TJTJ574 COG: Accessible and Inclusive Design of ICT: Foundational Introduction to Human Sensory, Cognitive, and Physical Limitations and Technological Solutions (2 cr)

Study level:
Advanced studies
Grading scale:
Pass - fail
Responsible organisation:
Faculty of Information Technology
Curriculum periods:
2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020



The field of accessibility has grown over the past 25 years from a niche specialty to one with increased focus and demand across multiple industries. Whether building innovative mobile apps, creating engaging games for learning or entertainment, developing social media web sites that reach millions, publishing scientific information or learning materials, or designing innovative new consumer technologies, ignoring accessibility can limits markets and exclude people from using your product or service. As an emerging area that blends science and technology to solve challenging problems in how people can use technology, its importance is bolstered by increasing national legislation requiring that technology be usable by individuals who have disabilities.
This class will address the range of issues that one must be aware of to meet that challenge and will cover how to make technology work for people with sensory, cognitive, or physical impairments, a population (and market) that comprises more than 1 billion people globally who have one or more disabilities.
To solve the challenge requires understanding of how people sense and perceive information, how information design (and complexity) impacts the ability to understand information, and how physical (or virtual) interface design impacts a user’s ability to operate it. Sensory substitution or adaptation is a key concept, but one that introduces challenges involving perceptual bandwidth, information equivalence and cognitive load. Utilizing multiple modalities can address some of these challenges, as can mapping semantic structures inherent in one modality to the navigation and presentation of information in another. Emerging technology platforms, such as cloud-based cognitive computing, may offer opportunities to enable sensory transformation through means such as auditory or image classification.
Accessibility technical standards and guidelines, notably from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), can be applied in the development of software applications and systems. These same standards have been incorporated into the national legislation in the USA, Europe, and a growing number of countries. Understanding these standards and how to apply them can pose challenges, particularly with emerging technologies. The course will introduce students to the key standards, how to apply them, and how to evaluate whether an application or system is in conformance.
The course will introduce students to the fields of accessibility, characteristics and demographics of disability, foundational understanding of sensations & perception, issues in sensory substitution and transformation, multimodal approaches, interfaces design and cognitive load, technical standards, legal requirements, and implementing accessibility through a series of demonstrations and labs. Students will be presented with a pool of accessibility challenges from which they may choose one as the basis of a short project/paper/presentation. Alternately, students may choose a challenge identified from their own research discipline or work.

Assessment details

Obligatory attendance at all lectures, lab sessions, and field visit to local school for students with disabilities. Active participation is required. In addition, participants will present a challenge areas in accessibility and their proposed solution in the form of a poster, demo, or 5 minute oral presentation prepared beforehand. Each participant filling the above-stated requirements will receive a diploma of participation to the workshop, but to receive a course diploma with credit statement (2 ECTS) the student must also return a 1-2 page report (evaluate what you have learned and how can/will you use it in your future research).

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to understand the importance of accessibility, how accessibility standards and legislation can guide design of new applications or systems, and how they can begin to apply this knowledge in their work and research. Knowledge of these fundamentals will increase the probability of creating highly usable and accessible products. Given the introductory nature of this course, motivated students can use successful completion as a basis for further study or research in the field of accessibility.

Description of prerequisites

Should have a background in information systems, computer science or related discipline.

Completion methods

Method 1

Select all marked parts
Parts of the completion methods
Unpublished assessment item