Research Areas

7. Accessibility of Digital Documents


Since the late 1990s, we have witnessed how the rapid technological development has changed people's personal and professional lives. Societies have gone digital and most of the world's information is now stored in an electronic form. This has not only shaped the way we communicate, but has also contributed to facilitate the participation of people with special needs in economic, political and cultural activities.

Within such context, the World Wide Web has become the "digital information hub" par excellence. However, while considerable improvements in web accessibility have been achieved over the last decade, most web sites still have accessibility barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities to use them (Harper and Chen 2012; Hanson and Richards 2013). Despite the fact that significant efforts have been devoted at a national level to promote compliance with web accessibility guidelines (eCH 2011; Swiss Confederation 2011), the results from two Swiss web accessibility studies, carried out by the Access for all Foundation (2011, 2016), indicate that this is also the case in Switzerland.

In an attempt to bridge this gap, as well as to follow the lead of a growing number of researchers in the field who promote the use of accessible digital resources in education (Coombs 2010; Kushalnagar et al. 2014), the main objectives of Research Area 7 are:

  • To improve the access of students with special needs, and in particular of students with visual or motor impairments, to the digital information offered in Swiss universities' web portals.
  • To enhance the higher education learning experience of this community by providing university staff members with the tools, guidance and support needed to develop inclusive courses. Within the framework of this project, we will focus on the accessibility of materials and tools used in translation technology modules.



  • Coombs, Norman. 2010. Making Online Teaching Accessible: Inclusive Course Design for Students with Disabilities. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass.
  • eCH. 2011. ‘eCH-0059: Norme d’accessibilité’. Last access: 30.10.2017.
  • Hanson, Vicki L., and John T. Richards. 2013. ‘Progress on Website Accessibility?’ ACM Transactions on the Web, 7(1), 2:1–2:30.
  • Harper, Simon, and Alex Chen. 2012. ‘Web accessibility guidelines: A lesson from the evolving Web’. World Wide Web, 15(1), 61–88.
  • Kushalnagar, Raja S., Walter S. Lasecki, and Jeffrey P. Bigham. 2014. ‘Accessibility Evaluation of Classroom Captions’. ACM Trans. Access. Comput. 5 (3):7:1–7:24.
  • Swiss Confederation. 2011. ‘P028 – Directives de la Confédération pour l’aménagement de sites Internet facilement accessibles’. Last access: 30.10.2017.