It would be good if all designers took their lead from the likes of Apple and Google: inclusion, accessibility and usabilty are about the design process. Apart from clearly explaining how these terms are linked and can be used together, Google’s half hour video also has some tips and tools for designers. It shows how three different users have the same need: a man with a mobility disability (permanent), a boy with a broken arm (temporary) and a woman with an armful of shopping (situational). Individual situations might be different but they all have the same need for accessibility. And people have the same goals they want to achieve regardless of their situation. While this instructional presentation is aimed at an audience interested in designing apps, particularly the second half of the video, the messages in the first half can be applied to other design disciplines.
JUST UD IT, is an acronym to help people remember the principles of universal design. In a short fact sheet published by Special Olympics Health, the principles of universal design are described generally, but also for people with intellectual disability. It points out that poorly presented information or communication can become a barrier to accessing health promotion programs or services. It also points out that universal design and accessibility are not synonymous and explains why. The acronym is as follows:
J: Jazz it Up – Ensure that your communication and presentations are engaging and interesting. No one likes to be bored!
U: Use Multiple Methods – Different methods help maximize your reach to the audience and allow more people to understand and participate. Written text, audio, pictures, video, touch, interactive activities are all great options to share your message.
S: Simplify – Removing jargon, using concise and simple wording, and using large easyto-read font that is spaced out allows more people to understand your message.
T: Test it out – Ask for feedback. Don’t assume that your method is reaching everyone, instead ask your audience how your presentation or product was received and then adapt accordingly.
Here is another app aimed at accessibility of the built environment. Access Inspector is from Japan and works with both iOS and Android devices. It is basically a checklist tool for assessing more than 40 common architectural features: accessible routes, doors, corridors, ramps, toilets, elevators, signage, etc. The developers claim it is based on international best practice and the principles of universal design. The details are on the official Access Inspector website. It is available in English.
Meanwhile Apple is proposing 13 new emojis to represent people with disability. People with guide dogs and hearing aids, and wheelchairs. Apple says its proposed additions are “not meant to be a comprehensive list of all possible depictions of disabilities – it is intended to be a starting point”.
Expedia gets a good write up from the Accessibility Wins blog site. Curator Marcy Sutton went looking for inaccessible tourism websites for a project she was doing and said she found many. However, she liked Expedia and claims: “They have a skip link, labeled form controls and icon buttons, and intuitive navigation. They’ve made it easy to navigate with a keyboard and a screen reader”. The blog site is aimed at web page designers and developers. Other posts are a bit more technical such as Google Chrome’s Color Contrast Debugger which tests the colour contrast ratios. Useful for anyone needing to brief a web developer as well as web designers and developers.
Editor’s Note: I haven’t checked this site out personally, but it seems Expedia is keen for any feedback about the accessibility of their site.
The Macular Society in the UK has a great list of different smart phone apps that help people with macular degeneration and low vision. Good apps can make a big difference to everyday life. The list includes both free and low cost apps as well as Android and iOS. A brief description is provided for each one with links to download the apps. Below are just some in the list. For more go to the Macular Society website:
Be My Eyes
The Macular Society is a large well-established UK based organisation. They have many fact sheets on the condition. Their website can be read in text only and they have the option to listen. The website lives the message.
Another great post from Axess lab with excellent examples of before and after treatments for web page content. The simple layout and way the examples are presented are a good example in themselves. It covers the usual things such as text contrast, screen reader access, and colour coding. The main message of the article is to provide users with choice. To input using a keyboard or using touch screen. To read text or watch a video. Show the colour choices with the name of the colour. As Axess lab says in their article, “The point is that it’s not rocket science. Also, making your site or app accessible does not mean you have to make it boring and remove all colors, images and videos.” Axess lab is based in Sweden – you can sign up to their newsletter.
What will the digital world have for us in 2018? How much should we worry about artificial intelligence (AI), fake news, and new devices and social media services? Nick Newman sought out the views of various tech people and provides insights and ideas for 2018. Some might cause concern, but there is also some good mainstream tech stuff that can assist almost anyone. For example, hearables: Amazon Glasses with bone-conducting audio that links to Alexa and a smartphone. What about ear buds that offer instant translations from other languages? How will we know our news feeds are real news and not fake? Perhaps instant fact-checkers will help us decide. For a fascinating overview of what we can expect in journalism, social media and technology, see Nick Newman’s report.
Editor’s note: While some technology will be great for everyone (universal) and create more independence and inclusion, we still have to watch out for designs that exclude.
WCAG and W3C might be familiar acronyms, but do you know what they mean? And what, if anything, you should be doing about it? WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, can a bit off-putting at first because this is an international document that doesn’t translate well in all languages. The guidelines are also very long. Alan Dalton has taken away the legalese and provided a simpler and more user-friendly explanation of these guidelines. He covers text, operating the website, understanding content, ensuring the site works on all devices. The W3C – World Wide Web Consortium, is about the release the next version, WCAG 2.1.
The article has links to more complex documents such as Understanding WCAG 2.0, and the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 – together they become 1,200 printed pages. And there are links to other useful resources, such as Why Bother with Accessibility?
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.