Associated Projects

Preferences for Global Access: Profile Creation Support for Cloud-Based Accessibility

October 23rd, 2013
Publication Author: 
Petrides, L., Jimes, C., McLaughlin, L., Treviranus, J., Schwerdtfeger, R., Rothberg, M., Vanderheiden, G., Tobias, J., Trewin, S., Clark, C., Mitchell, J., and Roberts, V. (2013). Preferences for Global Access: Profile creation support for cloud-based accessibility. Unpublished manuscript, submitted to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
Resource Type: 


There is widespread agreement that current approaches to providing access for digitally excluded users, including users with disabilities, are not sufficient. As such, this report seeks to inform the development of appropriate “preference setting” tools that will help individuals learn about and easily experiment with content transformations and user interface reconfigurations that may make the content or service they are accessing easier to use or to understand.


The information in this report was developed through research that included a literature review and a compilation of examples of preference approaches, sets and mechanisms. The project’s subject-matter experts utilized the findings of this research to extend and support their understanding and experience in the field and together began to articulate problems of access and barriers to entry as well as to debate and develop the most effective ways to approach defining and presenting preference specifications. The conclusions of these discussions form the jumping off point for design solutions that will be prototyped, tested, and presented in subsequent phases of the project.


The research conducted through this project has shown that reaching the broadest number of users with the most optimal solutions necessitates a personalized approach to preference discovery, and one that considers a broad range of user needs, contexts, and situations. Virtually all accessibility compliance criteria today target a one-size-fits-all approach. The customization and modification settings used to meet this approach are insufficient to reach the broadest user sets. Furthermore, current approaches to access primarily focus on very specific medical definitions of access needs and typically ignore the diversity of disability as well as disability that is less obvious such as cognitive impairments.


This project has shown that preference discovery requires tooling that minimizes the time spent in the tool; engages the user; prompts the user only as needed; allows the user immediate access to changing those preferences; includes decision making tools that foster self-awareness; allows the user to decide if the changes they have made improve their experience and if necessary allows them to easily back out of the decision without fear of harming what has worked best for them. This design is in contrast with preference setting in today’s systems which target a limited set of users, are often hard to find and access, and due to the limited set of users they target, are unable to build a good-fitting solution for most users.


Note: This report is part of the Preferences for Global Access (PGA) project. The PGA project was funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), a component of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Service, under contract ED-OSE-12-D-0013 for Profile Creation Support for Cloud-Based Accessibility.