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27 August 2021

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has recently published a formal W3C Note on the on the XR Accessibility User Requirements (XAUR).

The Note was developed by the W3C WAI Accessible Platform Architecture working group’s Research Questions Task Force (RQTF) 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 look 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 technical accessibility challenges such as the need for multi-modal support, synchronization of input and output devices and customisation. It then outlines accessibility related user needs for XR and suggests subsequent requirements. This is followed by related work that may be helpful understanding the complex technical architecture and processes behind how XR environments are built and what may form the basis of a robust accessibility architecture.”

There are 19 scenarios discussed regarding user requirements of people with disability in XR. These include:

  • Immersive semantics and customisation
  • Motion agnostic interactions
  • Immersive personalisation
  • Interaction and target customisation
  • Voice commands
  • Color changes
  • Magnification context and resetting
  • Critical messaging and alerts
  • Nine gestural interfaces and interactions
  • Signing videos and text description transformation
  • Safe harbour controls
  • Immersive time limits
  • Orientation and navigation
  • Second screen devices
  • Interaction speed
  • Avoiding sickness triggers
  • Spatial audio tracks and alternatives
  • Spatial orientation: Mono audio option
  • Captioning, Subtitling and Text: Support and customisation

Dr Scott Hollier, CEO of CFA Australia, actively contributed to the Note as a recited editor. Dr Hollier said, ‘It’s been very exciting to work with great people in the RQTF to create form W3C guidance on how developers can make XR more accessible.’

The Note is the first by W3C to specifically provide guidance on the accessibility issues that can occur in immersive environments and how the issues can be addressed.