Involving users in evaluating web accessibility

A graphic with five yellow stars and icons of people in different colours.When organisations decide to refresh their website they usually focus on factors such as positive brand imaging and deciding what information is the most important. So the idea of involving users at any point can be a bit scary.  What if they want to change things? What if all our brand work is undone? Can we really afford the time to do it? 

The bottom line is that if you don’t involve users from the outset then your website will receive less traffic. Being willing to accept feedback, particularly on accessibility, gives all website visitors a good experience. And don’t assume your web designer has all this in hand. Very few home pages are accessible in spite of legislation requiring this.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative has a toolkit to guide web designers AND organisations through the process of involving users.  The toolkit includes a one minute video of why designers should include users from the outset. The material is focused on users rather than technical aspects. It helps avoid some of the pitfalls and at the same time improve general usability for everyone.

The toolkit is extensive and each section is downloadable separately. The title is, Involving users in Evaluation Web Accessibility.


Customer Engagement by Universal Design

Front cover of the toolkit with three overlapping circles, bright pink, purple and turquoise.Communicating effectively with customers is essential for any business or government service. And right now, online communication is taking centre stage. 

The new guide for Online Meeting Accessibility is a supplement to the Customer Communications Toolkit for Public Service. It takes you through the steps of planning and conducting an online meeting, and following up afterwards. The focus is on accessibility and inclusion with many helpful tips.

The Customer Communications Toolkit for Public Service covers planning, training and informing staff and contractors. It takes a universal design approach and is useful for any organisation.

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design has two more toolkits  for private and public entities. They are guides to effective and inclusive communication using a universal design approach. 

Customer Engagement in Tourism Services Toolkit covers best practice guidance for customer engagement using case studies. The four sections cover business objectives, written communication, face to face, and web communication.

Customer Engagement in Energy Services provides best practice guidance for customer communication. In four parts it covers: written form, face to face, telephone and video.

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design has many more resources on the built environment, products and services and technology/ICT.

The process for developing the guidelines and what was learned covers research, policies, standards and guidelines. Lessons from Good Practices to Guide Universal Design Toolkits includes advice for other toolkit authors. 

Online learning: does it work for everyone?

Online learning is not new for many higher education students and teachers. Accessibility of online content is improving but there is still a way to go. Students with hearing loss are at a greater disadvantage than many others. Hearing loss is not something you only get as you age. Many young people aren’t even aware they have a hearing loss. An article in The Conversation discusses the issues and provides links to some resources.

Students with hearing loss rarely speak up about it, so lecturers will never know who is missing out or how many are missing out. Regardless, all students learn better with captioningThere are some myths about the cost of captioning. Yes, before Google and YouTube developed Do-It-Yourself captioning, it was expensive to get videos captioned. But times have moved on. However, live captioning with a stenographer is another matter.

The title of the article is, How to help students with a hearing impairment as courses move online. It has good, easy to do advice.

If you want more tips on making sure everyone is included in videoconferences, have a look at the previous post, Videoconferencing: Zoom in to hear

Why make your podcast accessible?

A graphic with a headset and the word podcast.There are at least two reasons to make podcasts accessible. First, they reach more people, and second search engines like it. It’s the same reason why descriptions of images are important. Both reasons help grow your audience. A third reason is that transcripts help you to find the content at a later date. If you have transcripts for every show, you can search and reference what was discussed on your show at any point. In essence:

It’s the right thing to do
People with disabilities benefit
Other people benefit
You benefit – Your content is indexed
Your reach increases
There may be legal requirements

The Podcast Accessibility website has more detail on the list above about making podcasts accessible and why it is important for everyone. It also has other useful information apart from transcripts. It’s an easy read.

Pandemic drives accessible online content

A word cloud with the words social media most prominent.The advent of COVID-19 has brought forth a lot of interest in making online content more accessible, particularly for videoconferencing. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to make this happen, but it has. Most videoconferencing platforms already have access features included, but many people don’t know they exist. Regardless, a really useful article from Sigma takes readers through a comprehensive list of all the access features everyone should consider: closed captioning, live captioning, transcriptions, PowerPoint options, and more.

The article gives information about the do-it-yourself YouTube captioning and apps for live captioning. Clipomatic is a video editor that turns everything you say into live captions. The application of AI is also discussed along with video descriptions for people with vision loss. Final comments are about using Plain English and considering older adults.

The title of the article is, Advice on sharing accessible content during the Coronavirus pandemic. A very useful guide delivered in a straightforward way.

Videoconferencing: Zoom in to hear

Nine people are shown on a computer monitor.Online communication is great for staying connected, but it is not kind to people with hearing loss. A great blog post gives some excellent tips that everyone should consider when using Zoom. You just don’t know who in your group is finding it difficult to hear. There are two main issues: One is clarity of speech due to inadequate microphone, sitting too far away from the screen, background noise and/or the echo from the room (like the bathroom sound). The other is the delay between sound and vision so lip reading is impossible. And of course, talking across each other because of the transmission delay.

The blog post, Making the Most of Zoom, explains how the features can be used to best advantage for everyone to hear what’s going on. For example – how to change the video layout so that the active speaker is the largest view to make lip reading easier. Using the chat facility, lighting, muting when not speaking, and using the wave-hand function to get heard in turn. While this is focused on Zoom, many of the tips can be applied to other online apps and programs. There are links in the article to other resources and Zoom information.

You might also be interested in The Conversation article, How to help students with hearing impairment as courses move online

Last impressions might count more

Graph showing a peak one third of the way through the time scale and another at the end of the visitor experience.First impressions might not be as critical as we first thought or were taught. This is especially the case with website start or landing pages. The Axess Lab has a good article on a flipped approach to web design. It seems the critical points for website visitors is their “peak experience” – best or worst- and the last experience. The last experience is the most important. This is based on Nobel Prize winning masterpiece, Thinking Fast and Slow. The article goes on to explain how to get the best impact for the last experience using the peak-end rule.

For an example of a good end experience, the article links to a UK Government thank you page. It was so well done that they encouraged more people to sign up as organ donors. There’s also some advice on footers. 

As always, Axess Lab uses good techniques and design for its own web pages and this article. That makes it an interesting read for anyone, not just IT people. More good material in other articles as well.

Graphic courtesy of Axess Lab


Web accessibility made easy: the how and why

A graphic with line drawings of a computer screen and some of the accessibility icons.Everyone should know about web accessibility, not just IT people. That’s because so many of us contribute to the digital world one way or another – social media, personal blog sites and the places we work.
If you want to find out about web accessibility the easy way – and why you should do it, help is at hand. The Commons website has a guide that’s easy to read, understand and follow. While there are many different guides around, this one is comprehensive without being overwhelming. It brings the key points together and makes it easy to understand why web accessibility is so important – for everyone.

The nice part about the design (we should take note) is they don’t try to give you too much information in one go. You can get the general idea and principles first. Then when you need to know more, the links will provide it. The topics start with the usual ones – text size, colour contrast, etc., and then some of the things most people don’t think about. It nicely concludes with a section on inclusive language and disability etiquette. Remember, 44% of Australian adults have difficulty reading and writing. One of the best guides around. 

Note: The Commons Library website has a host of resources and information about advocacy.

Graphic courtesy The Commons website.


Creating videos for learning

A woman is fixing a camera to a tripod.Many teachers and instructors are making their own videos for their learners. With today’s technology it’s becoming easier. But how to make the videos universally designed for online learning? A paper from Ireland gives really practical advice from preparing videos to editing for universal design. It lists step by step activities for planning and preparation, script writing, filming and a detailed section on equipment. The key concepts for editing are also included.

Captioning used to be very expensive when done by outside contractors, but YouTube and Google have improved their technology and made it possible for do-it-yourself captioning. This is a big step forward and really no excuse for not doing it. We know that captioning helps many people to better understand content regardless of their level of hearing. It’s also handy when you can’t have the sound on or if it’s not in your first language.

In summary, videos allow educators to engage with students and prepare learners for practical sessions. Inaccurate or poorly designed videos can confuse and cause disengagement. Educators often lack time as well as training, but with the practical advice in this article, they can improve and thereby save time in the long run.

The title of the article is, Practical Recommendations on the Production of Video Teaching Resources.  

Abstract:  Instructional videos are widely used and potentially highly effective and flexible teaching tools. They are increasingly employed in practical skills training in the fields of science and healthcare. However, educators may struggle to source suitable videos demonstrating safe and suitable techniques. In addition, academic staff may lack the resources and expertise needed to produce and edit effective video in-house. This article provides an overview of the planning, shooting, editing and sharing of video footage to produce effective teaching resources. The aim is to provide guidance for academic staff who wish to develop customised teaching videos and successfully integrate them into their teaching.

Staying vigilant on web accessibility

A pair of hands holding a tablet with a computer screen in the background.Digital infrastructure accessibility and content accessibility are not the same things. Infrastructure covers things like elements that show up on every page and anything related to navigation. Content is anything that can be updated and uploaded. So that’s text, documents, articles, photos and videos. A key point in an informative article from Sheri Byrne-Haber is:

Every single time the content is updated, content accessibility should be reassessed. 

This is particularly relevant if staff or third parties are free to upload content onto a site, or are providing content. The other key point is:

Accessibility is never one-off and done.

The article uses a case study to show how organisations can be left vulnerable to lawsuits if they don’t check regularly for accessibility. Webpages can be accessible today, but next week they might not be because new content has not been assessed for accessibility. The title of the article is, What’s more expensive than getting sued over inaccessibility?