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As most people interested in reading this blog know, the driving force behind choosing my thesis topic was because it is of great importance at my place of employment.  Treasury Board, the agency in charge of enforcing CLF standards has been pushing for Web-Mapping applications to be either made accessible or taken down.  As my team has a web-mapping group of programmers, who are responsible for a large chunk of the web-mapping applications pushed out by Environment Canada nationally, we have a large stake in this.

So aside from working with Greg and UofT, I am also working with other federal departments to come up with a solution to this problem.  Agriculture Canada has done a lot of work in this area, and like us has addressed all accessibility issues except for obviously the main map image.  They have met with Treasury Board and have gotten a pass on some of their applications, as they are arguing that the map can be accessed through using the Mouse Keys function built into the operating system.

Now, although this isn’t actual accessibility, it has pleased treasury board.  EC seems to be the only group that is going as far as we are to address the accessibility of the image.  Our next step will have to be to make an appointment with treasury board. After I get back from Fredericton this will be next on my plate.  Meanwhile we have a government wiki where I will be posting tips and tricks about web-mapping accessibility in order to help out agencies that do not have developers dedicated to this task.

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I conducted a pseudo-study the other day to see how my idea for a research study would work out.  I need to show how people would describe a map to another person, as this is not something we usually need to do. Using 4 volunteers I had them work in pairs, where one person describes the map to the other.  I am bundling this as a game, as I would like to create an extensive knowledge base, and hopefully a game would encourage this more so than a questionnaire.  Basically, Player 1 gives hints while Player 2 guesses which map they are describing.  This game will be played online, but in the meantime I used a very low-level prototype (a booklet of photocopied maps)  in order to iron out kinks before I set forth developing the online game.

I used maps of all different extents and locations ranging from rural to urban.  Over each map I placed a thematic data layer, and also varied it’s distribution map to map (clustered, spread out etc.)  Player 1 had one map in front of them, while Player 2 had 3 maps to choose from, all with the same base layer, but with the thematic layer varied.  Each set of partners went through the 8 maps, and then switched roles and repeated the game again.

Here is a list of things I will change/add and then perform the test again:

  • I included the same title on each map that was tested.  It was a very general title, and while the volunteers said it provided them with some context, it was very limited.  Next time I will vary the titles and try to make them more detailed.
  • The game was too easy, although I could tell the players enjoyed it and wanted to win so I need to institute some features that will make it more challenging
  • Enforce a time limit for giving hints and guessing
  • Give players a word limit for their hints
  • Include maps at different zoom levels so that people are less dependent on labels – less labels would make it harder to provide hints
  • Switch maps totally after each round, as during this test I only changed their order but were still made up of the same maps
  • Switch up partners after each round, the volunteers got to one another from the way they gave hints in the round before.
  • Have levels that would increase in difficulty as the game progresses

I will add to my test study and grab a few coworkers when I get back into town to test it out.  Hopefully it will be a bit harder, and then I can compare the quality of descriptions that were given here.  Stay tuned.

player1

What I imagine the interface for Player 1 would look like.

What I imagine the interface would look like for Player 2

What I imagine the interface would look like for Player 2