The Fastcodesign website has another interesting article about design. Every designer has the principles they work by. So they asked eight prominent designers who were either judges of or honored in the 2017 Innovation By Design Awards: “What is the one principle you never compromise on?” The answers are consistent with universal design principles: Good design is both invisible and obvious; Ignore trends; Ban mediocrity, Design to elicit emotion; Articulate your purpose, honestly and explicitly; Users are people not statistics; Design thinking isn’t for designers and; Design for the big idea. See the article for the designers’ explanations.
eBay is another big brand that is embracing digital accessibility. “Digital accessibility is a way to improve your bottom line and avoid litigation, but more importantly it is a way for a brand to become an even better version of itself”, says Mark Lapole. He claims that neglecting to incorporate feedback from people with disability is potentially ignoring 15% of all people who could be interacting with the brand, and therefore participating and contributing to the economy. Mark’s article, Creating a Company Culture that Promotes Accessibility, lists five key points and is published on the Applause blog site. It is a company that specialises in accessibility assessments and user feedback. You can tell he’s taken their advice – the font size on the webpage is large and clear.
For more local advice see Media Access Australia. They have lots of resources to help make the digital world accessible to all.
Editor’s note: Products, buildings, policies, can all become “better versions” of themselves if they do some thinking around inclusion. It doesn’t just apply to websites.
A study of blind users of websites has found that getting straight to the point is better for finding relevant information. Isn’t this a good criteria for everyone? With so much of our lives dependent on digital delivery methods, is it time for writers to carefully edit their work, and for web designers to minimise graphics? The article, Web accessibility: Filtering redundant and irrelevant information improves website usability for blind users, reports on a study of blind users and screen readers. As with captioning for people who are deaf, it is likely that considering blind users will also have benefits for many others. You will need institutional access for a free read.
Abstract: Accessibility norms for the Web are based on the principle that everybody should have access to the same information. Applying these norms enables the oralization of all visual information by screen readers used by people with blindness. However, compliance with accessibility norms does not guarantee that users with blindness can reach their goals with a reasonable amount of time and effort. To improve website usability, it is necessary to take into account the specific needs of users. A previous study revealed that a major need for users with blindness is to quickly reach the information relevant to the task, by filtering redundant and irrelevant information. We conducted three experiments in which seventy-six participants with blindness performed tasks on websites which filtered or not irrelevant and redundant information. Cognitive load was assessed using the dual-task paradigm and the NASA-RTLX questionnaire. The results showed a substantial benefit for information filtering regarding participants’ cognitive load, performance, and satisfaction. Thus, this study provides cogent arguments for improving usability of websites by information filtering for users with blindness.
The UK Government has produced a series of six posters to raise the awareness of designers of people with different digital access needs. They cover: low vision, deaf and hard of hearing, dyslexia, motor disabilities, users on the autistim spectrum and users of screen readers. The posters are divided into Do and Don’t to help keep things simple. However, downloading a copy of the poster does not seem so simple, but it can be viewed online. The content of each poster is listed on the webpage titled, The Dos and Don’ts on designing for accessibility.
The dos, that run across various posters, include using things like good colour contrasts, legible font sizes and linear layouts. While there might be some conflicts, such as some people needing bright colour contrast and others not, the guidance also advises to check with users to find the right balance. The posters have been produced in different formats to suit different users.
Smartphones could almost be considered “wearables” given that most people carry one at all times and refer to it often. Whether it is to socialise, get information, shop, or watch entertainment, they are a prominent part of many lives. Having easy to access content is now essential. It is therefore a growing area of universal design. Researchers in South Korea have tested and piloted a Checklist for Assessing Blind Users Usability of Educational Smartphone Applications. Their paper is a chapter in a SpringerLink publication and requires institutional access for a free read, or it can be purchased. The abstract provides a good overview of the method and the results.
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to develop a checklist which specifically evaluates blind users’ usability of educational smartphone applications. To carry out this task, researchers developed checklist items based on the previous usability literature, evaluation tools, and research on e-learning and Web accessibility for users with/without blindness. As a result, a checklist with 29 items covering three levels of interface design (structure, behavior, presentation) was developed. In order to accomplish this, usability principles were first categorized into these three levels and then transformed to become relevant to the blind user. The initial version of the usability checklist items was reviewed and evaluated for their representativeness and comprehensibility by interface design experts and teachers of blind learners. Content validity index (CVI) and Cronbach αα values were calculated to check the validity and reliability of the tool. The revised second version was reviewed in the same way by a group of blind users, and CVI and Cronbach αα values were calculated as well. The final version was implemented by the blind user group for evaluating two learning applications. Reviewers’ comments were reflected in the second and final version as well. Evaluation results indicated low usability for both applications even when accessibility requirements were met.
Captioning of videos and TV is now being recognised as a mainstream convenience for any viewer. Captioning in theatres is an improvement for people who are deaf, but the way they are delivered can be a bit clunky and can be distracting for other audience members. Closed captioning glasses have arrived thanks to two young inventors. You can read their story in the Smithsonian magazine. People with hearing loss can now go to the movies with these live captioning glasses without anyone else being affected. They designers claim the glasses also work in social situations, such as the dinner table, where speech is transcribed into text. With hearing loss one of the most reported disabilities, inventions like these can be life-changing. You can see a video on how it works and to read a review .
The Australian Government has produced a short video, Web Accessibility: what does it all mean? The first important point made in the video is that web accessibility is not about disability – web accessibility is about universality. There is no speech in the video. Instead all the messages are delivered by interesting text. At the end there is a link to more information. There is no speech in the main version, only upbeat background music and poster messages in the video below. You can get speech with the video or you can get an audio only (MP3) version. This is a great example of providing information in different formats where the original design is not universally accessible.