The ACCESS Framework: reinforcement learning for accessibility and cognitive support for older adults
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis › Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation focuses on the ACCESS Framework which is an open source software framework designed to address four issues with regards to older and novice users with accessibility needs – that they often do not know what support is available within their systems, that they often do not know how to change those settings they know exist, that they often lack the confidence to make the changes they know how to make, and are often unable to physically enable accessibility support.The software discussed in this dissertation serves as a bridge between what users are expected to know and what they actually know by assuming the responsibility for identifying user accessibility requirements and making those changes on the user?s behalf. User interaction with the framework is limited to either expressing approval or disapproval with regards to corrective action. Individual corrections are deployed as plug-ins within this tool.Four studies were conducted during this research. Three of these studies were aimed at evaluating the ACCESS Framework directly with the remaining study being an exploration of a cognitive support tool deployed using the framework. Two of these studies involved participants attempting to perform specific, well-defined tasks on systems that had been configured to the extremes of what was possible with operating system settings. These tasks were attempted with and without the support of the framework. The final study was a focus group in which issues of the framework were discussed by individuals who had been through the experimental trials.The research provided strong evidence that this is an effective mechanism for accessibility configuration when there is a strong match between identified accessibility needs and available operating system support. The system was seen as understandable, useful and appropriate by individuals who had been through the experimental trials. The research provided strong evidence that this is an effective mechanism for accessibility configuration when there is a strong match between identified accessibility needs and available operating system support. The system was seen as understandable, useful and appropriate by participants, with a majority stating that they would be willing to use a similar system on their own machines.