People have difficulties using computers. Some have more difficulties than others. There is a need for guidance in how to evaluate and improve the accessibility of systems for users. Since different users have considerably different accessibility needs, accessibility is a very complex issue.
ISO 9241-171 defines accessibility as the "usability of a product, service, environment or facility by people with the widest range of capabilities." While this definition can help manufacturers make their products more accessible to more people, it does not ensure that a given product is accessible to a particular individual.
A reference model is presented to act as a theoretical foundation. This Universal Access Reference Model (UARM) focuses on the accessibility of the interaction between users and systems, and provides a mechanism to share knowledge and abilities between users and systems. The UARM also suggests the role assistive technologies (ATs) can play in this interaction. The Common Accessibility Profile (CAP), which is based on the UARM, can be used to describe accessibility.
The CAP is a framework for identifying the accessibility issues of individual users with particular systems configurations. It profiles the capabilities of systems and users to communicate. The CAP can also profile environmental interference to this communication and the use of ATs to transform communication abilities. The CAP model can be extended as further general or domain specific requirements are standardized.
The CAP provides a model that can be used to structure various specifications in a manner that, in the future, will allow computational combination and comparison of profiles.
Recognizing its potential impact, the CAP is now being standardized by the User Interface subcommittee the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission.