User Modeling for Accessibility Online Symposium 15 July 2013

This online symposium invites researchers, practitioners, and users with disabilities, to explore current and past research experiences related to user modeling for accessibility. User modeling is an approach for generating and adapting user interfaces to address particular user needs and preferences. The goal of the symposium is to analyze different methods and implementations of user modeling and their potential usage for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This includes the design, creation, storage, and usage of user models, in particular in web browsers, applications, authoring tools, and other aspects of the Web.


User models are explicit representations of user properties including their needs, preferences, as well as physical, cognitive, and behavioural characteristics. The characteristics are represented by variables. User models are instantiated by the declaration of these variables for a particular user or group of users. Such instantances of user models are called user profiles.
User modeling can be used to enhance the accessibility of user interfaces by generating and adapting them according to the particular user needs and preferences represented as user profiles. Different approaches have been taken in this field but further research and development is necessary, in particular to address the need for standards to support the interoperability and portability of user models across implementations.
More specifically, one of the main challenges of user modeling is lack of a common approach for integrating user profiles that support different user models within individual implementations, and for migrating profiles from one implementation to another. This can be attributed to the broad variety of user profiles and the incompatibilities that can occur among them. For example, differences in user profiles can occur due to differences in scope of the modeling, source of information for the modeling, time sensitivity and update methods of the model (static vs. dynamic model). Other factors that further increase the variety of models include:
  • Physical (mechanics and control) and cognitive processes that underlie the users’ actions;
  • Differences between the users' and experts' skills, and users' behavioral patterns and preferences;
  • Whether the models apply to individual users or entire groups of users such as "communities".
One potential approach for overcoming this challenge is by exploration of the many existing standards relating to human factors, user interface design, interface description language, workplace ergonomics, and others. These can be used to develop user models according to more formalized characteristics thus increasing the interoperability among different user models and user modeling implementations.
More in-depth background and discussion in RDWG wiki on user modeling for accessibility.


The objectives of this symposium are to explore:
  • Standardized interoperability models providing APIs for different purposes and applications;
  • Comparisons of data storage formats for user profiles;
  • Comparisons of calibration and validation techniques;
  • Collaboration on ethical issues;
  • Ensuring sustainability by making user models and profiles available within a standard;
  • Mechanisms for exchanging user profile data between sources;
  • Protection mechanisms for privacy issues;
  • Control mechanisms for user profile data exposure
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