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Understanding and Supporting Web Developers: Working Practices and Resources for the Creation and Evaluation of Accessible Websites

Swallow, David (2017) Understanding and Supporting Web Developers: Working Practices and Resources for the Creation and Evaluation of Accessible Websites. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Web developers have a responsibility to develop websites that are accessible and usable by the broadest range of users, including people with disabilities. Despite numerous initiatives over the last two decades to support, encourage and compel developers to fulfil this responsibility, websites continue to exhibit persistent accessibility problems. This programme of research aimed to better understand the difficulties that developers face and to develop the necessary support for them to successfully integrate accessibility into their existing workflows. The first study systematically reviewed 397 web accessibility evaluation studies published over a 15-year period between 1999 and 2014. This showed a persistent occurrence of accessibility problems that does not appear to be improving. The second study followed a contextual design methodology to investigate the working practices of 13 professional developers. This showed how they are hindered, not by limited awareness or concern, but by a lack of knowledge and practical guidance on how to make websites accessible. To understand the nature of their confusion and uncertainty, the third study interviewed 26 professional developers and attempted to elicit their mental models of web accessibility. Their mental models were found to incorporate some, but not nearly enough, knowledge and awareness of accessibility and were based on a conceptual model that prioritises technical conformance over user experience. These findings were embodied in the design and implementation of an accessibility information resource, called WebAIR. The ease of use and effectiveness of WebAIR in supporting the creation and evaluation of accessible websites was evaluated in a series of four studies with both professional and novice developers under increasingly realistic experimental conditions. The resource was well received by participants in each study and, despite concerns over its viability within organisations that place little value on web accessibility, WebAIR was demonstrated to be a usable, pragmatic accessibility information resource.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Related URLs:
Academic Units: The University of York > Computer Science (York)
Depositing User: Mr David Swallow
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2018 13:29
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2019 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20686

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