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Glossary » Accessibility

pinyin input

Chinese-character input based on the pinyin alphabet. Pinyin is a method of writing Chinese in a roman alphabet. With pinyin input systems, users can type the Chinese words phonetically, and then select among a few alternative Chinese characters that represent…

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pluralistic walkthrough

a method of usability inspection where a diverse group of stakeholders in a design are brought together to review the design, including user interface designers, users, developers, and management. The walkthrough is conducted by identifying primary tasks for the system…

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polymorphic artifact

a software artifact (application, widget, dialogue) that can adapt its appearance and behavior to suit different users, uses, and technologies (e.g. I/O devices). The adaptation may be at the level of functionality, process of use, or appearance.

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redundant modalities

using more than one way to represent, display, and enter data, such as:

using both a beep an a menubar flash to notify a user of an error using text to label images redundantly allowing a user to issue commands

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rehabilitation engineering

the field that explores the design of assistive devices for the disabled and customizes those devices for individual needs.

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reminder system

a system for alerting a user to important items on a schedule, after a timeout, or when a critical event happens. Used, for instance, in a medical setting to remind clinicians of necessary tests or interventions. Useful especially to people…

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repetitive stress injury; injuries resulting from excessive repeated movement with little variation, such as typing and mousing. RSI can result from many activities (such as assembly line work), and interacting with computers is only one manifestation. Damage occurs to soft…

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for the physically disabled, the ability to move through a set of options (usually automatically) and to select one of the options. This enables an interface with only one input: “select now”. With this interface, a user can select objects…

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a design envisionment technique whereby a set of representative target users are identified and an outline is created of their lives, their goals, their interests, their schedules, and their interaction with the system being designed. While these descriptions of different…

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screen reader

a program that reads out a computer display for the visually-impaired or for those who do not have access to a monitor. The screen reader can read text that appears in a standard way in dialog boxes, menus, icons, and…

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screen-enlargement utility

a system for zooming in on portions of the screen to make it easier for the visually-impaired to view information on computer monitors. Also called a screen magnifier.

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Section 508

a set of guidelines for accessibility of information technology for the U.S. federal government. Section 508 requires that all federal government IT development or purchases be accessible, following the 508 guidelines, or be the most accessible among the options.


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seizure disorder

in some types of epilepsy, a seizure can result from the presentation of a rapidly-varying stimulus, such as flashing lights and repetitive sounds. Thus, interfaces should avoid strobe effects, blinking effects, and repetitive noises. In most interfaces, these are likely…

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sensory defensiveness

and tactile defensiveness; an adverse reaction that some users may have to touching devices with certain temperatures, textures, or materials, which may be due to allergies, physical sensitivities, or psychological aversion.

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side effects

actions that occur as the result of a user action which do not seem to the user to be related to the primary goal of the action. For instance, when starting a game changes system configurations (such as screen and…

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simulator sickness

virtual environment sickness or cybersickness; an adverse reaction to immersion in a 3D virtual environment characterized by symptoms of nausea, motion sickness, disorientation, and loss of control over movement. This reaction is typically explained by sensory conflict theory, the idea…

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situational impairment

a difficulty accessing computers due to the context or situation one is in, as opposed to a physical impairment. Examples include noise, poor lighting, distractions, other tasks that require use of hands or eyes, and social constraints such as the…

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Slow Keys

a keyboard feature that prevents keystrokes from registering until a key has been held down for a certain period of time. This is extremely useful for people with motor impairments that make it difficult to target keys accurately or that…

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speech impairment

difficulty in spoken language, whether through vocalization or articulation impairments or through neurological language disorders. Computers can facilitate communication for people with speech difficulties. The field of study examining this is called AAC — Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Aphasias (language…

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speech-to-text system

a type of voice-recognition system – it converts spoken language to text. Useful for text entry and command entry, especially for people whose hands are busy with other tasks and for people with motor impairments.

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spoken language interface

a user interface where the user can, at a minimum, issue spoken commands, and optimally, conduct all interaction with the computer via speech. Speech systems are differentiated by:

how restrictive they are in what style of speech they can recognize,

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a person who is concerned with the outcome of a user interface design because of some effect it has on them, including users, clients, managers, software developers, designers, marketers, distributors, store-owners, and almost everyone involved with a product. Ideally, every…

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Sticky Keys

a method of typing where modifier keys, such as Shift, Control, Command, and Alt/Option, will “stick” down and apply to the next keystroke, so that only one key needs to be pressed at a time. This is extremely useful for…

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surrogate users

people used as a substitute or representative for users, in order to provide information in design meetings, user testing, and so forth.

Typical surrogates would include managers, union reps, coworkers, friends, and designers (especially those who have interacted w/ users).…

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system administration

supporting a user community by maintaining their computer environment, by handling such items as system purchasing and installation, software configuration, network configuration, backups, server maintenance, security, troubleshooting, user training, maintaining system stability, and providing technical support for users.

System administrators…

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