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Department of Computer Science

Empirical Web Accessibility Evaluation for Blind Web Users

Primary supervisor

Additional supervisors

  • Markel Vigo

Additional information

Contact admissions office

Other projects with the same supervisor


  • Competition Funded Project (Students Worldwide)

This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding. Applications for this project are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding may only be available to a limited set of nationalities and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Project description

Help us help Blind Web users access vital information.

Websites are critically important to Blind people:

"For me computer systems are everything. They're my hi-fi, my source of income, my supermarket, my telephone. They're my way in."

But many websites present barriers not a 'way in'. It's your job to help us remove these barriers.

Large websites are difficult to evaluate for Web Accessibility compliance due to the shear number of pages, the inaccuracy of current Web evaluation engines, and the W3C stated need to include human evaluators within the testing regime. This makes evaluating large websites all-but technically unfeasible.

Therefore, sampling of the pages becomes a critical first step in the evaluation process. Current methods rely on drawing random samples, best guess samples, or convenience samples. In all cases the evaluation results cannot be trusted because the underlying structure and nature of the site are not known; they are missing 'website demographics'.

By understanding the quantifiable statistics of a given population of pages we are better able to decide on the coverage we need for a full review, as well as the sample we need to draw in order to enact an evaluation.

You will work on extending our previous work by crawling a website comparing, and then clustering, the pages discovered based on Document Object Model block level similarity. This technique can be useful in reducing very large sites to a more manageable size, and allowing high coverage by evaluating between a small sample of pages of pages.

Additional future contributions including evaluating if a combinatorial approach to evaluation maybe more effective than those applied by individual tools and engines. Future work would empirically test this belief by: deciding on the minimum number of pages required to fully test a website; creating a set of algorithms to orchestrate preexisting accessibility evaluation tools over that website; facilitate interoperability between these heterogeneous engines and - in concert with human evaluation - generate a combinatorial analysis of the guideline conformance of the site providing a single homogeneous /unified evaluation report. Finally, testing this combined approach against standard measures to evaluate the validity of the outcomes.

Person specification

For information


Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You must be capable of performing at a very high level.
  • You must have a self-driven interest in uncovering and solving unknown problems and be able to work hard and creatively without constant supervision.


Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You will possess determination (which is often more important than qualifications) although you'll need a good amount of both.
  • You will have good time management.


Applicants will be required to address the following.

  • Discuss your final year Undergraduate project work - and if appropriate your MSc project work.
  • How well does your previous study prepare you for undertaking Postgraduate Research?
  • Comment on your transcript/predicted degree marks, outlining both strong and weak points.
  • Why do you believe you are suitable for doing Postgraduate Research?