What if web tools could provide accessibility by default? Susanna Laurin thinks it’s possible. In Europe there is a web accessibility directivethat says all public sector websites, documents and apps must be accessible. So, hundreds of thousands of interfaces must be retrofitted. Public servants, developers, UX designers, graphic designers, web authors and others must be trained to make sure new interfaces are inclusive.
The European Parliament has funded a pilot projectto see what can be built into authoring tools to create automatic accessibility. Laurin explains in her article how this is working. Technically it looks promising because the existing tools share many of the same challenges. The next step is to start developing and designing tools with in-built accessibility features.
You don’t have to be an ICT specialist to recognise the importance of this project, and that the European Parliament sees this as a priority. This item is from the G3ict blog site.
For non-tech people who want to understand a bit more, have a look at this Easy Read version of How can new technologiesmake things better for people with disabilities?
Colour is often used in charts, maps and infographics, but what if you can’t see some colours? One in twelve men are colour blind, but not for all colours or the same colours. Infographics are becoming more popular as a means of explaining things. So choosing the best colours is to everyone’s advantage. Venngage website has an good guide and lots of tips on making charts more accessible. It shows the three types of colour blindness and compares them with normal vision. Different colour palettes are provided along with templates. The blog page includes links to other resources. Colour combinations to avoid include:
This toolkit about communicating with customers follows its own advice. The information is written in a straightforward way. Lots of graphics illustrate key points, and the information is very specific, such as when to write numbers as digits or as words. While the information might not be new to some, it serves as a good reviser of current practice. Designed for organisations but good for everyone.
The Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach has sections on written, verbal and digital communication. At 134 pages it is comprehensive. Each section has examples, tips, checklists and links to learn more. The intention of the toolkit is for public service planning, training and informing contractors. But of course, it works for anyone who is communicating with the public.
The term Diversity is often thought of as a cultural thing just as Accessibility is thought of as disability thing. The concept of universal design doesn’t separate these and doesn’t separate them from what’s considered mainstream. That’s the meaning of inclusion and inclusiveness. Let’s not get hung up on the words.
Diversity covers gender, ethnicity, age, size and shape, income, education, language, culture and customs. There is no Mr or Ms Average – it’s a mythical concept. Dan Jenkins writes about diversityas inclusion for the Design Council and makes this observation;
“Often, it’s a perceived efficiency-thoroughness trade off – a variant of the 80:20 rule, that crudely suggests that you can get it right for 80% of the people for 20% of the effort, while it takes a further 80% of the effort to get it right for the remaining 20%. However, much of the time it is simply that the designers haven’t thought enough about the diversity of the people who wish to interact with the product that they are designing, often because it’s not in the culture of the company.”
Similarly to Kat Holmes, Jenkins says to think of capability on three levels:
1. Permanent (e.g. having one arm) 2. Temporary (e.g. an arm injury) 3. Situational (e.g. holding a small child)
“The market for people with one arm is relatively small, however, a product that can be used by people carrying a small child (or using one of their arms for another task) is much larger. As such, designing for the smaller market of permanent exclusions is often a very effective way of developing products that make the lives of a much wider group of customers more flexible, efficient and enjoyable.”
Jenkins reminds us that all our capabilities will be challenged eventually, either permanently or temporarily. That’s why designers need to think of the one arm analogy in their design thinking. Excellent easy read article from the Design Council. Infographics are taken from the article.
Having trouble convincing others that universal design is for everyone and not ‘disabled’ design’? A 6 minute videoshown below takes you through an everyday family activity of leaving the house and catching a bus. It goes through the process of how to design for everyone. “For many of us we don’t think twice about how we use technology, travel, move in and out of buildings or use the web…” The video explains how universal design is good design for everyone.
Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access – IDeA, advocates for socially responsible design to be standard practice. IDeA claim that adoption of UD has been hindered by a lack of detailed guidelines and gaps in training for designers and builders. This is where their Innovative Solutions for Universal Design project, or isUD comes in.
The short video below begins with the basics of universal design and why designs should be inclusive. It then invites viewers to check out over 500 solutions in their online program. The nine chapters based on the 8 goals of universal design cover: design process; space clearances; circulation; environment quality; site; rooms and spaces; furnishings and equipment; services; and policies. The focus is on public and commercial buildings. IDEA, is a research-based organisation based at State University of New York, Buffalo.
Barclays says the Inclusive Design Principles are about putting people first. It’s about designing for the needs of people with permanent, temporary, situational, or changing disabilities — all of us really. The posters are a good quick reference for web and app design professionals.
Can you keep practising as an architect after you go blind? The answer is Yes. This is Chris Downey’s experience. With a few work-arounds and new tools he says he is better at his job now. He found a way of getting tactile versions of drawings and developed his own tools for making drawings. He has been a campaigner for a universal design approach to the built environment ever since. CBS News has a story about him talking about his approach to work and life, including playing baseball with his son. Downey covers a lot of issues with grace and humour. His TED talk is very popular and there is a transcript of the talk. Being blind doesn’t mean giving up on life. For Downey it was discovering new adventures.
There’s nothing like the real thing, but the next best thing is virtual reality. A paper from Europe explores Immersive Virtual Reality as a means of informing architects and designers about designing inclusively. The technology helps with seeing how people navigate a space and interact with the design elements. However, this does not replace the live user feedback that goes beyond technically navigable space. Nevertheless, it is a good start. You will need institutional access for a free read.
Abstract: Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) technology is capable of simulating highly realistic environments and affecting behavioral realism via the creation of the feeling of immersion in a virtual world. Because of that IVR has got a great potential as a tool for evaluation of architectural designs. IVR allows to navigate in the designed space and interact with its elements as if they were real. In this paper, we demonstrate that IVR can assist during the Inclusive Design process and improve the architects’ understanding of the needs of different users, especially those that are older or disabled. Inclusive design promotes products and environments that are inclusive for all people. Architects require in-depth insight into how particular groups of people experience the designed environment and how they interact with it. IVR can help with that.
“Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story”, but here’s a good story about facts. The University of Adelaide has devised a Frailty Map. These data aren’t just good for planning aged care. They should also be informing the design of our built environment including our homes. Knowing where the higher numbers of frail people live is also good for planning prevention programs to minimise the negative affects of ageing.
The interactive map documents the number of frail people in local areas in 2016 and compares it with projected figures for 2027. The story from the Australian Ageing Agenda gives a good overview and the links to the map. There is also a link to a video showing that frailty can be minimised with improved lifestyle activities. The map project follows the earlier research project into frailty.
Editor’s note: Population statistics should be informing all our social and economic policies, but the facts often get lost if vested interests are stronger.