Accessibility Study of interactive maps and design recommendation to enhance screen reader accessibility
Digital maps have been an integral part of modern life. We use digital maps online and offline on our smartphones, tablets, computers, kiosks, etc. Whether to venture into an unknown location, check the latest traffic update, update on the weather forecast, we come across digital maps every day. While maps have successfully evolved into digital form from paper and other physical mediums, how much evolution present-day digital maps have observed to ensure accessibility and implementation of universal design principles? Relying exclusively on the fundamental medium to present information on the maps essentially creates a barrier to several groups of people. Maps by nature have to rely on graphical medium to present its information content. But the users who have temporary or permanent and limited to no visual ability are excluded from reading maps for this reason. In this thesis, we have conducted a systematic literature review to discover the research gaps of accessibility in digital maps, focusing on map exploration and screen reader technologies. We then selected several most visited websites in Norway featuring digital maps and performed accessibility evaluation using relevant WCAG guidelines with accessibility compliance experts. To discover further accessibility issues from users, we conducted semi-structured interviews with participants with varying degrees of visual impairments. The result from three data collection indicates that interactive maps are not screen reader accessible at all. There is an apparent research gap in alternative text accessibility in maps and both expert accessibility evaluators and interview participants commonly agreed with multiple accessibility issues on contemporary interactive maps on diverse platforms. Based on interview feedback and accessibility expertise, several interactive maps design recommendation was introduced and discussed as a solution.
Hasan, Sayed Kamrul