Personalizing the Web
for Better Accessibility

Personalization Semantics Task Force


I'm Matthew (he/him), senior accessibility engineer at TPGi, speaking on behalf of the Personalization Task Force.

Chairs: Sharon Snider; Lionel Wolberger

What is this all about?

Who are the next billion users?

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

Home page of Global Symbols, a site that helps people find and publish symbol sets

Yuki: A Yoga Teacher who has AD(H)D (1/2)

Yuki could not really explain her apparent forgetfulness and not being able to focus or complete tasks. She knew that if she came across a long document or web page with dense text she had to find the key points. If the web page failed to have a clear structure, well-spaced and highlighted headings she would be lost and lose concentration. Yuki also said that if she was reading her mobile screen, advertisements appearing between chunks of text upset her focus and she had to stop reading.

Yuki: A Yoga Teacher who has AD(H)D (2/2)

However, when there was good use of white space, recognizable icons linking to simple bold text clarifying the important points, Yuki could target these areas and find out what she needed.

A clear summary helped Yuki understand and she could remember much of what she had read.

Day-to-day impact

Accessing critical services…

Standards exist to make these interfaces accessible such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)


User needs differ

An approach like this needs semantics.

Content Usable

The Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force's document on making content usable
WikiHow page about how to make a cup of tea before adaptation; featuring extraneous content and many visual elements.
WikiHow page about how to make a cup of tea after adaptation; with far less content around the central article, and symbols augmenting key words.


Reach the next billion users, by…

Developing support for personalization of content on the web.


Providing the means for authors to supply element-level semantics.

What we need…

Implementations, and review.



Complementing native or ARIA semantics

Simplification (1/2)

User need: Many people find too many on-screen options to be problematic. Extra example: someone with a migraine.

Solution: Authors indicate which features are most important.


Simplification (2/2)

  <strong data-simplification="critical">School
  will close at 1 pm on Tuesday.</strong> This
  is because Years 2 & 3 are putting on a play,
  and we need to get the school hall ready.
<input value="Submit" type="submit"

Purpose (1/2)

User need: Icons, symbols and pictograms help people identify the purpose of interactive elements. There are many different icons and symbols.

Solution: Authors can mark up content to semantically indicate the purpose of an interactive element. The markup will render in the user’s chosen symbol set.

Purpose (2/2)

<input type="text" data-purpose="home tel"/>

Benefits: The different purposes of user input controls are already standard.


Action and Destination (1/2)

User need: Users need to understand what a button will do, or where a link will take them.

Solution: Standardise actions and destinations alongside the existing purposes. Support the use of symbols here too.


Symbol (1/3)

User need: Users may need symbols to help them understand the concepts behind the content on the page, using the symbol set they know.

Solution: Allow authors to attribute symbol-set-agnostic concepts to parts of the content on the page.

Blissymbolics Concepts

Home page of Blissymbolics Communication International

Symbol (3/3)

<span data-symbol="13621 12324 17511">
  cup of tea

We are only mapping individual concepts to individual symbols—not translating.

Distraction (1/2)

User need: Content of various types and purposes can distract users.

Solution: Provide a way for authors to mark up the nature of the distraction, across content types, so they may be filtered out, at the user's request.

Distraction (2/2)

<div data-distraction="sensory messages"

Values: messages, offer, overlay, sensory

Move the needle—your input is critical

We need implementations based on the specification.

More ways you can take part

Thank you for listening

We look forward to working with you!

This talk was created by members of the personalization task force, with particular thanks to Lisa Seeman, Lionel, and the COGA TF for specific content. Next Billion concept by Raghavendra Satish Peri, Director Accessibility, UserWay.