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Year 1 (April 2007 - March 2008)

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An in-depth survey of literature in the areas of online credibility and Web accessibility was carried out to identify previous research findings as well as relevant theoretical models and frameworks. Significant works contributing to the project theme were analysed and gaps identified for addressing through a research study.


A literature review on credibility research brought out the multi-dimensionality of the concept of credibility; the variety of factors related to source, message, medium and receiver that serve as markers of credibility; and their potential for interaction. Through a variety of methods, several studies have examined how people perceive the credibility of online information. However, these studies have not considered the fact that non-visual modalities could be the primary mode of access for some Web users. Persons who are blind typically interact with the computer and, through it, with the Web using textscreen reader software to read online content by "hearing" through speakers or "feeling" through refreshable Braille display . There is no published study on how these persons form credibility perceptions about information encountered online.


On the one hand, published 'credibility' research studies have been conducted only with sighted participants and on the other, studies about the Web involving participants with vision impairment deal only with accessibility and not credibility. There is thus a need to study how persons using a screen reader to access Web content perceive the credibility of online information and how this intersects with their perceptions about accessibility of those web pages.


To address this gap, a user study was designed to gather data from residents of Ontario who had accessed the Web auditorily using a screen reader for at least one year due to blindness or vision impairment, seeking inputs about their online information practices (including technologies used) and their online information assessment experiences. Approval of the Research Ethics Review Board of the University of Toronto was obtained for the user study proposal in March 2008. Participant recruitment/data collection has been scheduled to commence in April 2008.


The outcomes of the study will be used to develop a framework for credibility assessment using audio modality of input on the Web. Further plans include creation of a web space that will bring together people, publications, programs and perspectives that will eventually build into an online community and framework to support research. Contacts are being fostered in area communities across Ontario. The technical components are being built using a participatory process. We will be hiring two experts to assist in the creation of the infrastructure for the online community.  This will consist primarily of an interactive web site where members will be able to discuss their opinions of other web sites and views about credibility in general.  It will be possible for anyone to add links to pages on the web for the community to consider, rate or evaluate, and discuss.  We will design this community in consultation with people who experience the web via different assistive technologies, in particular via a screen reader.  (Indeed, we will consider experience with a screen reader an advantage as we seek to fill the developer position.)  We will also simultaneously design and develop the server/agent and browser plug-in for rating web pages, and test it within the community throughout its development.





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