Evaluating web accessibility and usability for totally blind users at Thailand Cyber University
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Research suggests that web-based education increases opportunities for underserved populations to be integrated into educational activities (Schmetzke, 2001; Burgstahler, 2002; Opitz, Savenye, & Rowland, 2003). This may be true for students with disabilities because they have more flexibility to participate in formal education. However, Moisey (2004) found that people with disabilities had lower rates of enrollment and educational achievement than people without disabilities. These findings raise the question of whether or not web-based = education helps increase students with disabilities' access to learning opportunities and improve their learning outcome. This study investigated the degree of difficulty blind persons had in accessing and using web-based educational resources provided by Thailand Cyber University (TCU). Based on a mixed methods design, the data were collected in two phases. Quantitative data were collected first, in order to identify accessibility problems and conformance levels reported by automated web accessibility evaluation tools. Qualitative data was collected from interviews with blind participants in the second phase to expand the understanding of the accessibility problems and usability issues that were not discovered in the quantitative phase by the automated web accessibility evaluation tools. The findings indicate that all of the 13 selected web pages failed to meet a minimum requirement of WCAG 2.0. This means those selected web pages would be inaccessible for the blind. However, the findings indicate blind participants rated only one of the 13 pages as inaccessible. Moreover, their ratings of difficulty on "usability" were higher than their ratings of difficulty on "accessibility" on the same web page. On six out of 22 tasks, blind and sighted user groups agreed on the ratings. Nevertheless, the time that it took to complete each task varied greatly between the two user groups.
Thesis (Ed.D.)--Boston University
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