The fine team from IBM Japan presented two paper that dealt primarily with Flash accessibility. "Automatic accessibility transcoding for flash content" and "Aibrowser for multimedia: introducing multimedia content accessibility for visually impaired users". Both of these papers discuss aspects of the aiBrowser. From my perspective, some of the most amazing aspects of this work are the following: 1) unification of the DOM of web pages, including frames, and any Flash movies on the page, 2) automatic transcoding of Flash content by intercepting it before the browser renders it, 3) interface to control JAWS screen reader from the self-voicing web browser, 4) independent control of screen reading volume and volume of web page content (Flash). Check out the aiBrowser if you haven't.
Next came our own work, "WebinSitu: a comparative analysis of blind and sighted browsing behavior." The main points of this work is that we quantitatively showed that blind web users are less efficient in their usual web browsing than sighted users and the accessibility of the content of web pages directly influences their behavior. For instance, blind web users don't click on images without appropriate alternative text assigned to them and avoid pages with dynamic content/AJAX. This study brought up more questions than answers and we hope to conduct more studies along these lines in the future.
Evaluation of Pages
A couple of papers by Giorgio Brajnik et al. dealt with evaluation of the accessibility of web pages. The first, "SAMBA: a semi-automatic method for measuring barriers of accessibility" explored how to include subjective evaluation of pages by experts into evaluation procedures, which seems a good direction. The second, "Effects of sampling methods on web accessibility evaluations" dealt with how the pages chosen for accessibility evaluation can affect the results of that evaluation. In general, I find automated evaluation to be the wrong direction because its difficult to represent in an automated process the true function representing accessibility. Such methods will be with us, however, until all developers are skilled accessibility experts. This work can help them work better and, in that sense, is valuable to the community.
ASSETS continued this year as a premier venue for discussing web accessibility research. Here I've only reported on the full papers that were submitted, there were also a number of interesting posters presented during the poster session.