Capstone time

Graduation is scheduled for May 11, 2008.. now I just have to complete my capstone project and I’ll be the proud holder of a Masters of Computer Science degree.

Up until last trimester, the capstone was like a thesis: the student selected a topic, found an advisor and did self-directed study. They recently changed the format to a more traditional class with an instructor and weekly assignments. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to be grandfathered into the old format.

I’m excited about this because it will afford me the opportunity to do some really indepth research into a topic of my choosing. The challenge? The selection of a topic! From what I understand, this was part of the rationale for the format change: students were having trouble finding a topic. My problem is the opposite: there are several topics I want to write on!

I’ve mentioned in this blog for quite a while that I wanted to write my capstone on “usability-supporting architectural patterns”. I then started thinking about Accessibility in RIAs. I briefly considered doing some research on the Adobe AIR platform, which would have likely meant porting some existing web applications over to the platform to access their differences. Now, however, the term has started and Accessibility/RIAs it is!

The program chair will be overseeing my work, and while I have the general topic in mind, I’m not entirely sure yet what direction it will go in. I fear 12 weeks will simply not be enough to really touch on everything I want to look into. I suppose this is why academics work in the same field for years and years — one can’t really hope to condense everything into a matter of weeks (or a single document).

Some of my thoughts to incorporate into the scope of the project include:
— definitions of: WCAG, Section 508, ADA, RIA, AJAX
— if/how the guidelines apply to non-traditional web apps
— how to make RIAs accessible
— overview of existing testing tools for web accessibility
— ROI/rationale for caring about accessibility

Possibly: how SEO/Accessibility complement/contrast with each other

When I attended Access U last Spring, one of my key interests was in how to sell accessibility to an organization, and who was responsible for it. At the time, the development team I was working on was well informed in best practices wrt accessibility and compliance testing. However, now that I’ve started to fall into a realm of more rich interactive online experiences, there seems to less knowledge of what it means to be accessible, and in fact, the extent to which it is even possible. Obviously I want to sell it to my organization, but I first need to become informed myself as to what that means.

My long term organizational goal would be to sell accessibility to my company, so my capstone will help me to clarify what accessibility means in this new interactive online space. Once we know the “what” and “where” (and hopefully the “how”), we can identify the “who” (and the “how much”)?