Website design guides compared

A pair of older hands are placed over the keyboard of a computer.Buried in this paper is a comparison chart of web design features for improved accessibility for older people. Older people have been singled out in this study because they are most at risk of being left out of the evolving digital world which includes e-health and internet based health information. The authors have combed through several guidelines and picked out the main elements that relate to this group because the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are deficient in this area. So they have turned to organisations such as the US-based AARP for the additional design features needed to help deal with motor and cognitive issues, and low vision. The article is in both English and Spanish.

The title isReview of accessibility and usability guidelines for website design for the elderly people

ABSTRACT: By 2050, the growth of the elderly population in Colombia is estimated at 10% and thus a greater demand for special services (such as health services) for the elderly. This justifies the exploration of digital health content as an important source of information for this population. The accessibility and usability guidelines for website design – e.g., TAW and WACG – do not have special guidelines to mitigate the motor, cognitive or visual disabilities characteristic of aging, which become a barrier for this group to consult necessary information for administrative processes that involve health. This review of accessibility and usability guidelines is presented, facilitating the consumption of special contents and generating better interactions with such systems, which will lead to the construction of guidelines based on existing recommendations that allow the development of aspects related to interaction, legibility and usability in digital content for the elderly.

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From Inclusive to Exclusive?

Front page of Vasilis van Gemert's slide show.At Accessibility Scotland 2018 Conference, Vasilis van Gemert described how he flipped the Paciello Group’s web Inclusive Design Principles and turned them into a set of Exclusive Design Principles.  Instead of designing exclusively for ourselves, he says, he started to design tailor-made solutions for – and together with – people with disabilities. This was part of a design challenge:The Good, The Bad, and The Interesting Exclusive Design Challenge. In the video of his 30 minute talk, Vasilis shows the results of these experiments, and shares all the insights he gained during his research. The webpage has a transcript of the talk and you can also download the slides.  Basically, he looked at specific requirements that only some people need so that he could make them inclusive. 

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Overview of Web Guidelines 2.1

Set of emoji faces depicting various emotions from happy to sad, and angry to loving.Alan Dalton provides a non-geek look at the WCAG update in his article, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 – for People Who Haven’t Read the Update. The update has 17 success criteria for web accessibility that were added last year by the working group. These new criteria make it easier to produce and more accessible for people using mobile devices and touchscreens, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Making sure your website can be used in portrait and landscape orientation, colour contrast, graphics and the value of autocomplete are some of the features discussed. Live captioning and sign language are also included. There are lots of links to other documents for reference. There is also a book list. This article might be non-geek for Alan Dalton, but even with some techo language you can get the gist of what is being updated even if you are not a web designer or technician. As we advance in the digital age this sort of information will be important for everyone who needs to communicate using digital technologies.  

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Web accessibility techniques: A guide

ictCentre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a guide for web accessibility techniques. It is split into three parts for: Developers; Designers; and Content providers and editors.  One good tip for inserting links in text is not to use “click here”, “more”, “full information” etc. They advise that each link should clearly indicate its destination or function out of the context of the text surrounding it. The information focuses on practical advice and direction for anyone involved in web development, design and writing content. Topics covered include developing accessible data tables, using colour wisely, and writing well structured content.  

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UD in customer communication: A toolkit

Front cover of the toolkit.The “Universal Design for Customer Engagement Toolkit” is a good resource for getting the best results when communicating with customers. The toolkit is in four sections. It provides practical information on how to take a universal design approach to engaging more productively with all customers. The toolkit is on the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (Ireland) website. It includes video examples:

Note these PDF documents are large due to the number of informative graphics they contain.

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Typewriters: A device for vision loss

Close up of an old fashioned typewriter.Did you know that the typewriter was first invented by a woman who was losing her sight? This is a good example of how an invention for a disability can be good for everyone. The flexible straw and the touchpad are other such inventions. These are just three things in Kat Holmes’ book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design. You can read a review of the book published by MIT Press 
“Designing for inclusion is not a feel-good sideline. Holmes shows how inclusion can be a source of innovation and growth, especially for digital technologies”. It expands the customer base and boosts the bottom line. And this goes for any product or service, building or dwelling. 

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Sorry. I didn’t see it

Bright red disappearing text saying digital marketing.The advertising industry has some the most creative minds. They have the job of finding the right message at the right time to the right people. But what about people that can’t see that message? People who a blind, have low vision, or colour blindness could be among them. According to the Centre for Inclusive Design blog, there are some 357,000 people who are blind or have low vision in Australia. And it’s not just about advertisements. Simple design flaws can be found almost every day; things like using white text on an orange or light blue background, or grey on light grey designs. The blog site has some easy tips to follow. Axess Lab also has more on colour vision deficiency.

 

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Writing material for websites

A computer screen sits on a desk. It shows a web pageIt’s all very well having web designers familiar with the accessibility requirements in their designs, but what about the people who post content on the website? In many organisations staff write their own material and send it to the webmaster for uploading. But is their writing and format also accessible? It is easy to post a document that might have been originally meant for another reader, such as a submission to a government body, but perhaps an Easy English version should be considered for the ease of access for all readers?

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has some easy tips to follow for those who write content or upload documents. 

Another good example of simplifying your text is the Easy English version of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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Social factors and accessibility

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsAs our world becomes increasingly digitised, it’s important to ensure that no-one is left behind. However, it seems that influencing designers’ actual practice remains challenging. Design for Social Accessibility is an approach that encourages designers to focus on social as well as functional factors in their design. Researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Washington used workshops and brainstorming with designers to bring about a change in their attitudes, and to see the effectiveness of the Design for Social Accessibility approach. Their article, Incorporating Social Factors in Accessible Design, is lengthy because it includes quotes from workshop participants and is very thorough in its reporting. They conclude, “Accessible design is not an impossible challenge; instead, is within reach for professional designers, if given appropriate tools and resources. We offer Design for Social Accessibility as one such tool that designers can use to include disabled and non-disabled users and complex social and functional consideration toward accessible solutions. Designing technologies for people with disability does not exclude non-disabled people. The focus of this study is on people with vision impairment. Social accessibility relates to the social factors of using a device or product not just functional aspects.

Abstract: Personal technologies are rarely designed to be accessible to disabled people, partly due to the perceived challenge of including disability in design. Through design workshops, we addressed this challenge by infusing user-centered design activities with Design for Social Accessibility—a perspective emphasizing social aspects of accessibility—to investigate how professional designers can leverage social
factors to include accessibility in design. We focused on how professional designers incorporated Design for Social Accessibility’s three tenets: (1) to work with users with and without visual impairments; (2) to consider social and functional factors; (3) to employ tools—a framework and method cards—to raise awareness and prompt reflection on social aspects toward accessible design. We then interviewed designers about their workshop experiences. We found DSA to be an effective set of tools and strategies incorporating social/functional and non/disabled perspectives that helped designers create accessible design.

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Mapping Access: People, Place and Justice

picture of a Google map with icons for parking and transportCreating access maps using data collected from individuals is part of a Google Maps project. But there is more to this than just knowing how to get from one place to another when you are a wheelchair user. What does it say about architecture and how we value citizens? Codes for architectural compliance do not include the human perspective of how people actually use places and spaces and relate to each other. This point is made in a philosophical article by Aimi Hamraie, “Mapping Access: Digital Humanities, Disability Justice, and Sociospatial Practice“. She covers the history of access mapping and uses a university campus as a case study, and challenges notions that access mapping is just a database of directional information. Hamraie claims she has developed a methodological tool for “excavating the politics of design embedded in the most banal features of everyday built environments”. A good read for anyone involved in mapping, GIS projects and the architecture of digital inclusion.  

Note: This article uses academic language and concepts, but is thorough in discussing all aspects if the issues.

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