People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are known to experience specific reading difficulties, which sometimes makes it challenging for them to cope within school and university, to browse the Web or to comprehend important information such as how to claim disability allowance or other support. These difficulties can sometimes have devastating impact on the lives of people with autism and their families. To address this, we have been working on data collection and research for over four years and have finally developed a tool which can help bringing this information to them in an accessible form. We need an inspired student to help us develop the user interface of this Web application, which will then be made available for the public to use.
What is AUTOR?
AUTOR (from “autism”, “automatic” and “author”) is an automatic text accessibility evaluator for people with autism with two interfaces: one for authors and one for readers. AUTOR helps non-experts to write accessible texts for people with autism (author interface), which will help achieve more accessible information within universities, government websites, NHS etc. Currently, our evaluator achieves 86% accuracy in classifying two levels of accessibility of text documents when trained on user-evaluated texts, which will soon expand to prediction of three levels of accessibility. Based on eye-tracking data obtained from autistic readers we are able to distinguish between easy and difficult sentences within each text, which gives our tool the ability to pinpoint particular areas of linguistic complexity. Another feature is the automatic suggestion of images for the difficult words in the text, which allows human users to illustrate their content quickly and at no additional cost. AUTOR also helps people with autism in choosing reading material at the right reading level for them and personalising it by adjusting the font type, size and background colour or looking up definitions for unknown words (reader interface).
What will you gain?
The main thing you will gain in this placement is the experience of applying the programing skills you have gained in your curriculum (PHP, HTML, CSS, Java Script, etc.) on a real application requiring more interesting problem solving skills. You will be involved in the complete process of designing the interface of AUTOR and gain experience in creating accessible interfaces for people with cognitive disabilities, which is a skill of paramount importance to employers as big as Microsoft (https://www.microsoft.com/enable/) or IBM (http://www-03.ibm.com/able/ ), among others. Furthermore, big content providers such as BBC or NHS need to abide by accessibility guidelines, which creates a demand for programmers who can help the accessibility of such media.
You will work under the supervision of experts in the fields of computer science, Natural Language Processing and accessibility research. The usability of the app will be evaluated by users with and without autism, so you will have the opportunity to receive and implement user feedback towards the middle of the interface development process.
You will be working flexible hours in the vibrant research environment of the Research Institute of Information and Language Processing (RIILP), where you can also get an opportunity for involvement in research and research publications, as well as learning about Natural Language Processing (NLP) and the applications it has in real-world projects. Last but not least, while your main involvement and skill development will be related to the interface development of AUTOR, you will have the opportunity to tailor your placement to your own interests by choosing whether and for how long you would like to get involved in usability assessment, NLP, Machine Learning or research.
Who would be the best candidate to develop the interface?
We are looking for a candidate with knowledge of:
– Web development
– PHP and Symfony
– Java Script
Knoweldge of JQuery and Web Development Frameworks (such as Symfony) is desirable.
Who should you contact?
For informal inquiries, please contact Iain Mansell at Iain.Mansell@wlv.ac.uk
Deadline: Sunday 6th March 2016