Shawn Henry

Position Statement for CHI 2010 Workshop

Past work and interest in the topic:

I have been working on accessibility of ICT (information and communication technology) for more than 10 years.[1] Providing functionality to change text size and other text attributes to improve readability for users with visual impairments (often categorized as "low vision") is one of the issues I have focused on.[2]

While there has been improvement in this area, work still needs to be done. For example, some people consider that PDF is now "accessible" because structure and other aspects can be read by screen readers. However, the needs of some users with low vision still cannot be met with PDF. I cannot increase the text size and print a PDF document, which I often need to do. Another person with low vision says:

"I cannot read PDF effectively. I have moderate low vision (20/80 fully corrected) caused by central retina damage. This has been a lifelong issue, and I'm an old hand at trying assistive technologies".

The problem is that PDF does not have [a reader with settings or] an assistive technology that permits individualized:

  1. modification of font-family based on element (tag) type,
  2. enlargement of letter, word and line spacing for text and
  3. variable enlargement linked to element type. These modifications are important for many people like me (Moderate Low Vision 20/70 - 20/160).[3]

I am particularly interested in the details of providing flexibility for user customization of text, including:

  • What aspects need to be customizable?
  • What are the best ways to inform users of customization options, especially some older users who will be overwhelmed with too much information?[4]
  • What should be requirements in accessibility standards versus recommendations?

As the user population ages, these are becoming more of an issue.

I am also interested in making information easier to read and understand by people with different types of cognitive abilities and disabilities.

Designing information that is easy to use, read, and understand is a primary part of my current job developing education and outreach materials for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).[5]

Reasons why I want to participate in this workshop:

Through this workshop, I would like to:

  • Learn more about current issues, research, and solutions to designing for people who do not read easily
  • Share perspectives as a user who sometimes has difficulty reading due to visual disability
  • Share knowledge of existing guidelines on improving readability, especially of electronic information (e.g., websites)
  • Help develop additional guidance for improving readability

Issues for the workshop:

Designing for people who do not read easily is a broad topic; for example, there are somewhat different issues for people with low vision, for people not literate in the language, for people in a stressful situation, etc. To get the most out of the workshop, I think it would be good to scope it ahead of time and have clear goals for the workshop. (One possibility is breaking up into subgroups according to interest, for part of the workshop.)

To help move forward during the workshop instead of just rehashing existing knowledge, I think it would be good to encourage workshop participants to do some background reading — for example, the material on this website — so that we have some shared knowledge coming into the workshop.

I look forward to the workshop advancing our ability to design better for people who do not read easily.

For more information:

  1. Shawn Lawton Henry at W3C WAI
    About Shawn
  2. On Scalable Text
    E-mail Notice of Non-Scaling Text
  3. Moderate Low Vision: A blind spot in support technology for visual impairment
  4. Requirements, Analysis, and Changelog for "Improving your Web Experience by Using Adaptive Strategies"
  5. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
    WAI Resources