Mobile Device and Desktop Accessibility

Mobile and desktop apps have become a key feature of everyday life, with apps for banking, work, entertainment, communication, transportation, and education, to name a few. But many apps remain inaccessible to people with disabilities who use screen readers or other assistive technologies. CREATE is working to support automated diagnosis and repair of mobile app accessibility failures for all mobile apps. CREATE faculty are also exploring aspects of desktop app accessibility, such as Creating better touch screens based on how people with disabilities actually interact and developing Pointing Magnifier, a desktop pointing aid that makes the mouse easier to use for people with limited fine motor function. Ga11y creates GIF annotations and improving the accessibility of animated GIFs. And VoxLens is a JavaScript plugin that allows people to interact with visualizations. Visualization designers need only to add a single line of code to implement VoxLens.

Large-Scale Analysis Finds Many Mobile Apps Are Inaccessible

iStockPhoto image of several generic application icons such as weather, books, music, etc.

Mobile apps have become a key feature of everyday life, with apps for banking, work, entertainment, communication, transportation, and education, to name a few. But many apps remain inaccessible to people with disabilities who use screen readers or other assistive technologies. Any person who uses an assistive technology can describe negative experiences with apps that…

Ga11y improves accessibility of automated GIFs for visually impaired users

Animated GIFs, prevalent in social media, texting platforms and websites, often lack adequate alt-text descriptions, resulting in inaccessible GIFs for blind or low-vision (BLV) users and the loss of meaning, context, and nuance in what they read. In an article published in the Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’22), a research team led by CREATE Co-director Jacob O. Wobbrock has demonstrated a system called Ga11y (pronounced “galley”) for creating GIF annotations and improving the accessibility of animated GIFs.

Wobbrock team’s VoxLens allows screen-reader users to interact with data visualizations

A screen reader with a refreshable Braille display. Credit: Elizabeth Woolner/Unsplash

Working with screen-reader users, CREATE graduate student Ather Sharif and Co-Director Jacob O. Wobbrock, along with other UW researchers, have designed VoxLens, a JavaScript plugin that allows people to interact with visualizations. To implement VoxLens, visualization designers add just one line of code.

Millions of Americans use screen readers for a variety of reasons, including complete or partial blindness, learning disabilities or motion sensitivity. But visually-oriented graphics often are not accessible to people who use screen readers. VoxLens lead author Sharif, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering noted, “Right now, screen-reader users either get very little or no information about online visualizations, which, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, can sometimes be a matter of life and death. The goal of our project is to give screen-reader users a platform where they can extract as much or as little information as they want.”

SoundWatch smartwatch app alerts d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing users to sounds

October 28, 2020 | UW News

UW CREATE faculty members Jon Froehlich and Leah Findlater have helped develop a smartwatch app for d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing people who want to be aware of nearby sounds. The smartwatch will identify sounds the user is interested in — such as a siren, a water faucet left on, or a bird chirping — and send the user a friendly buzz along with information.

“This technology provides people with a way to experience sounds that require an action… [and] these devices can also enhance people’s experiences and help them feel more connected to the world,” said lead author Dhruv Jain, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.