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9 March 2020

I’m excited to report that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) working group that I’m involved in, has recently published its first public working draft of the XR Accessibility User Requirements (XAUR).

The draft was developed by the W3C WAI Accessible Platform Architecture working group’s Research Questions Task Force (RQTF). The purpose of the draft is to provide guidance on the accessibility of XR – an umbrella term to cover the spectrum of hardware, applications, and techniques used for virtual reality or immersive environments, augmented or mixed reality and other related technologies.

The accessibility aspects of the XAUR looks specifically at the implications for users in the XR space. As described in the Abstract, “This document lists user needs and requirements for people with disabilities when using virtual reality or immersive environments, augmented or mixed reality and other related technologies (XR). It first introduces a definition of XR as used throughout the document, then briefly outlines some uses of XR. It outlines the complexity of understanding XR, introduces some accessibility challenges such as the need for accessibility multimodal support for a range of input and output devices and the importance of customization. Based on this information, it outlines accessibility user needs for XR and their related requirements. This is followed by information about related work that may be helpful to understand the complex technical architecture and processes behind how XR environments are built and what may form the basis of a robust accessibility architecture.”

Examples of scenarios and guidance provided in the XAUR include the ability for a vision impaired person to zoom into a second of an XR environment without losing context, overcoming current XR issues across proprietary platforms which don’t contain an accessibility feature set and guidance on providing sign language support. A presentation about the XAUR that I did at the recent OZeWAI conference can be viewed in the video above. The draft will continue to evolve and feedback is welcome.

The Centre for Accessibility is a joint project by Media on Mars, DADAA and Dr Scott Hollier and is funded by the Department of Communities, Disability Services.

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