Most people with dementia live at home and can often benefit from a range of technologies – but what are the best and when should they be used? In a PhD study, Tizneem Jiancaro of the University of Toronto has sought some answers. The thesis looks at three perspectives, developers, people with dementia, and the caregivers and significant others. Design factors were considered alongside emotional factors as well as usability. Not unexpectedly, “…empathy emerged as an important design approach, both as a way to address diversity and to access users’ emotional lives”. The title of the thesis is Exploring Technology, Design and Dementia. It can be downloaded from the University of Toronto.
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”.
Microsoft has launched a new app, Seeing AI that helps people who are blind or have low vision. It converts text to talk, and recognises objects and people. Vision Australia’s David Woodbridge provides a detailed review of the app, which is able to complete multiple tasks without having to switch apps for different tasks. It can capture a printed page to read, locates bar codes and scans to identify products, identifies bank notes when paying by cash and recognises friends and their facial expressions, and even describes colour. Unfortunately it is only available for iOS devices at the moment. This is a good one to add to the list previously posted on apps for people with low vision. The Microsoft website has videos to explain the different features.
Editor’s note: Sometimes I think I could do with an app that recognises people and can tell me their name – it made me think of people with dementia or acquired brain injury. Another case of “design for one” becoming “one for all”.
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.
Getting around a university campus is not always the easiest task for new visitors or students. For wheelchair users the task is all the more difficult usually due to uneven topography – steep slopes and lots of steps or long ramps. The University of Wollongong is piloting an App to help navigate the campus, which can then be applied to other places. Using UOW’s Wollongong campus as a pilot study, Briometrix will translate wheelchair-user-generated data into navigation routes on its Navability App, which will show the best routes for wheelchair users based on their relative ability to propel a wheelchair. Each time a user logs-on and makes a journey, the collected data will update the app ensure it reflects any changes in the built environment. Combining the location-based technology used in Google Maps and exercise monitors with new information specific to a wheelchair experience, the project has the potential to create a new understanding of life on campus and the wider world. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.
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.
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.