Due: Friday, December 11
Points: 66 points (about 7% of your overall grade)

Assignment Overview

One of the key responsibilities of the HCI professional is to ensure that applications and websites work for all users (Universal Usability). In some cases, making the system work for blind users is a federal requirement; in other cases it just makes good business sense. But it is hard to truly understand how a blind person interacts with a computer without witnessing the interaction.
One thing that you find is that many people who are blind or sight-impaired are experts at using screen readers. You will not be able to come anywhere near their level of expertise. But even with rudimentary use of a screen reader, you can discover how frustrating it is when websites ignore basic usability principles.
In this assignment, you and your partner will experience a website using a screen reader and the keyboard, and identify issues with websites that you can fix by paying enough attention.

What to Do

  1. Pick one partner to work with. This does not need to be someone from your project team; it can be anyone in the class. You can use the discussion board in Canvas to help you find a partner. Please do this right away, and let me know if you are having a hard time finding someone to work with.
  2. Pick a website that (at least one of) you are familiar with that involves a transaction. It can be a shopping site, or some other type of transaction, but it must require that at least one form field be filled out. Don't choose a major site like amazon.com or ebay.com. If you choose a shopping site, you can stop at the point where you need to put in payment information, as long as you have already filled out at least one form field. Decide on a task using the website that involves submitting at least one page and getting some sort of confirmation.
  3. Make an appointment at the Adaptive Technology Lab to use a computer with JAWS installed, or set up your own computer with an assistive screen reading program (see the list below). Use the system to browse some pages on the Internet, to make sure the installation works correctly and to gain some familiarity with the software. You will need to use the keyboard exclusively to get around. I suggest you make a cheat sheet of the most common/useful keyboard shortcuts for your system. If you are using JAWS, for example, here are some tips for web surfing with JAWS.
  4. One partner should close your eyes or put on a blindfold, and go to the website you selected in step 1. Perform your selected task using the site. The other partner will record your progress and where you have problems. Use a talk-aloud protocol as you navigate the site, so your partner can record not just your actions but your intentions and expectations.
  5. For three of the spots where you had problems, identify the cause and come up with a way to resolve the problem. These should be problems principally due to the way the website was built, rather than due to your inexperience using the screen reading tool. Refer to the tutorial from reading [[/courses/1156593/assignments/3975829|R09]], or do your own research to find these resolutions. You will probably need to look at the HTML source of the Web page to precisely determine the problem. For most browsers, you can get to the source by right-clicking on the page. If possible, you can use a debugger to help you find the problematic HTML. If you are using the AT Lab computer, you may need to revisit the site on your own computer to use a debugger. For a quick lesson on browser debugging, see <website or document address here>
  6. Partners should switch roles, and the one who did not use the screen reader for the first task should use the reader now. Go to the Chicago Lighthouse website (an exemplary website, one that makes screen reading very easy) and, using the screen reader, complete the following task: find a braille watch, and order two. The task is over once you confirm that the watch has been placed in the shopping cart, you have changed the quantity to 2, and you have activated the button to check out. You don't need to fill in anything on the checkout screen. Make a note of the price of the watch (while still blindfolded) for your report.

Screen Reader Tools

There are many screen readers available, but the most popular one is JAWS (Job Access With Sound), which works only on Windows PCs. You can download a free trial, or you can make arrangements to use a JAWS-equipped computer in the Adaptive Technology Lab at McKeldin Library. Alternatively, you can use a browser add-on or the screen reader available from the technology office.

Evaluation Report (66 points)

Title and Background (1 point)
  • Title (IA05: Accessibility Observation)
  • Names of both partners
  • Name of screen reader
  • Computer it ran on (AT Lab or, for personal computers, the OS)
  • Browser used
Overall Experience (5 points)
Briefly recount your experience during this project, without going into any detail about the two tasks. In particular, I am interested in your experience installing and activating the software (if you used your computer and not the one in the AT Lab), what you think about the utility provided by screen reading software, and/or something that you will do differently in the future when you build websites.
Task Completion Experience (20 points)
Describe your experience, answering the following questions:
  • URL of the website you visited
  • describe the task you completed on the site
  • how much time did you spend on the task, from initial blindfolded interaction to completion?
  • how accessible do you think this website is?
  • principle source(s) of difficulty due to website design and construction
Problems and Remediation(20 points)
Specify three problems that you found where the website is not as accessible as it should be. Describe each problem, the cause of the problem from a web design or implementation perspective, and a solution that would increase the site's compatibility with screen readers. Include a screen shot with annotations to point to the areas where the problems occurred.
Exemplary Site Experience (20 points)
Describe your experience, answering the following questions:
  • dis you have any difficulties completing the task (other than lack of experience with the screen reader)?
  • how much time did you spend on the task, from initial blindfolded interaction to completion?
  • how accessible do you think this website is?
  • how does this site compare to the other one you looked at, from an accessibility perspective?


Upload your report to Canvas as a PDF by the due date. BOTH partners should upload the SAME REPORT (to keep Canvas happy and make grading easier).