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Since prior work has identified that cultural differences influence user design preferences and interaction methods, as well as emphasizing the need to reflect on the appropriateness of popular HCI principles, we believe that it is equally important to apply this inquiry to digital accessibility and how accessibility fits within the design process around the world.
Accessibility Across Borders
Garreth W. Tigwell Kristen Shinohara Laleh Nourian
School of Information School of Information School of Information
Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, NY, USA Rochester, NY, USA Rochester, NY, USA
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CHI ’21 Workshop: Decolonizing HCI Across Borders, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan,
© 2021 Copyright held by the owner/author(s).
Postcolonial computing emphasizes that the design, development,
and use of technology varies within dierent cultures, as well as
the need for understanding these design practices and what impli-
cations there are in a global context [
]. Within human-computer
interaction (HCI), there is also a concept called WEIRD (Western,
Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic), which highlights a
requirement to better understand how current HCI principles t in
other countries and it emphasizes the necessity to more critically
review our processes [
]. A CHI 2021 paper has identied that 73%
of nearly 3,300 papers from 2016 to 2020 included Western partic-
ipants and, in general, t the WEIRD prole, calling attention to
the need for more international focus in HCI research studies [
1.1 Position Statement
Since prior work has identied that cultural dierences inuence
user design preferences and interaction methods, as well as em-
phasizing the need to reect on the appropriateness of popular
HCI principles, we believe that it is equally important to apply this
inquiry to digital accessibility and how accessibility ts within the
design process around the world.
1.2 Current Research Progress
ing how digital designers in dierent parts of the world consider
accessibility and whether current accessibility resources (often de-
veloped in the west) meet or conict with their approach to design.
Acknowledging the immensity of this task, we have narrowed
our focus to a smaller project spanning just a few years that will
look at improving web and mobile accessibility resources for Iranian
designers. This work will be led by an Iranian PhD student.
We focus on Iranian web and mobile designers for several rea-
Iran has a fairly recent history for establishing disability
rights (2009) vs the US (1973);
There are distinct dierences
between Farsi and English (e.g., reading/writing order and gram-
matical structure), which likely inuence design layout variances
and could aect accessibility;
There is scarce prior work that
compares accessibility and usability practices of Iranian designers
with reported US practices; and
WCAG—the gold standard web
and mobile accessibility resource—is not available in Farsi and a
straightforward translation may not be a sucient solution.
long-term plan is to build upon work in this area by investigat-
To understand the current accessibility support available to Ira-
nian web and mobile designers, we plan to follow a contextual
design approach using established qualitative methods and con-
textual inquiry [
]. We can then begin to identify how best to
implement new accessibility guidelines and design tool features
that best meet the needs of Iranian designers. However, due to
COVID-19, our studies will be conducted remotely (e.g., online
questionnaires, online semi-structured interviews, remote diary
2.1 Digital Accessibility
Websites and mobile apps are important in society and enhance
how we communicate, learn, socialize, and work [
]; it is
critical to make digital spaces accessible for people with disabilities
who make up just over 1 billion people worldwide [54].
Although designers can make digital spaces accessible through a
combination of following guidelines, using appropriate design tools,
and conducting user evaluations [
], there is a signicant body of
work that continues to identify the persistence of inaccessibility
for both web and mobile technology (e.g., [
]). Web
accessibility-related lawsuits are also increasing [
], indicating
that more research is required to improve a worsening situation
by better supporting web and mobile designers. Some reasons for
inaccessibility include: a lack of sucient education on accessibility
in design, limited project time and funds, clients who prioritize
other design requests over accessibility, confusing guidelines, and
inadequate tools (see: [
]). Overall, inaccessibility
is never usually the result of a single issue but one that can be traced
back to several factors falling on a spectrum of intrinsic to extrinsic
causes [
], such as a developer’s software not warning about
accessibility violations (intrinsic) and a company adhering to a
culture where the importance of product accessibility is dismissed as
being unimportant or too costly (extrinsic). It is necessary to explore
all possible causes for the widespread issue of inaccessibility in
digital spaces and then develop solutions to address those barriers.
One under-researched area is a critical evaluation of the suitabil-
ity of established accessibility practices for international designers
who have dierent cultural norms, language systems, perspectives,
and understandings. Prior work has demonstrated that cultural
dierences can inuence design and design preferences (e.g., [
while design can be closely linked to the accessibility of the system
because it is a signicant part of the interface we interact with (e.g.,
colors, font style, layout, navigation structure) [
]. Identifying
international dierences and challenges is an important rst step
toward the introduction of protocols that could result in a more
synergistic global attitude toward making digital content accessible.
CHI ’21 Workshop: Decolonizing HCI Across Borders, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan,
Tigwell et al.
2.2 Cultural and Visual Design
The aesthetic design of a digital space is often intentionally cre-
ated in a way to complement its purpose and evoke specic emo-
tions [
]. Yet, people from dierent cultures can vary in their
preference for use of color and amount of text [
], how information
is organized [
], and the design of icons [
]. Design must include
both elements that are considered universal to improve usability on
a global scale and specic localized design elements [
]. Websites
can be designed to represent the cultural values of the country the
designer is from and it can result in distinct design dierences [
This should motivate designers to carefully consider how content
is created to appeal to dierent audiences [21, 45].
The eect of culture runs deeper than simply visual design prefer-
ences and it can inuence how people seek information, navigation
behaviors, and decision-making outcomes when people work in
a group [
]. Visual and interaction design preferences
may conict with accessibility recommendations.
2.3 Cultural Diferences and Usability Testing
Chavan [
] argues that little work has been done to adapt design
process methods and tools for cultural dierences. Common design
methodologies used in industry include user-centered design [
and co-design [
], where designers consider and involve future
users in the design process, and running evaluations can help with
design renement [
]. User involvement may result in misunder-
standings or socio-cultural conicts without proper planning.
For example, a series of studies conducted in the Netherlands
and South Korea demonstrated that dierent factors and expecta-
tions need to be adapted to maintain similar levels of participant
engagement [
]. Another study on design method tasks also found
dierences in levels of engagement and forthrightness (Korean par-
ticipants were less spontaneous) due to cultural norms, but this
could be overcome when applying appropriate adjustments (e.g.,
by increasing communication to boost motivation) [29].
Evaluations may also use standardized instruments to record data
to inform the development of a design. The System Usability Scale
(SUS) is a popular evaluation metric created in English and used
within HCI since the 1980s, which takes the form of a standardized
questionnaire and allows participants to indicate their feelings
toward the usability of a system [
]. There have been translations
of this tool so that users who are not native speakers can use the
test. Dianat et al. [
] created a translated version of the SUS into
Farsi for Persian participants. In addition to the translation, the
Persian SUS was evaluated with 202 participants and 10 experts
and determined it remained reliable [
]. This work demonstrates
the need to adapt standardized procedures and also that it can be
achieved successfully, thus resulting in better-designed systems
because they can be evaluated more eectively.
2.4 Accessibility and Cultural Diferences
Sections 2.2 and 2.3 cover many design-related cultural dierences
studies that focus on usability. We want to build upon this and
investigate the eects on accessibility, which is unknown since it
was not the focus of prior work.
Usability is often determined by a person’s expertise and prior
experiences, whereas accessibility depends on whether a user can
complete tasks regardless of their abilities [
]. To expand on this
distinction with some examples, a system that is designed to be
more usable will cater to not only expert users, but also novice
users, thus making it easy to complete tasks (e.g., designers add
clear labeling to buttons and menus to support new users). A system
that is designed to be accessible provides alternative access and
avoids creating barriers for users (e.g., designers avoid assigning
meaning to colors and will use high contrasting colors to improve
color distinction for color blind users). However, these two dimen-
sions can be in conict. For example, if a designer uses colors with
culturally assigned meaning to improve usability (e.g., green = good,
red = bad), then it will be inaccessible for people with red-green
color blindness. Similarly, research in the previous section discussed
cultural preferences for layout and amount of text, which could
conict with Western-dened accessibility guidelines.
Since 1999, WCAG [
] has become the gold standard for en-
suring the accessibility of websites and mobile apps (e.g., iOS [
but it has not always been clearly implemented within law and
policy, thus challenging the implementation of accessible digital
spaces [
]. A simple translation of WCAG may also be ineective,
since, as an accessibility resource, WCAG is already often criticized
by designers for being dicult to use [
]. Instead, there may be
an opportunity to work closely with international designers to
establish a more culturally sensitive set of accessibility guidelines.
A collection of research has investigated the accessibility of
dierent government websites examples include India [
], Pak-
istan [
], Saudi Arabia and Oman [
], South America [
], Tai-
wan [
], UK [
]. The research suggests that reasons for these
accessibility violations may be caused by a lack of laws and poli-
cies [
], but it is unknown whether those designers are ade-
quately supported in meeting accessibility guidelines because the
work primarily took a quantitative methods approach. We can lever-
age the advantages of qualitative methods to better understand the
needs and concerns of international designers.
We have several reasons for wanting to attend the CHI 2021 Work-
shop: Decolonizing HCI Across Borders. We would like to:
Get feedback on our project to rene the research plan.
Receive guidance on how to navigate through this work
in a culturally sensitive way. Although our PhD student is
Iranian, we will likely look at dierent cultures so that we
can understand similarities and dierences.
Understand how best to conduct remote work across borders
(e.g., what are the common challenges to consider? and how
do researchers in this area overcome those challenges?).
Learn about the most up-to-date work that is being led by
experts in this research area.
Network with other researchers who are passionate about
‘decolonial’ thinking within HCI.
In addition to our own needs, we also want to contribute to
the success of the workshop through active participation and of-
fer feedback on other work that is presented. We can share with
the attendees our knowledge on web and mobile design, digital
designer’s work practices, and accessibility, in addition to our ex-
pertise in qualitative data collection methods.
CHI ’21 Workshop: Decolonizing HCI Across Borders, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan,
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Conference Paper
We conduct the first large-scale analysis of the accessibility of mobile apps, examining what unique insights this can provide into the state of mobile app accessibility. We analyzed 5,753 free Android apps for label-based accessibility barriers in three classes of image-based buttons: Clickable Images, Image Buttons, and Floating Action Buttons. An epidemiology-inspired framework was used to structure the investigation. The population of free Android apps was assessed for label-based inaccessible button diseases. Three determinants of the disease were considered: missing labels, duplicate labels, and uninformative labels. The prevalence, or frequency of occurrences of barriers, was examined in apps and in classes of image-based buttons. In the app analysis, 35.9% of analyzed apps had 90% or more of their assessed image-based buttons labeled, 45.9% had less than 10% of assessed image-based buttons labeled, and the remaining apps were relatively uniformly distributed along the proportion of elements that were labeled. In the class analysis, 92.0% of Floating Action Buttons were found to have missing labels, compared to 54.7% of Image Buttons and 86.3% of Clickable Images. We discuss how these accessibility barriers are addressed in existing treatments, including accessibility development guidelines.
The System Usability Scale (SUS) is the most widely used standardized questionnaire for the assessment of perceived usability. This review of the SUS covers its early history from inception in the 1980s through recent research and its future prospects. From relatively inauspicious beginnings, when its originator described it as a “quick and dirty usability scale,” it has proven to be quick but not “dirty.” It is likely that the SUS will continue to be a popular measurement of perceived usability for the foreseeable future. When researchers and practitioners need a measure of perceived usability, they should strongly consider using the SUS.
Conference Paper
Mobile accessibility is often a property considered at the level of a single mobile application (app), but rarely on a larger scale of the entire app "ecosystem," such as all apps in an app store, their companies, developers, and user influences. We present a novel conceptual framework for the accessibility of mobile apps inspired by epidemiology. It considers apps within their ecosystems, over time, and at a population level. Under this metaphor, "inaccessibility" is a set of diseases that can be viewed through an epidemiological lens. Accordingly, our framework puts forth notions like risk and protective factors, prevalence, and health indicators found within a population of apps. This new framing offers terminology, motivation, and techniques to reframe how we approach and measure app accessibility. It establishes how app accessibility can benefit from multi-factor, longitudinal, and population-based analyses. Our epidemiology-inspired conceptual framework is the main contribution of this work, intended to provoke thought and inspire new work enhancing app accessibility at a systemic level. In a preliminary exercising of our framework, we perform an analysis of the prevalence of common determinants or accessibility barriers. We assess the health of a stratified sample of 100 popular Android apps using Google's Accessibility Scanner. We find that 100% of apps have at least one of nine accessibility errors and examine which errors are most common. A preliminary analysis of the frequency of co-occurrences of multiple errors in a single app is also presented. We find 72% of apps have five or six errors, suggesting an interaction among different errors or an underlying influence.