Webinars: Building Accessibility to Address Cognitive Impairments

ARCHIVE: Building Accessibility to Address Cognitive Impairments

Live Broadcast Held On: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 
Length: 1.5 hours  
Fee: $39 for members; $79 for nonmembers

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Speakers: Lisa Seeman, Facilitator for WCAG's Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force, WAI/W3C and Co-Founder of Athena ICT; Rich Schwerdtfeger, CTO, Accessibility, IBM Software

Target Audience: Accessibility Professionals, Policymakers

Skill Level: Intermediate and Advanced 

Overview: Cognitive and learning disabilities are among the least understood by the accessibility professional community but may in fact represent the greatest opportunities for businesses when you consider the growing aging market worldwide. The Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force’s aim is to improve web accessibility for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Its work includes:
  • Creating a roadmap exploring how to make web content more accessible and usable by different people and groups of people with cognitive and learning disabilities;
  • The review and development of techniques and identifying how they can be improved;
  • The development of engineering approaches and authoring strategies; and  
  • Identifying W3C efforts needed to fill gaps from content, browser support and authoring practices, as well as education and outreach. 
The goal is to help authors make their content usable by as many people as possible, such as people with learning disabilities, memory impairments (as with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s) and language disabilities. This topic is inadequately addressed in current accessibility policies. However, cognitive decline and disabilities often leave users unable to access or use services, business offerings, social communications and even web-enabled devices. Finding solutions in this field are becoming more urgent from a humane, economic and business perspective as the population ages and it becomes more and more essential that as many citizens as possible can use the Internet for as long as possible.

This is being done as part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Protocols and Formats Working Group (PFWG), part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the W3C. Challenges facing this work include: lack of availability of open research, little if any discrete direction on what is needed, and the fact that users often have a different set of requirements. The ability to address cognitive accessibility may require us to deviate from the normal web accessibility strategy where one solution is designed to fit all users. It may require a web that is context adaptable to a user’s device, personal needs and preferences, and environmental conditions. The growth of mobile devices has resulted in situational impairments, creating a push for providing user context information to web applications. This emerging opportunity enables a new web infrastructure that facilitates personalization and a flexible web experience essential for optimal cognitive accessibility support.

Although we may never meet all the needs, the task force will aim to make steady and continuous progress on this, through a series of efforts ranging from short-term things that can be done to long-range efforts to do things we cannot do today. This presentation will cover the work of the Cognitive and Learning Accessibility Task Force to date; how we are looking to align the work with ongoing W3C efforts; and the business opportunities that will arise from addressing this broader set of users.

Speaker Bios: 

Lisa Seeman is a globally recognized expert in inclusive design, accessibility, web interoperability and the semantic web. She is currently the facilitator of the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force (COGA) of the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C. COGA aims to improve the user experience for people with learning and cognitive disabilities. Lisa is a pioneer on inclusive design across barriers of abilities and nuro-diversity, such as cognitive and learning disabilities and improving usability for the aging population.
Ms. Seeman has been an invited expert for the W3C since 1999. In 2006 she became the original author and editor of the Roles for Accessible Rich Internet Applications specification and the States and Properties Module for Accessible Rich Internet Applications, which then became the specifications for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) for the W3C. Previously, Ms. Seeman headed a government-funded incubator project that culminated into an independent company (UB Access). She currently works for Athena I.C.T. 

Richard Schwerdtfeger is the CTO, Accessibility, for IBM Software, as well as an IBM Distinguished Engineer and Master Inventor. His responsibilities include overall accessibility architecture and strategy for Software Group. Richard participates in numerous W3C standards efforts, including HTML5, WAI-ARIA, SVG and Indie UI. He created and chairs the W3C WAI-ARIA standards effort as well as the IMS GLC AccessForAll accessibility standards efforts. Richard is a board member of Knowbility.org and a member of Raising the Floor's team of experts working on a Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure focusing on cloud-based personalized access. Richard joined IBM Research in 1993, where he helped design and develop Screen Reader/2. He led numerous accessibility efforts at IBM, including the Sun collaboration on Java accessibility where he co-architected the Java Accessibility API and the IBM Self Voicing Kit for Java; the Web Accessibility Gateway for seniors; and the IAccessible2 strategy. Richard is an internationally recognized accessibility expert with more than 20 years of accessibility experience. He is a 2013 recipient of the SXSW Dewey Winburne Community Award for his industry-leading work on WAI-ARIA and a 2014 recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award for national community service for his work on web accessibility and ARIA.

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