals with different types of disabilities use the Web. In particular we recruited three types of participants: individuals with learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia), individuals with visual impairments (low vision and no vision), and those with no identified disabilities. We examine task completion and time to complete tasks across the groups. Additionally, we note any common and dissimilar navigation strategies and design preferences of individuals with learning disabilities, individuals with visual impairments and individuals with no identified disability.


3.1 Participants
Participants in this study were students, staff or faculty at The University of Texas at Austin. Participants completed a questionnaire and self-reported whether they had a disability, their use of assistive technology, demographic characteristics, computer experience and typical computer use patterns. Approximately one-third of participants reported having a visual impairment, one-third reported having a learning disability, and one-third reported having no identified disability.

3.2 Site Selection
Researchers at the Accessibility Institute chose six University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) Web sites for user testing. In a previous study conducted at the Accessibility Institute, we evaluated 407 UT-Austin Web sites against Section 508 accessibility criteria. From this list of sites, we chose 3 sites that passed 508 criteria and 3 sites that did not. Final selection of sites was based on the appropriateness for user testing, that is, whether a reasonable number of tasks could be written that could be completed by most student, faculty or staff at the University. For each of the 6 sites, we developed 4 tasks. User testing sessions took 30 minutes to 2 hours to complete.

3.3 Data
Data to be collected and analyzed will include:

  1. the percentage of tasks that the user completes successfully and unsuccessfully,
  2. the average time of task completion and
  3. trends and similarities that are evident from user comments and navigation strategies and obstacles.


Preliminary review of the data indicates similarity of success rates for participants with a learning disability and the participants with no identified disability. Participants with visual impairments had more difficulty completing tasks successfully and took longer than the other two groups. These quantitative results are consistent with previous research conducted at the Accessibility Institute but will be further analyzed as data collection is completed.


Slatin, John. M. & Rush, Sharron. (2003). Maximum Accessibility: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.

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