PFWG review of SCXML

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PFWG review of SCXML

Michael Cooper-2
Below are comments prepared by the Protocols and Formats Working Group on "State Chart XML (SCXML): State Machine Notation for Control Abstraction" Last Call Working Draft of 1 August 2013 Consensus to send as PF comments is archived at

This is an unusual review as we are not talking about accessibility as a specific "this is an inaccessible feature" however, but the issues, although more global, are just as important. Overall we are concerned with how people with hearing, speech and cognitive impairments are going to be affected by these applications and what requirements are necessary so that they can be used by people with different user scenarios. For example, speach trigered applications will need an option to type text etc. In the mean time we suggest the following:

Issue one.
We would like to see a standard way to reach a human operator for additional assistance and accessibility support.
Many people a struggle with critical services and help because of complex phone answering systems. People with even mild hearing, speech or cognitive challenges are especially disadvantaged and can be excluded from these services.

As many emergency and critical services are now using these automated answering systems, we need to make them as easy as possible to use on any phone. Further, people abilities vary and deteriorate at times stress or of ill health. People therefore need to be familiar and comfortable with a standard way to reach an operator, so that they can easily get service in times of stress or panic. We therefore propose to standardize how a user can reach a human on all phone systems. We believe this would make automated phone systems usable by as many people as possible.

We propose that a digit or combination (such as the "zero" digit) be standardize for reaching a human operator on all phone systems with automatic menus. On any answering system, pressing a "0" would take you to a human operator.

For example if the zero digit was standardized to reach a human, then in any conformant system:
  • a, At any time on any system "0" will take the user to a human operator,
  • b, the "zero" digit can not be assigned for anything else and hence can not support a follow on menu, and
  • c, in every system file there is a default extension for the "zero" digit identified, without which the file is invalid and will not work at all.

Anecdotal evidence: Places that I have not managed to reach a human operator after five attempts include the police and my doctors office.Typically it takes me three of four attempts to reach the right extension at my health service!

Issue two. We suggest standardizing error recovery from the user perspective.
With these systems often people with disabilities are more likely to make errors. We then get thrown off the line (see above ) and need to start again. There should be a easy way to recover from an error, such as when ever there is an error the user has an option to either
  • return to the main menu ,
  • the previous menu or
  • a human operator for help (most important)
FYI we are putting together a task force to addressees accessibility and cognitive disabilities. If this is of interest to any of your members please let us know!

Michael Cooper
Web Accessibility Specialist
World Wide Web Consortium, Web Accessibility Initiative
[hidden email]
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